The Death of Turnus (Canto XII of The Aeneid)

Nicolò Dell'Abate

Modena, 1509 or 1512 – Fontainebleau, 1571


Mural painting transferred onto canvas, 115 x 86cm

This fresco is part of a decorative cycle from the Camerino dell’Eneide, Rocca di Scandiano, produced in 1540 at the behest of count Giulio Boiardo. The count’s private apartments and a painted studiolo were set up on the piano nobile, all decorated by the already widely-renowned Nicolò dell’Abate. 

Thanks to recent studies there is now documentary evidence regarding the exact location of the Camerino and the distribution of its decorations on four different levels: the first, lowest level featured monochrome battle scenes with various episodes from Virgil’s Aeneid immediately above; at eye level there were lunettes framed by architectural moulding which hugged the vaulted ceiling making them easier to see; and finally, the ceiling itself featured a small octagon with thirteen figures (presumably the Boiardo family) engrossed in playing music.

The panels were removed from their original position in 1772 by order of Prince Ercole Rinaldo d’Este. They were taken to the Palazzo Ducale in Modena where they decorated the Salone d’Onore with the ceiling octagon hanging above the fireplace in the same room. In 1813 three of the Aeneid scenes were destroyed in a fire along with two lunettes, a monochrome battle scene and eight classicising figures originally on the vault of the Camerino. During the subsequent restauration, the surviving pieces were transferred onto canvas.