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The hall of Forty at Palazzo del Bo

As the foyer of the Aula Magna, the Hall of Forty takes its name from the 40 canvases of illustrious international scholars who studied in Padua between the 15th and 19th centuries and whose portraits now adorn its walls.

Upon their return to their countries of origin, each scholar spread the knowledge received while in Padua. As is marked by the words inscribe above the entrance door, “How many flocked from the ends of the earth to draw upon the doctrines of civil law and the arts, to reach the University of Padua before returning to their homelands, with the Latin facts for language, science, and civility.”

Among those depicted are world-renowned scientists, doctors, jurists and humanists. Portraits include that of William Harvey, English physician who discovered blood circulation, Michel de l’Hôspital, French Chancellor famous for his religious tolerance, and Stephen Bathory, King of Poland; however, doubts remain regarding his actual attendance in Padua.

Commissioned by Rector Carlo Anti in 1942, the rising artist from Lombardy, Gian Giacomo dal Forno painted each of the tempera portraits on canvas.

Rector Anti gave the painter precise indications that the portraits would depict each scholar as close to their likeness as possible, referring to descriptive images of the characters represented and deriving inspiration from attire and objects of their era.

Dal Forno proceeded with the creation of the works. First in tempera and on viscose canvas, now preserved in the University Archives.  The complexity of Dal Forno’s methods stand out, but the work took place over a relatively short period.  While in the midst of a war, and limitations of raw materials, Dal Forno completed the portraits in merely three months.

Once completed, they divided and distributed the portraits in four groups across three wall. Each once place within a specially recessed supporting frame.

The curtained wall completely covered any interruption, leaving behind an imaged cycle of frescoes. The earth tones blend against the warm honey colour of the wooden floor and an exquisite crafted table, both designed by Gio Ponti, who furnished the room to host graduation ceremonies of the Faculty of Political Sciences.

The restoration of the 40 canvases was one of the major projects for the University of Padua 800th anniversary celebration.

The historic lecture podium of Galileo welcomes visitors entering the room.  According to folklore, his own students built the podium for the great scientist. Close by is the three-dimensional copy of Galileo’s fifth vertebra.  Donated to the University in 1823, the true vertebra relic is preserved elsewhere