Showing posts with label Ca' Rezzonico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ca' Rezzonico. Show all posts

13 October 2022

Giorgio Massari - architect

Work in 18th century Venice had echoes of Palladio

The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by many as Massari's masterpiece
The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by
many as Massari's masterpiece 
The architect Giorgio Massari, who designed a number of significant churches and palaces in Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1687.

Massari’s legacy in Venice includes the imposing Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal and the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, commonly known as the Gesuati, on the Giudecca Canal, which is acknowledged as his masterpiece.

He redesigned Santa Maria della Visitazione - known as the Pietà - the church on the Riva degli Schiavoni famous for its association with the great Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, who wrote some of his most famous music while working as a violin teacher at the adjoining orphanage.

Outside Venice, Massari designed villas and churches around Brescia, Treviso and Udine. 

His designs, especially his churches and villas, were often influenced by the work of the 16th century Classical architect Andrea Palladio and by Massari’s fellow Venetian, the Baroque sculptor and architect Baldassare Longhena.

Massari was born in the San Luca parish of the San Marco sestiere. His father, Stefano, was a carpenter from a village near Brescia in Lombardy. 

Little is known of his early life, although it is thought he may have studied under the supervision of Antonio Gaspari, who may himself have learned from Longhena.

Although it is likely that he had worked on other projects, the first to have been attributed to Massari is a house now known as the Villa Lattes at Istrana in the province of Treviso, which he designed in around 1712 for a wealthy merchant, Paolo Tamagnin.

Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal, has many features of Classical design
Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal,
has many features of the Classical design style
His reputation grew through his successes in both civil and religious architecture, which included the Palladian-style Villa Corner at Cavasagra, also in Treviso province, and the Oratory of Santa Maria della Salute in Badia Polesine, near Rovigo, which combined elements of Palladian, Rococo and neoclassical.

He began work on the Gesuiti church after the original architect had died. The project was only in its infancy and the Dominican friars who commissioned the building were so impressed with Massari’s plans that they ditched the drawings left behind by the first architect.

Situated on Fondamenta Zattere in the Dorsoduro sestiere, looking out over the broad Giudecca Canal, the Gesuati pays homage in its design to Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the landmark church on the small island at the eastern tip of the Giudecca, with its facade of Corinthian columns topped by a triangular pediment.

With its dome and twin adjoining bell towers, meanwhile, it compliments Palladio’s Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, which overlooks the Giudecca Canal from the opposite bank.

Also in Dorsoduro, Massari worked extensively on Ca’ Rezzonico, a monumental Baroque palace on the Grand Canal that had been designed by Baldassarre Longhena in 1649 but abandoned after the family who commissioned it fell on hard times. Massari was invited to complete the project more than 100 years later after it was bought by Giambattista Rezzonico, whose family were from the Como area of Lombardy.

It was while he was finishing the Ca’ Rezzonico that Massari was hired to design a new Palazzo Grassi on behalf of the Grassi family, who had acquired the building in 1655. The new palace based on Massari’s designs was constructed between 1748 and 1772. Designed along academic classical lines, it was the last grand palazzo built on the Grand Canal before the fall of the Venetian Republic.

Massari's villas often mimicked the style of Andrea Palladio, who influenced much of his work
Massari's villas, such as the Villa Giovanelli near
Padua, often echoed the style of Andrea Palladio
Massari’s involvement with the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, known as La Pietà, which is situated only a short distance from Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, apparently began after he won a competition to redesign it, in 1736. It is thought that he spoke to Vivaldi, who was the choirmaster, about the acoustics, although work did not begin until four years after the composer’s death.

The facade, which again has echoes of Palladio in its Corinthian columns and triangular pediment, was not actually finished until the early 20th century, although it is faithful for the most part to Massari’s design.

Other works in Venice attributed to Massari include the church of San Marcuola on the Grand Canal in Cannaregio and the facade of what is now the Academy of Fine Arts in Dorsoduro.

