North side Rooms on the Second Floor, Ca’ Rezzonico

The second floor contains a series of galleries displaying Venetian paintings and decorative arts from the 18th century. The second floor opens with a long Central Hall typical of Venetian palaces in which there are two early works by Canaletto; a must see is the room dedicated to frescos from Villa Zianigo by Tiepolo, or the Parlatorio Room or the Longhi Room.

The building was opened to the public after a restoration work. The curators of the exhibition were Nino Barbantini and Giulio Lorenzetti, who wanted to arrange the works in a natural way, almost as if they were part of the furnishings. The eighteenth-century works owned by the Civic Museums of Venice were concentrated there. To these were added works from civic-owned buildings and works purchased for the occasion on the antique market.

Picture gallery Portego
In the second-floor portego some of the most important paintings in the museum are displayed. These provide excellent examples of the various painting genres of 18th-century Venetian art: the veduta (or “view”), the landscape, the capriccio, the portrait and the figure painting.

The second floor Portego acts as the traditional Venetian “quadreria”, containing the most important paintings of the museum with masterpieces by Luca Carlevarijs, Francesco Guardi, Giambattista Piazzetta, Gian Antonio Pellegrini, Marco Ricci, Francesco Zuccarelli, Giuseppe Zais and Canaletto with the View of the Rio dei Mendicanti and The Grand Canal from Ca’ Balbi Looking towards Rialto, recently acquired by the Venice Town Council (1983), the only view-paintings by the artist in the city’s public collections. These are the finest works of his youthful period, around the 1720s, when he decided to abandon the practice of theatrical scenography, which he had been engaged on till then in his father’s employment, in order to devote himself to view-painting.

Several major paintings by Canaletto are on display, including Architectural Caprice and two views of the Grand Canal, painted in 1719-20 during his youth. They marked the beginning of his famous series of Venice scenes. They were purchased for the museum by the City of Venice in 1983. Another large-scale depiction of the port The festival of Saint Martha by Gaspare Diziani, is also on display, along with several celebrated scenes of life in Venice during the period by Francesco Guardi.

The Dutch Diplomatic Meeting by Francesco Guardi, a work which refers to a precise historical event, the trading agreement signed in The Hague on 27th August 1753 between the Kingdom of Naples and Holland. The painting was commissioned by Count Finocchiatti, the representative of the Bourbon sovereign, who immediately after the event came to Venice and commissioned the work. Together with the other works by Francesco Guardi in Ca’ Rezzonico such as the Foyer, the Parlatory of the Nuns, the Signboard of the Guild of the Coroneri (or rosary-makers), it forms the most important group of interiors by this artist present in a public collection.

On the opposite wall is the large canvas of the Death of Darius, painted in about 1746 by Giambattista Piazzetta for the portego of Palazzo Pisani Moretta at San Polo, where it was paired with a painting by Paolo Veronese showing Alexander and Darius’ Family, later sold by the owners to the National Gallery of London. The Death of Darius is one of the great master’s most important works. All the particular features of his style, so different from that of his contemporary and rival Tiepolo, can be recognised in it. The atmosphere is gloomy and dramatic, an effect which has been emphasised by alterations in the colours which have occurred due to the priming with Armenian bole. Over the centuries this priming has absorbed and cancelled some hues, such as the pinks and light blues. Piazzetta’s rendering of faces and gestures is the result of careful meditation, in contrast to Tiepolo’s quick, free brush strokes. Piazzetta also impeccably defines the anatomy of the nude, as can be observed in the extraordinary image of the Persian king’s outstretched body.

A stucco frame surrounds a painting by Gian Antonio Pellegrini showing Mutius Scaevola Standing before Porsenna. This is a fine example of the late work of this major exponent of international rococo, which was wholly concentrated on painting techniques. He uses a rapid, loose application of contrasting, clashing colours.

The next part of the wall is dedicated to the display of the two early masterpieces by Canaletto, View of the Grand Canal from Ca’ Balbi towards Rialto, and Rio dei Mendicanti (the Beggars’ Canal). These are the only two views by the master which can be seen in the public collections of Venice. These paintings were originally part of a series of four, belonging to the Princes of Liechtenstein. The other two are today in the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum of Madrid). In the first painting Canaletto exalts the particular nature of Venice as a “city of water”, expanding the true width of the Grand Canal. Sunlight breaks in from the right, illuminating even the smallest element of the composition, and making even the most distant buildings distinctly perceptible.

