Of Ceilings: Stucco, Frescoes, and Brassieres
Before holding the collections that today comprise the Museo Correr, the Procuratie Nuove (the New Procuracies), built in the 16th-17th centuries, and the Procuratie Nuovissime (the Newest Procuracies), completed during the French occupation of the 19th century, served as the Imperial Palace. As such, these buildings were the residence of the viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The building was given a grand entry with which to impress any visitors and entertain audiences, including a sumptuous ballroom, a throne room, and a banqueting hall. Some of these spaces are today dedicated to the work of Antonio Canova.
In the 18th century, Antonio Canova established himself as a “new Phidias,” and was seen as a representation of the purest classical aesthetic and neo-classical ideals.
Napoleon had adopted these same ideals as a symbol of the empire, and so the Bonaparte family commissioned Canova with plenty of works, including a sculpture of Paris, the plaster model of which is housed in the Museo Correr.
Even after his death, Canova was much revered, and admirers would often collect personal keepsakes, letters, and portraits of the artist in a frenzy of “Canova-mania.”
The present decoration of the Imperial rooms goes back to the time when Venice was under Hapsburg occupation, with some leftover elements from the time of Napoleon. This new décor was implemented in two phases. The first was in 1836-1838, when Emperor Ferdinand I was crowned in nearby Milan as King of Lombardy-Venetia in 1838, and chose to stay in Venice. And the second was in 1854-1856, when Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth stayed in the palace for just over a month. The empress was to again live here for another seven months in 1861-1862.
Lorenzo Santi was responsible for the design of the ballroom, which he began to work on in 1822, with Giuseppe Borsato completing its decoration in 1838. Loggias stand at each side of the room, to house the orchestra, and the frescoes on the ceiling are the work of Odorico Politi.
This library is lined with a series of bookcases that came from the Pisani family palace in San Vidal, providing an example of 17th-century furnishings. They are filled with rare manuscripts and printed works dating from the early 16th to the end of the 18th century. A chandelier of Murano glass sits at the center of the room, probably produced at the workshop of Giuseppe Briati, a 16th century glassmaker.
The Museo Correr’s collection began with works bequeathed to the city of Venice in 1830 by Teodoro Correr, an abbot and collector. He had dedicated his life to collecting objects and works of art that reflected the history of Venice. Upon his death, he bequeathed to the city the collection, the home in which the collection was then housed, and funds with which to make these available to the public. The museum finally opened in 1836.
In 1887, it became necessary for the collection to be housed in the Fondaco dei Turchi, which is today the home of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia. It was in 1922 that it moved to its present home in Piazza San Marco.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia
Though today located in the same building as the Museo Correr, the National Archaeological Museum of Venice began with its initial sixteen ancient marbles being hosted in a room of the Palazzo Ducale.
In the late 16th century, the collection, by then made larger by donations, was moved to the vestibule of the Biblioteca Marciana. Some pieces remained behind in the Palazzo Ducale to be used as decoration in various rooms and halls.
Both the library and the museum were moved back to the palace in the 18th century, not returning to the Procuratie Nuove until the early 20th century.
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
In 1468, the Byzantine humanist and scholar Cardinal Bessarion donated his book collection, which included hundreds of Greek and Latin codices, to the Republic of Venice, with the stipulation that they be shared with the public. At first, however, these items remained in the Palazzo Ducale under private storage, not as Cardinal Bessarion had wished. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the construction of a library where to made these available to public scholars was planned.
The ceiling of this, the reading room, is decorated with 21 roundels completed by various artists, including Paolo Veronese, Giovanni de Mio, Battista Franco, and Bernardo Strozzi.
Today, the library is mainly a museum, with its collections now housed in the Zecca, the former mint of the Republic of Venice. The library is the only official institution established by the Venetian Republic that survives today.
We only had time to stop at one bacaro (a typical Venetian tavern, basically a bar) while in Venice, but this one came kindly suggested by a friend, and I pass on the recommendation. They had pretty fun cocktails, and they certainly have a unique and interesting décor.