Outside Venice, he designed churches in Brescia and its province, in Scorzè near Treviso, and in Udine. He also contributed to the renovation of the cathedrals in Udine and Padua.

When Paolo Tamagnin died in 1734, Massari married his widow, Pisana Bianconi, and settled with her in a house in the Castello sestiere that had been owned by her late husband.

Widowed in 1751 without children, Massari died in 1766 at the age of 79. His body was buried in the Tamagnin tomb in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora in Castello.

Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in
accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Travel tip:

Ca’ Rezzonico, which Massari finished according to the designs of Baldassare Longhena, displays paintings by the leading Venetian painters of the 18th century, including Francesco Guardi and Giambattista Tiepolo. The latter was commissioned to paint the ceilings of two salons in 1758, to celebrate the election of Carlo, the younger brother of Giambattista Rezzonico, as Pope Clement XIII, and the marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico to Faustina Savorgnan, uniting the two richest families in Venice. The last of the Rezzonico family to live in the palace died in 1810, since when it has been bought and sold many times. The English poet Robert Browning died in the Ca’ Rezzonico in 1889 at the time it was owned by his son, Robert Barrett Browning. For a period in the 20th century it was the home of Cole Porter, the American composer and songwriter, who rented it for $4,000 a month. Nowadays, it houses the Museum of 18th Century Venice, hosting many precious examples of the furniture and decorations of the period, it has a wealth of Venetian paintings, including works by Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi.

The interior of San Luca Evangelista
The interior of San
Luca Evangelista
Travel tip:

The church of San Luca Evangelista in the San Marco sestiere, where Giorgio Massari was baptised, can be found on Rio de San Luca, a side canal off the Grand Canal behind Palazzo Grimani di San Luca. The church itself, which dates back to the 11th century, when it was the family place of worship for the Dandalo and Pizzamano families.  It has a simple facade but a richly decorated interior that features frescoes by Sebastiani Santi and altarpieces by Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. 

Also on this day:

54: The death of Roman emperor Claudius

1815: The execution of Joachim Murat, former King of Naples

1884: The birth of anarchist Mario Buda

1899: The birth of sportsman and entrepreneur Piero Dusio

1985: The death of silent movie star Francesca Bertini


30 August 2022

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo – painter and printmaker

Famous artist’s son developed his own style

Many of Tiepolo's works, such as this carnival scene in Venice, featured the comic character Pulcinella
Many of Tiepolo's works, such as this carnival scene
in Venice, featured the comic character Pulcinella
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, who became famous for his paintings of Venetian life and of the clown, Pulcinella, was born on this day in 1727 in Venice.

Also known as Giandomenico Tiepolo, he was one of the nine children born to the artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and his wife, Maria Guardi, the sister of painters Francesco and Giovanni Guardi.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Giandomenico inherited the talent to go into the same profession as his father and uncles and, by the age of 13, he had become the elder Tiepolo’s chief assistant. His younger brother, Lorenzo, also became a painter and worked as an assistant to his father.

By the age of 20, Giandomenico was already producing his own work for commissions. However, he continued to accompany his father when he received his major commissions in Italy, Germany and Spain.

He assisted his father with a grand stairwell fresco for a prince’s palace in Wurzburg in Bavaria in 1750 and with decorations for the Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vicenza in 1757 and the Royal Palace of Madrid in 1770.

The elder Tiepolo died while in Madrid and after Giandomenico returned to live in Venice, his own style of painting began to develop. His portraits and scenes of life in Venice were realistic and characterised by movement and his use of colour. He drew inspiration for his paintings from the lives of both peasants and aristocrats.

One of the panels from the Via Crucis cycle, in the Oratory of the Crucifix at San Polo
One of the panels from the Via Crucis cycle,
in the Oratory of the Crucifix at San Polo
Giandomenico also received many commissions for drawings and reproduced his own and his father’s paintings as etchings.

