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The stove

Pinacoteca comunale

The stove is the only space referred to with precision by Vasari as a work of art by Gherardi in Città di Castello. In the decoration, dating 1534, the panels with mythological events are marked on the walls and on the vault by purple frames in Grotesque style on a white background that recall the cherub, gargoyle and sphinx designs already present in the rooms of the palace.

The stove, or stove-room, recently restored to the original colour scheme thanks to the restoration work carried out by Giuliano Guerri, was a space that was very much in fashion in the Renaissance period and all important buildings were equipped with one: a space connected to private wellbeing which had an actual sauna where, as well as a fixed bath tub, there was a plumbing system capable of heating water and creating steam. Typically a sheltered and withdrawn place where, thanks to the presence of water, it was easier to take care of personal hygiene. However, the stove room was not a commonly used area, it was worthy of the great Italian palaces, you only have to think of the stove room of the Cardinal Bibbiena at the Vatican embellished by Raffaello. In Palazzo Vitelli this room can be found on the ground floor, at the bottom of the internal stairs, therefore a private area in the large building. The presence of this room in Città di Castello is an indication of the desire of Alessandro Vitelli to follow the most up-to-date styles of the most advanced Italian palaces.

The imagery of the stove is inspired by themes drawn from Metamorfosi by Ovidio. On the left next to the door the events of Diana e Atteone are legible, in which Diana, surprised whilst bathing with the female companions of the hunter Atteone, turns it into a stag that is torn to pieces by his own dogs. The composition is inspired by that which Parmigianino decorated in the similar bathroom at Fontanellato, in San Secondo.  They follow Leda e il cigno, in which the woman is seduced by Giove transformed into a swan, Apollo e Dafne, where Dafne transforms into a bay leaf in order to escape from the god Apollo, as well as a scene which is hard to identify. On the vault is Il trionfo di Nettuno, with seahorses and marine creatures that, and just like the fluvial divinity on the side panels, makes a clear reference to the purpose of the building. The fresco is inspired by an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, protégé of Raffaello.

In the same period Gherardi carried out another stove room in Castello Bufalini in nearby San Giustino.