Within the perspective structure Canaletto builds up a stupefying realism which is obtained through an extraordinary use of light. Nor does he hide the signs of the pictorial operation; indeed he exhibits them bared-facedly: loaded, frayed brush strokes which offer the viewer a more ‘realistic’, more lively, interpretation of the town. Canaletto adds views which had formerly been ignored to the standard repertoire, which concentrated on the area around St. Mark’s Square. These included both the Grand Canal and little-known corners of Venice, one of which was this Rio dei mendicanti, in which the artist depicts a popular district and describes it in all its plebean beauty.

The opposite wall features The Feast of St. Martha by Gaspare Diziani. The large painting depicts the feast, or eve, of St. Martha’s Day, a popular festival that was celebrated the night before the anniversary of the saint in front of the eponymous church located at the westernmost end of Zattere. It is a unique example in the production of Gaspare Diziani, whose work can be admired in the palace also in the frescoed ceiling of the Pastel Room on the first floor. In this painting he managed to capture a striking picture of Venetian life. In using a nocturnal setting and a vivid description of the revellers, from all different social classes and caught in a private moment of merriment, Diziani offers us one of the most convincing examples of his prolific activity while making us relive the atmosphere of eighteenth century Venice.

Ritratto del cardinale Federico Corner – Bernardo Strozzi
Ritratto di vecchia – Pietro Bellotti
Ritratto di gentiluomo in parrucca – Sebastiano Bombelli
Pastorale – Francesco Zuccarelli
La Sagra di Santa Marta – Gaspare Diziani
Veduta di porto fluviale – Luca Carlevarijs
Prospettiva con portico – Giuseppe Moretti
Il convegno diplomatico – Francesco Guardi
Il rio dei Mendicanti – Canaletto
Canal Grande da Palazzo Balbi a Rialto – Canaletto
Mucius Scaevola in front of Porsenna – Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
Interno della basilica di San Pietro a Roma – Giovanni Paolo Panini
La comunione di San Filippo Neri – Giuseppe Angeli
Ritratto di gentiluomo in rosso – Niccolò Cassana
Giustina Donà dalle Rose – Lodovico Gallina
Ritratto del Senatore Giovanni Correr – Antonio Bellucci
Ragazzo con piffero – Domenico Maggiotto
Ragazzo con mela – Antonio Marinetti
Testa di vecchio barbuto – Giuseppe Nogari
Madonna leggente – Francesco Capella

Parlor Room
The Parlor Hall takes its name from Francesco Guardi’s painting: The Parlor of the Nuns at San Zaccaria (1740-1745) exhibited in the hall with | The Foyer of Dandolo’s palace in San Moisè. The fresco of the ceiling entitled: Conjugal Concorde crowned by Virtue in the presence of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, Fame, Abundance is a work of Costantino Cedini (Padua, 1741 – Venice, 1811), member of the Guild of the painters of Venice and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice. The fresco was originally in the palace Nani in Cannaregio. It was transferred in the 1930s to its current location. The frame surrounding the fresco is older than a century ago and is due to the quadratorist Antonio Felice Ferrari (1667 – 1720).

This room contains two of the most famous paintings by Francesco Guardi, showing on the left the Parlatory of the Nuns of San Zaccaria and on the right the Foyer of palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè.

Thus two “interior views”, which in a certain sense anticipate the town views which Francesco began to paint only in the second half of the century. Notice the quality of the lively figures,which have the same freshness of touch and delicacy of colour as those which were to people his innumerable outside views. The Foyer shows the large main room of the gaming house of palazzo Dandolo in San Moisè, whose walls were lined with “cuoridoro” before 1768, when the interior of the old palace was restructured in Neoclassical style according to a project by Bernardino Maccaruzzi.

The Ridotto, or Foyer, was operated directly by the State and remained open during the months of the endless Venetian carnival, lasting from December 26th to Ash Wednesday.