He produced more than 100 separate sketches of Pulcinella, a physically deformed clown who was the standard character of commedia dell’arte in Venice and later became the Punch in Punch and Judy. The sketches were created as entertainment for children, but also poked fun at the pretensions and behaviour of the viewers of Pulcinella’s shows.

He accepted commissions for religious paintings also. Many can be seen in the Chiesa di San Polo in Venice, including the 14 panels of his Via Crucis cycle, which can be seen in the adjacent Oratory of the Crucifix.

Frescoes that Giandomenico painted for the Tiepolo family villa at Zianigo near Mirano were removed from the walls of the building at the beginning of the last century and nearly sold to a French buyer, but the export of the paintings was blocked by an Italian Government minister. They were subsequently acquired by the city of Venice and put on display at Ca’ Rezzonico on the Grand Canal, in a replica of their original arrangement at the villa.  

The paintings were executed between 1759 and 1797 solely for the entertainment of Giandomenico and his family. The ones featuring Pulcinella were the last to be painted and are perhaps the most famous of the cycle. Giandomenico was said to have been obsessed by the commedia dell’arte character during the last years of his life and is thought to have used him in his paintings as a vehicle to reflect his own irreverent and sarcastic spirit.

Giandomenico Tiepolo died in Venice in 1804, aged 76.

The Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vincenza, where Tiepolo and his father painted frescoes
The Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vincenza, where
Tiepolo and his father painted frescoes
Travel tip:  

Villa Valmarana ai Nani was built in 1669 near the gates of the city of Vicenza. The villa takes its name from the 17 stone sculptures of nani, dwarves, that once decorated the garden and have now been placed on the walls surrounding the villa. It is believed they were sculpted by Francesco Uliaco based on drawings by Giandomenico Tiepolo. The villa is famous for the frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo in the palazzina, owner’s residence, which were commissioned by Giustino Valmarana in 1757. The present day Valmarana family still live in the villa.

Frescoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo on display at Ca' Rezzonico, the palace on the Grand Canal
Frescoes by Giandomenico Tiepolo on display
at Ca' Rezzonico, the palace on the Grand Canal
Travel tip:

Ca’ Rezzonico on the Grand Canal in Venice, which now houses Giandomenico Tiepolo’s frescoes on its second floor, was built in the 16th century to a design by the architect Baldassare Longhena. Before the building was complete the architect died and the unfinished construction was later bought by Giambattista Rezzonico, who commissioned Giorgio Massari to complete it. In the 19th century it was purchased by Pen Browning, the painter son of the poet, Robert Browning. The poet died there during a visit in 1889. The frescoes removed from Giandomenico’s villa went on display in Ca ‘Rezzonico in 1936. The palace is also now home to the Museum of 18th Century Venice.

Also on this day:

1580: The death of Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Savoy

1585: The death of Venetian composer Andrea Gabrieli

1860: The birth of New York crime fighter Joe Petrosino


12 December 2019

Robert Browning – English poet

Writer who called Italy his ‘university’

Robert Browning pictured in 1888, about  a year before he died in Venice,  aged 77
Robert Browning pictured in 1888, about
 a year before he died in Venice,  aged 77
Victorian poet and playwright Robert Browning died on this day in 1889 at his son’s home, Ca’ Rezzonico, a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice.

Browning was considered one of the most important Victorian poets, who had made contributions to social and political debate through his work, and he was given the honour of being buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

The poet’s early career had begun promisingly with his work being well received by the critics, but his long poem, Sordello, produced in 1840, was judged to be wilfully obscure and it was to take many years for his reputation to recover.

In 1846 Browning secretly married the poet, Elizabeth Barrett, who was six years older than him and had been living the life of an invalid in her father’s house in London. A few days later they went to live in Italy, leaving their families behind in England forever.

Elizabeth’s poetry became increasingly popular and after the death of Wordsworth in 1850 she was considered as a serious contender to become the next Poet Laureate. However, the position eventually went to Alfred Tennyson.

