Morel Favorito, portrait of a winner
by Mantovano Rinaldo or Giulio Romano
The Palazzo del Tè was built by the Gonzaga family and one hall of this palace was and still is decorated with portraits of horses which were bred by the family in their stud nearby. The present horse Morel Favorito (morel means black-brown) must have been a successful race horse. The pride of the Gonzaga family was to participate in the palio races which were held in many Italian cities, and of course to win them. The family bred horses specifically for these palio races and the portraits in the Sala dei Cavalli were made to honor the most successful winners. Palio races are still held in Siena, but the type of horse has completely changed since then. Morel Favorito and the other horses in the Sala dei Cavalli have a completely different built compared with the thoroughbred of our time. Andrea Tonni wrote a most interesting chapter about the horses of the Gonzagas entitled The Renaissance studs of the Gonzagas of Mantua, in: P. Edwards, K.A.E. Enenkel & E. Graham, The Horse as a Cultural Icon. Brill, Leiden/Boston 2012. ISBN 978 90 04 21206 0.