Anyone visiting the premises was required to wear a mask, with the exception of the noblemen who ran the gambling tables, who were chosen from the least prosperous families, the socalled Barnabotti class of impoverished nobility. Frequented by pimps, prostitutes and usurers, it was closed for reasons of public order in 1774. Guardi’s painting is certainly the most interesting depiction of this space, visited by all travellers spending any time in the city.

The Parlatory instead shows the visiting-room of the convent of San Zaccaria, one of the most important in Venice, where descendants of the noble Venetian families were sent to become nuns. Here, relatives and friends could converse with the nuns and during these meetings puppet shows were also put on for any small guests.

A fresco stripped from a reception room of Palazzo Nani in Cannaregio has been fitted to the ceiling. It shows Conjugal harmony crowned by Virtue in the presence of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, Fame, Abundance, and is the work of Costantini Cedini, a late pupil of Giambattista Tiepolo.

The decorative frame surrounding the central scene was painted about a century earlier by the trompe l’oeil painter Antonio Felice Ferrari.

The greenish-yellow lacquer suite of furniture with floral decorations is of notable quality; it comes from Palazzo Calbo Crotta at Gli Scalzi. Particularly fine is the large curving chest of drawers with the marble top, surmounted by the imposing but slender mirror with its lovely gilded crest; and the two twin bedside tables with their similar rocaille lines, again repeated in the ten elegant armchairs, whose upholstery is however modern. The frame which fixes the wall covering is also from the same period.

Other Venetian artists whose works can be seen on this floor include Cima da Conegliano, Alvise Vivarini, Bonifacio de’ Pitati; Tintoretto, Schiavone, the Bassano family, Paolo Fiammingo, Lambert Sustris; Padovanino and Carpinoni, Pietro Vecchia, Giovanni Segala, Palma il Giovane, Bernardo Strozzi, Francesco Maffei, Giovan Battista Langetti, Pietro Liberi; Balestra, Niccolò Bambini, Piazzetta, Nicola Grassi, [ Pietro Longhi, Rosalba Carriera, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Pellegrini, Amigoni, Antonio Marini, Zuccarelli, Zais, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Natale Schiavoni, Ippolito Caffi, Mancini, and Emma Ciardi.

The room with Francesco Guardi’s famous painting
The fresco of Costantino Cedini
The Parlor of the Nuns at San Zaccaria by Francesco Guardi
The Foyer of Dandolo’s palace in San Moisè by Francesco Guardi
Portrait of Francesco Guardi by Pietro Longhi
Martyrdom of Saint Theodora of Rome by Giambattista Tiepolo
View of St. Mark’s Basin
Samuel Egerton by Bartolomeo Nazari
Benedetto Ganassoni by Pietro Longhi
squall by Giuseppe Zais

Harpsichord room
The room takes name from the harpsichord (dated to the third quarter of the Seventeenth Century), probably made in Urbino, which was subsequently mounted on anachronistic legs. The decoration on the sides is in lacca povera, which consists of printed cut-outs glued on then coated with a layer of protective transparent varnish. In this specific case, it shows hunting scenes, landscapes and trysts. The drop-leaf chest of drawers against the wall is decorated with the same technique. In three modern glass display cases along the wall, there is an important selection of porcelain objects that provide an overview of some of the most important of the Eighteenth-Century European production, including extremely famous pieces from Meissen, Sèvres and Wien.

The most significant group was produced locally, and specifically in Venice (by Vezzi and Cozzi) and Nove, near Bassano (by Antonibon). The earliest manufactory in Venice was that of Giovanni Vezzi, who was the first to bring to Venice the chemical formula for porcelain, originally discovered in 1710 by Johann Friedrich Böttger, an alchemist at the royal Court at Dresden. Vezzi’s porcelain production began in 1720 and had already ceased by 1727. Now this objects are very rare. All made of a characteristicacally hard, translucent porcelain that was very similar to the porcelain produced in Meissen.