The Brownings lived in Pisa at first but then moved to Florence, where they lived in an apartment in a 15th century house, Casa Guidi, in the Oltrarno district.

A younger Robert Browning in a portraint by
 Italian painter Michele Gordigiani in 1858
Their only child, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, who they nicknamed Penini, or Pen, was born to them in 1849.

Browning became fascinated with the art and cultural environment of Italy and would in later life describe the country as his ‘University’.

While Elizabeth continued to write and achieved fame through her poetry, Browning’s own work was still being dismissed by other writers and critics.

While in Florence, Browning worked on the poems that would eventually comprise his two-volume Men and Women, for which he is now well known.

But in 1855 when they were first published they made little impact.

When Elizabeth’s health began to deteriorate, the Brownings moved to the Villa Alberti in Siena.

They moved to Rome in 1860, but when Elizabeth’s health became worse they returned to Florence. Elizabeth died in Browning’s arms in June 1861, aged 55. She was buried in a white marble tomb, designed by Frederic, Lord Leighton, in the protestant English Cemetery of Florence.

Now a widower, Browning returned to London with his 12-year-old son, Pen. Through years of hard work he gradually built up his reputation again and became part of the London literary scene.

A portrait of Robert Browning painted by his son, Pen, in aroud 1882
A portrait of Robert Browning painted by
his son, Pen, in aroud 1882
In 1868, after five years of intensive writing, he published The Ring and the Book, his most ambitious project,and considered by some to be his greatest work. The poem was a commercial and critical success and brought him the recognition he had long been hoping for.

In his later years, Browning travelled frequently to Italy, finding peace and inspiration in the small hilltop town of Asolo in the Veneto. However, he never visited Florence again.

After one last visit to Asolo in the summer of 1889, Browning, accompanied by his sister, Sarianna, travelled to Venice to visit Pen and his wife at the end of October.

Pen, who had by then become a successful painter, had recently bought and renovated Ca’ Rezzonico.

Browning would spend the mornings at the Lido, the afternoons visiting his friend, Katharine Bronson, at her residence Ca’ Alvisi, and the evenings at Ca’ Rezzonico with his family.

In December, Browning became unwell and was diagnosed with bronchitis and a weak heart.

On December 12 he received the news that his last volume of poetry, Asolando, had sold out on the same day it was published. Browning knew there was an advertisement for a new edition of Mrs Browning’s poetry on the back of the book.  He told his son he was ‘more than satisfied’ and died a few hours later. He was 77 years old.

The elegant Ca' Rezzonico on the Grand Canal in Venice, which Browning's son, Pen, owned
The elegant Ca' Rezzonico on the Grand Canal
in Venice, which Browning's son, Pen, owned
A private funeral service was held in the sala (dining room) of Ca’ Rezzonico.

At the end of the service, eight pompieri (firemen) in blue uniforms and brass helmets, carried Browning’s body downstairs and on to a municipal barge, which conveyed the poet to the chapel on San Michele, the ‘isle of the dead’.

Two days later, Browning’s manservant escorted the coffin back to London by train.

On 31 December 1889, Browning was conveyed to Westminster Abbey along a route lined by thousands of people for a service, followed by an interment in Poets Corner, where he now lies surrounded by the great names of literature.

Casa Guidi in Florence, which has now been converted into a study centre
Casa Guidi in Florence, which has now
been converted into a study centre
Travel tip:

A plaque marks Casa Guidi, the home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert Browning in Piazza di San Felice in the Oltrarno district of Florence. The Brownings lived in the piano nobile apartment between 1847 and 1862. The New York Browning Society restored the apartment and then gave it to Eton College to be converted into a study centre. Casa Guidi is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 3-6pm between April and November.

