Palazzo Schifanoia could be literally translated as the name of the Palace where Nobles would go to do “away with boredom”. It comes from the Italian phrase “schivar la noia.
In 1469-70 the Ferranese Ruler, Borso d’Este, wanted a huge fresco all around his waiting room to keep his supplicants well occupied whilst they waited for an Audience with him, in what was then his Villa in the country.
They would surely have realised that, the more of the messages about the 12 months of the year, their Pagan past, their rising Astrological signs, and the Astral Gods depicted on these walls they understood, the more favourable their reception from their Padrone, the recently appointed Duke of Ferrara, was likely to be!
Although, reviewed in the light of many of the nobles of the period, this illegitimate son of Niccolò III d’Este, Marquess of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, and his mistress Stella de’ Tolomei, appears to have been a somewhat benign ruler, who wanted to leave the world images of his support for his people and much evidence of his good government.
Each Month is depicted in a tripartite panel, divided from the following month by a painting of a Corinthian Column similar to those supporting Borsa, and his father Niccolo’s, Regal statues in the Municipal Square.
Unfortunately after the Estense family left Ferrara in 1598 this palace of “delights” changed owners several times, parts of the building were demolished, and as they fell into disrepair these intriguing frescoes were plastered over and lost.
Maggio /May, painted by Francesco di Cossa, shows the astrological sign of the Gemelli (Twins) , The Greek Astrologist Tolemo identifying the twin stars Castor & Pollox, and the Greek Archer Apollo (twin son of Zeus, twin brother of Artemis.)
In June we have an image of the Triumph of Mercury, his carriage pulled by black eagles, with a suspiciously lobster-like crab depicting Cancer and the constellation Orion confirmed by his death from a snake bite. The artist was known by the delightful name of “Maestro dagli occhi spalancati” (“master of the wide-open eyes”) which you can more or less see in the images above.
Luckily, after the town council bought the palace in 1820 the frescoes were re-discovered, and much work was done to preserve the paintings
As can be seen below in the image for the month of July there was plenty of preservation work to do – and below that is shown a very similar group, also aiding Borso in his good works on the better preserved wall, which introduce his activities during March.
You can also see from the above that they enjoyed hunting with hawks in either season – and their artists were not beyond copying one another!
These classes are informative as well as good fun and customers can take home their art work as soon as it has dried.