Amongst the pieces on display, there is a remarkable series of elegant bell-shaped cups with iron red, blue and gold decorations and mithological scenes depicted by Ludovico Ortolani. Other significant examples were produced by Geminiano Cozzi porcelain manufactory from 1764 to the early 19th Century. Cozzi’s production was typified by his continually modernised forms and decorations which changed according to fashion and tastes. The marvellous tea and coffee service donated to Ca’ Rezzonico by Prince Umberto of Savoy with red monochrome decorations of landscapes and country scenes is one of the Cozzi’s earliest production and one of his masterpieces.

Frescos from Villa Zianigo
A section on the second floor contains rooms with of frescos by Giandomenico Tiepolo, son of Giambattista Tiepolo, which were originally in the Villa Zianigo, near Murano.

From this point on, starting with the scenes of Rinaldo Abandoning the Garden of Armida and the Falcon, one enters the area of the museum devoted to the recomposition of the cycle of frescoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo, painted from 1759 to 1797 for his villa which still exists at Zianigo, a small village near Mirano, in the countryside to the west of Venice. Almost all of them were removed in 1906 in order to be sold in France; but their exportation was blocked by the Ministry of Education and the works were purchased by the Venice Town Council and by the Italian State. They were transferred in 1936 to Ca’ Rezzonico, using a layout that attempted to reconstruct – although with a few differences and superimpositions – the original arrangement. The frescoes – restored in 1999 by Ottorino Nonfarmale thanks to the generous contribution of the members of the Venice International Foundation – are some of the most fascinating and striking works in Ca’ Rezzonico – indeed, of the second half of the century.

In these rooms you can admire the fresoces painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo in the family villa in Zianigo. Here they were hung in small rooms which wherever possible reproduce their original location. The paintings were completed over a fairly long period, between 1759 and 1797, and undoubtedly constitute one of the most fascinating, singular bodies of work in the whole of Venetian painting. They are works painted not for a client but for the artist and his family’s own pleasure, in the private context of their home. This very circumstance freed the painter from thematic and figurative conventions and allowed him to follow his own intimate nature, a propensity to sarcastic description of the world around him.

The hallway
In the corridor leading to the hall, on the left wall, a scene of the liberated Jerusalem of the Cup: “Renaud who abandons the Garden of Armida” by Giandomenico Tiepolo, who was on the ground floor of the villa from Zianigo. On the right wall of the vestibule two canvases of Nicolò Bambini: Achilles and the girls of Licomede and The Sabines’ kidnapping; overcoming these two canvases The Apotheosis of Venice by Francesco Fontebasso; on the right, an “Allegory of Summer”; on the back wall: Falcon chasing a flock of sparrows on the run by Giandomenico Tiepolo.

The first work in front of the door shows a scene from Torquato Tasso’s poem Jerusalem Delivered. It shows Rinaldo Abandoning the Garden of Armida, and was formerly on the ground floor of the villa of Zianigo. We are still in a figurative dimension, where both style and theme are closely linked to Giandomenico’s father’s world.

The subject is connected to the grand Baroque tradition of historical painting; Giandomenico however interprets it with an ungrammatical expressiveness which corrodes its solemn, sophisticated effect. His particular nature is fully expressed on the left of the back wall, in the snapshot-like image of the Hawk Swooping onto the Flock of Sparrows in Flight. This was originally a ceiling and, instead of his father’s mythologies, Giandomenico painted a theme of limpid, natural simplicity. It is impossible not to see in this painting an allusion to the empirical culture of the Enlightenment, where the sky is the space of birds and not the home of ancient divinities.

Achille e le figlie di Licomede by Nicolò Bambini
Ratto delle Sabine by Nicolò Bambini
Apoteosi di Venezia by Francesco Fontebasso
Rinaldo lasciando il giardino d’Armida
Allégorie de l’été
Falchetto che piomba sullo stormo di passeri in fuga

The Pulcinella Room
Pulcinella was a standard character in Italian Commedia dell’arte since the 17th century, a figure for ridicule and satire; he wore a tall white hat and gown, a mask, and carried a club or long forks. The frescos were begun in about 1759, and illustrate the stories of Pulcinella in various comic or satiric scenes. They were originally made by the elder Tiepolo for his own country house. They were finished in about 1797. Another important Tiepolo work is displayed in tho section; the New World; a long fresco in the corridor which was originally on the ground floor of the Villa Zianigo, depicting a line of Venetians, including one in a Pulcinella costume with a long a fork, waiting to look into a magic lantern presentation, Promenade is said to show Tiepolo himself, to the right, looking at the scene ironically through his eyeglass. On the opposite wall are two more scenes, Promenade and Minuet, showing, also in a certain ironic vein, Venetian aristocrats dancing and promenading.

In this section, contains a group of three frescoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo from the Villa, called Pulcinella in Love, Pulcinella and the Saltimboques, and the Departure of Pulcinella. The round fresco on the ceiling depicts Pulcinella seen from below walking across a tightrope. These paintings were made between 1793 and 1797 at the Villa Zianigo, at the time of the first occupation of Venice by the French, and the beginning of downfall of the Venetian Republic, and its particular style of life and art.

The frescoes in the next room repropose themes already painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo in his youth in the guest quarters of the villa Valmarana. After many years he gave them a new monumental form and reinterpreted them with a more mature eye which scrutinised his contemporaries with ruthless irony. The New World shows a crowd of people thronging around the huckster in his booth with the magic lantern, called in fact “New World” for the images of exotic places shown inside it. This amusement attracted not only children as was traditional, but the whole of society: common people, peasants, the middle classes; here they are all depicted lifesize from the rear in a single great anti-portrait. In this fresco, Giandomenico overturns the classic conception of representation; the scene does not present itself to the viewer but paradoxically denies itself to our scrutiny, hiding that very show which had drawn the crowd. We are not looking at a scene, rather at someone who in turn is watching what is happening. In the two minor scenes, the painter presents another theme which is particularly dear to him, that of the promenade and the dance. Here they lose that chivalrous, fashionable context typical of Giandomenico’s early small pictures. The Promenade in the villa conveys an involuntarily comic effect: the sophisticated elegance of the clothes strikes a false note when they are seen on the skinny, scraggy limbs of personages who again turn their backs on us, making a stage exit.

The Pulicinella section contains two more rooms, the Cabinet of the Centaurs and the Cabinet of Satyrs, with monochromatic scenes by Giandomenico Tiepolo of themes and creatures. The ceiling of the Cabinet of Centaurs has a red monochrome meed image called Rhapsody, which is said to be a tribute to the poet Homer, along with medallions and images of mythological scenes and creatures. On the ceiling is a large rectangular painting of Scenes from Roman History, and, over the doors, more images of both male and female satyrs.

In this Commedia dell’Arte character the artist found the perfect incarnation of that irreverent, sarcastic spirit which was his own natural disposition. In the frescoes in this room, innumerable Punchinellos have suddenly emerged from the entrails of the earth up a ladder. They perform the same actions as the nobility, or mimic the protagonists of the fairytales and mythologies described by Giambattista Tiepolo. They have fun on the swing, flirt with the women during carnival, watch the tumblers’ shows, carouse and get drunk, join the promenade; in one of the monochromes they even chase away a fashionably-dressed young lady. The future imagined by the painter is tragic-comic, terrifying and topical in its pessimism. He contrasts the fatuous New World with another brand-new world, a world populated with irreverent, rough people, a world of free, equal individuals. Here Giandomenico appears to allude to the revolutionary message then arriving from France. It may be a coincidence, but the date of the completion of the frescoes was 1797, the fatal year of the fall of the Venetian Republic.

The Chapel
The Chapel is a room which displays paintings by Giandomenico Tiepolo for the chapel of the Villa Zianigo, which was consecrated in 1758. The paintings are signed by Tiepolo with the date 1759. The main figure in the paintings is Saint Jerome Émilien, depicted with handcuffs to represent his imprisonment in 1511 by soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire, and his liberation, according to the legend, through the intervention of the Virgin Mary.

The frescoes decorating the small chapel were probably the first ones painted in the villa by Giandomenico Tiepolo. The chapel was in fact dedicated in 1758 to the blessed Jerome Miani, the founder of the order of the Somaschi to which the painter’s younger brother, Giuseppe Maria, belonged. Besides the altarpiece with the Madonna and Child adored by St. Jerome Miani and St. James the Apostle, Giandomenico painted two monochromes of the saint’s life at either side. Following his propensity for concreteness and close observation of reality, Giandomenico interpreted the two miraculous events as moments in the life of a seminary, a life veiled with melancholic squalor, spare and frugal, where there is no space for miracles. The Punchinello (or Punch) Room, which is actually a proper bed-chamber, was the last one to be painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo, and it is perhaps the most famous of the whole cycle. In contrast with the show which is denied to the viewer in the New World, a swarming multitude of figures is offered up to us here. The main character is Punchinello, the Commedia dell’Arte character who embodies the popular soul in an eternal parody of Man and his weaknesses. In the last years of his life, Giandomenico was literally obsessed by this figure, whom he painted on the walls of his house and in dozens of drawings which were then collected in an album. This album has since been dismantled and its single sheets have been scattered over various public and private collections.

Minuetto in villa di Zianigo
Ceiling of Mondo Novo Hall
Centauro che rimuove una satira
La danza dei satiri
L’altalena del satiro
Pulcinelli a riposo
Pulcinella innamorato
Il casotto dei saltimbanchi
Altalena dei pulcinelli – Ceilling
Madonna col Bambino adorata da San Girolamo Miani e da San Giacomo apostolo
Hiëronymus Emiliani

Ca ‘Rezzonico
Ca ‘Rezzonico is one of the most famous palaces of Venice, located in the district of Dorsoduro, overlooking the Grand Canal from Palazzo Contarini Michiel and Palazzo Nani Bernardo, not far from Ca’ Foscari.

The palace which houses the Museum of 18th-century Venice was built at the behest of the Bon family, one of the old noble families of the town. Halfway through the 17th century Filippo Bon commissioned the building from the most famous architect of his time, Baldassare Longhena, who also built Ca’ Pesaro and the basilica of La Salute. The monumental project proved however to be too ambitious for the Bon finances. The palace had not yet in fact been completed when the architect died in 1682 and soon afterwards, in view of the family’s inability to bear the considerable expense of the project, the works were brought to a halt and the building remained incomplete.

In 1750 Giambattista Rezzonico, whose family had recently received a noble title by paying a large sum of money, bought the building and commissioned Giorgio Massari, the fashionable architect of the time, to complete the works. The palazzo took the name of the Rezzonico family. The works were completed in just 6 years, in time to celebrate the family’s lightning rise in society, which peaked in 1758 when Carlo, Giambattista’s son, was elected pope under the name of Clement XIII. Their success was however fairly short-lived and had already come to an end with the next generation. Lacking male heirs, the family died out in 1810 with the death of Abbondio.

During the 19th century the palace changed owners several times and was gradually stripped of all its furnishings. Later tenants included the poet Robert Browning – who spent the summers of 1887 and 1888 in the palace, and died here in 1889 – and the composer and songwriter Cole Porter, who rented the premises from 1926 to 1927. It had been reduced to a mere empty receptacle when it was purchased by the city of Venice in 1935 to house the 18th-century art collections. In just a short time, furnishings were added to the paintings: everyday objects, also stripped frescoes or ceiling canvases from other city palaces. The result is an extraordinary environmental museum in whose rooms we can see works of one of the most fortunate periods of European art, together with the lavishness and splendor of an 18th-century Venetian mansion.

Ca ‘Rezzonico then underwent various disposals, during which it was stripped of the furnishings. In 1888 it was purchased for 250,000 lire by Robert Barrett Browning, son of the English writers Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who restored it thanks to the financial support of his wife, the American Fannie Coddington. Father Robert, who had financed the purchase, died there, in the mezzanine apartment, on December 12, 1889.

In 1906 Robert Barrett Browning, ignoring an offer made to him by Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, sold the palace to Count and Deputy Lionello Hierschel de Minerbi, who in 1935 sold it to the Municipality of Venice. Since 1936 it is therefore the seat of the Eighteenth-century Venetian Museum which, in addition to reconstructions of rooms with period furniture and furnishings, houses important pictorial works by Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Pietro Longhi, Tintoretto, as well as by Tiepolo and numerous terracotta sketches by Giovanni Maria Morlaiter.