The main square - Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi - at Asolo in the Veneto, which Browning made his home
The main square - Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi - at Asolo in
the Veneto, which Browning made his home
Travel tip:

Robert Browning’s beloved Asolo is a hilltop town in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is known as ‘the pearl of the province of Treviso’ and also as ‘the city of a hundred horizons’ because of its beautiful views over the countryside and the mountains. Browning published Asolando, a volume of poetry written in the town, in 1889 just before his death. The main road leading into the town is named Via Browning in his honour. One of the main sights is the Castle of Caterina Cornaro, which now houses the Eleonora Duse Theatre.

Also on this day:

1685: The birth of composer Lodovico Giustini

1901: Guglielmo Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio signal

1957: The birth of author Susanna Tamaro

1969: The Piazza Fontana bombing kills 17


5 November 2015

Pietro Longhi - painter

Painter who allowed us to see inside 18th century Venice

The painter Pietro Longhi, who was renowned for his accurate scenes of every day life in Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1702.

The Correr Museum can be found in
Piazza San Marco
Longhi was originally called Pietro Falca and was the son of a silversmith in Venice, but he changed his name after he began painting.

He started with historical and religious scenes but his work evolved after a stay in Bologna where he encountered Giuseppe Maria Crespi, who was considered one of the greatest Italian painters at the time.

Longhi’s son Alessandro later wrote that his father had a ‘brilliant and bizarre spirit’, which led him to accurately paint people in conversation and show us the love and jealousy going on in the background.

His paintings vividly depict Venetian life and show wonderful details of the clothes and possessions of the upper and middle classes.

For example, Longhi’s painting of The Hairdresser and the Lady, which is in the Correr Museum in Venice, shows a wealthy Venetian lady having her hair dressed by a man, while a maid stands to one side holding a child.

Longhi faithfully shows us how the clothing of each subject reflects the rank of the person wearing it and allows us to see the various objects scattered on the lady’s dressing table.

In The Duck Hunt, which is in the museum of Palazzo Querini Stampalia in Venice, Longhi depicts an archer in a smart coat and powdered wig being rowed out on the lagoon by people in their work clothes.

Longhi's The Charlatan is one of many
scenes depicting Venice's ridotti
He also painted many scenes of masked couples gambling or flirting in ridotti, the gaming salons that were popular in Venice at the time, allowing us to see the behaviour that went on.  The Charlatan, which is kept in the Ca' Rezzonico museum in Venice, is one such scene.

Longhi died in Venice in 1785. He has been compared to his English contemporary William Hogarth but his paintings are ironic rather than satirical and he shows us a more cheerful, prosperous society than the one painted by Hogarth.

While the great Canaletto has allowed us to see what Venice looked like on the outside in the 18th century, Longhi gives us the chance to see what went on indoors.

The Museo Correr occupies the upper floors at the southern end of the Piazza San Marco
The Museo Correr occupies the upper floors
at the southern end of the Piazza San Marco
Travel Tip:

The Correr Museum (Museo Correr) is in St Mark’s Square, Venice and is a great place to learn about the art and history of Venice. The museum, which occupies the upper floors of the Procuratorie Nuove at the southern end of the square, originated with the collection bequeathed to the city in 1830 by Teodoro Correr, from a noble Venetian family, who had dedicated most of his life to collecting works of art and documents or individual objects that reflected the history of Venice. Correr also left funds to be used in conserving and extending the collections and in making them available to the public. Other pieces have since been given to the museum by other wealthy Venetians. It is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm.

The church of Santa Maria Formosa is close to the palazzo
The church of Santa Maria
Formosa is close to the palazzo
Travel Tip:

The Museum of the Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice contains several paintings by Pietro Longhi, as well as works by Bellini and Tiepolo, in the beautiful setting of a Venetian palazzo close to Campo Santa Maria Formosa in Castello.  Founded founded in 1869 at the behest of  Count Giovanni Querini, the last descendent of the Querini family, it was designed by architect Carlo Scarpa, who  designed the interior and exterior of the palace. The Foundation is open to the public for academic research.

Also on this day: