Ca' Rezzonico

Ca' Rezzonico

Layout and collections

Second floor

12. Picture-Gallery Portego. The second floor Portego acts as the traditional Venetian “quadreria”, containing the most important paintings of the museum. The tour follows a clockwise direction, from the left of the entrance. The first painting is an imaginary view by Luca Carlevarijs, dating from the early years of the 18th century, rich in scenographic effects and Roman features. Next to it there is an Architectural Caprice, an autograph replica of the one that Canaletto donated to the Venetian Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1765. The next painting shows a Diplomatic Congress, a youthful work by Francesco Guardi. On the wall opposite, on the left, there is the Portrait of Marshal Matthias von Schulenburg, by Antonio Guardi, who worked for many years for the commander of the Venetian land-troops, a great art-collector; the work was done between 1737 and 1742. Beside it, the large canvas “Darius death” by Giambattista Piazzetta, painted around 1746 for the salon of Palazzo Pisani Moretta at San Polo, is one of his masterpieces in the historical genre to which the artist devoted himself especially in his late years. Gian Antonio Pellegrini’s painting of Muzius Scaevola and Porsenna, painted between 1706 and 1708, is a fine example of this rococo artist’s mature style. The next stretch of wall is devoted to two youthful masterpieces by Canaletto, 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. Together with two paintings that were originally part of the same series and are now in the Thyssen collection in Madrid, there 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. Beyond the door there are a few works by pupils of Piazzetta, while three notable 17th century portraits occupy the corresponding wall opposite. The next area is devoted to an important collection of works by the most important landscape-painters active in the Veneto during the 18th century. The “founder” of Venetian landscape-painting is unanimously considered to be Marco Ricci from Belluno; two small early works are displayed here, painted between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century. Half a century later, in a different cultural context, dominated by the poetics of Arcadia, the Tuscan artist Francesco Zuccarelli led the field, with highly refined works, rich in surface vibrancy; his large Pastoral Scene hangs here, together with four Landscapes with Peasants by Giuseppe Zais from Agordo (near Belluno), a more spontaneous and realistic artist. The stucco-framed oval paintings above the doors that lead into the rooms off the portego are also of interest. Above the door into the so-called Longhi Room is Nicolò Cassana’s Portrait of a Gentlemean in Red; above that into the Sala del Ridotto, a Portrait of the Senator Giacomo Correr, again dating from the early 18th century but of uncertain attribution; above that leading into the reconstructed interior of Villa di Zianigo, there is a painting of an elegant noblewoman who has been identified as Renier Donà delle Rose, the work of the Brescian artist Lodovico Gallina, who is said to have produced the painting ‘from memory’ some thirty years after the woman’s death in 1751; finally, above the door in the Guardi Room there is a Portrait of the Senator Giovanni Correr, attributed to Antonio Bellucci. The furniture in the portego comprises four simple sofas in walnut, some ‘Indian wickerwork’ chairs, four stands and an elegantly-shaped sideboard in walnut. From the picture-gallery portego one enters the corridor which leads to the superb collection of dazzling frescoes from the Villa Tiepolo at Zianigo.

13. Giandomenico Tiepolo’s Frescoes from the Villa at Zianigo. 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.

The corridor. In the entrance-corridor is the scene from Tasso’s poem, Gerusalemme Liberata, with Rinaldo abandoning the garden of Armida, originally situated on the ground-floor of the villa of Zianigo; it can be dated in 1770. On the far wall is the scene of the Falcon swooping down on a flock of fleeing sparrows: almost a snapshot for its immediacy and realism. In the villa this fresco was in a small room together with the splendid image of the Parrot now in the next corridor. The elegant figure of Abundance on the right-hand side of the corridor probably dates from 1771; it was originally on the staircase-landing in the villa of Zianigo.

The portego. The next room is the largest, reproducing the decorations of the ground-floor salon of the villa with some of the most famous works of the cycle. On the longest wall is the New World, signed and dated 1791. The scene is a striking one: it represents, seen from the rear, a small crowd waiting to peer into a kind of “cosmorama” or “diorama” to see pictures and scenes of a distant world. To modern eyes the painting has an unsettling power: the air of expectation, the lack of faces, the metaphysical simplicity of the landscape and the huckster’s booth all make this painting an emblematic and moving testimony to a state of foreboding, mingled with curiosity and amazement aroused by a new world still unknown. Some have recognised, in the two figures in profile on the right, Giambattista Tiepolo, with folded arms and, further back, Giandomenico with the eyeglass. Opposite the New World are two contemporary works: the Minuet at the Villa strikes one by its ironic attitude towards ridiculous and vacuous formalities and all the most ephemeral aspects of fashion and behaviour; the Promenade suggests a stage-exit, a formal farewell. The ceiling with the Triumph of the Arts is a much earlier work, which can be dated before 1762. The four monochrome sovraporte (decorations over the doors) in green appear to be contemporary with the New World, although thematically linked with the ceiling (Astronomy, The Faun’s Family, Pagan Sacrifice, Bonfire).

The Punchinello Room. The next room contains frescoes with scenes from the life of Punchinello or Punch (“Pulcinella” in Italian): Punchinello and the Tumblers, Punchinello in Love, Punchinellos Carousing (1797); on the ceiling is the famous oval with Punchinellos on a Swing (1793). The smaller chiaroscuro paintings also contain scenes with Punchinello. In the end the Punchinellos dominate Giandomenico Tiepolo’s human comedy at Zianigo: they seem to turn up gradually in all the scenes, slowly taking over every role, substituting every individual. The timeless story of Punchinello reached its epilogue and its apex simultaneously. A via crucis that is blasphemous but also tragic and dolorous; a heroic poem and an obscene quip; a heartfelt prayer or a novel, a portrait, a curse.

The Chapel. Return to the portego of the New World and take the door on the left into the Chapel of Zianigo. The frescoes that decorate this small room were probably the first ones Giandomenico painted in the villa in 1759. The altar-painting bears a delicate image of the Virgin and Child Adored by St. Jerome Miani and by St. James the Apostle; on the sides, above the doors, are two Old Testament scenes in monochrome representing the Sacrifice of Melchisedech and Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law. Two splendid monochromes with St. Jerome Miani Causing Water to Gush from a Rock and St. Jerome Miani Reciting the Rosary in front of a group of young people gathered in prayer. St. Jerome Miani is also the subject of the curved canvas (IRE deposit), while all the other furnishings of the chapel are Venetian workmanship of the 18th century. Crossing the portego again to the left, one enters the Room of the Centaurs.

Room of the Centaurs. On the ceiling is an image in red monochrome of a Rhapsody (maybe a Homage to Homer) signed and dated 1791; the numerous tondi in grey monochrome date from about twenty years ealier; they show episodes from the lives of centaurs and satyresses; of the same period is a tondo with a Pagan Sacrifice.

Room of the Satyrs. On the ceiling is the large rectangular frieze with Scenes from Roman History dated 1759, while the other monochrome scenes date from 1771. The two other monochrome works on the walls represent Satyrs on a Swing (the scene anticipates the one painted twenty years later with the Punchinellos) and A Centaur Bearing off a Satyress; the decorations over the door, which have large lion-heads in stucco, also bear images of Satyrs and Satyresses. From the area devoted to the Villa of Zianigo one passes to the Spinet Room.

14. Spinet Room. This room reproduces the atmosphere of the country-villas in which the rich Venetian families spent their leisure-time. The wardrobes and doors come from Villa Mattarello at Arzignano near Vicenza. The two large wardrobes, with double-doors, have tempera paintings in chiaroscuro on pink tonalities representing Allegories of the Four Seasons; the style recalls that of Giuseppe Nogari; the doors to the room have views with rustic and hunting scenes, also painted in tempera on the same tonalities. The elegant furnishings also include a rare example of early eighteenth-century spinet, with richly carved and gilded legs; the decoration on the sides is in “sham lacquer”. The room also contains two interesting paintings. The first, The Banquet of Abigail and Nabal, is one of the numerous results of the collaboration between the figure-painter Francesco Zugno and the perspective-painter Francesco Battaglioli; the second – the work of Gaspare Dizioni, born in Belluno – is a devotional work that frames a 16th century icon; this earlier image appears crowned by the figures of St. Joseph and St. John between cherubs.

Passageway. From the Spinet Room one enters the small passageway leading into the Room of the “Parlour”. Here are a few small paintings of great value, works by Pietro Longhi, Francesco Guardi and Giuseppe Zais; in addition, in the niche, is a splendid Torch-Holder in Murano glass (donated by Gatti Casazza), probably from Giuseppe Briati’s factory.

16. Room of the “Parlour”. On the ceiling is a fresco from Palazzo Nani in Cannaregio, placed there in the 1930s; it representsConjugal Harmony crowned by the Virtues in the presence of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, Fame, Abundance and Divinity. On the walls are two of the most famous paintings by Francesco Guardi, The Nuns’ Parlour at San Zaccaria and the Ridotto of Palazzo Dandolo at San Moisè , painted in the second half of the 1740s. They are two “interior views” which anticipate the views of the city that Francesco would begin to produce around the end of the following decade: note the liveliness of the miniature figures, which have the same freshness of touch and the same lightness of colour as those in his innumerable views of Venice. In addition to these two masterpieces, there are other paintings of great interest. The Parlour is flanked by two late portraits by Pietro Longhi, while the ones on either side of the mirror are youthful works. Next to the Ridottoare two sketches, one by Giambattista Tiepolo and the other by Bartolomeo Nazari. Notice the furniture in green-yellow lacquer with floral patterns, from Palazzo Calbo Crotta at the Scalzi.

17. Longhi Room. The room provides an interesting chance to compare two different spirits of the Venetian Settecento: the lively, sensuous rococo of Giambattista Tiepolo’s allegorical-mythological works, represented in the canvas on the ceiling with Zephyr and Flora, and the keenly ironic and critical spirit of the Venetian Enlightenment in Pietro Longhi’s “genre” pictures, on the walls. On the ceiling, the canvas by Tiepolo comes from Ca’ Pesaro and belongs to an early phase of the artist’s career, in the 1730s. The combined presence of Zephyr – one of the four winds – and the goddess of flowers alludes to spring and thus to fecundity. The colours are brilliant and transparent; the virtuoso skill of the brushwork brings out the sensuous flesh-tones and emphasises pleasing contrasts in the colour effects. The series of paintings by Pietro Longhi on the walls presents amorous encounters and scenes from everyday life: he shows us patricians and peasants, a visit to the painter’s study, a barber at work, scenes of domestic conversation, “exotic and monstrous” curiosities, family-groups and concerts; a whole repertoire of ordinary situations, events and entertainments. In them, Longhi’s investigative eye seeks out the modes and manners of a highly cultivated civilisation but is far from being indulgent with the world he represents: he almost ruthlessly dissects the empty customs and pompous foibles of his characters and their world. He excels above all in domestic interiors, as lucid and rational in their own way as Canaletto’s exterior views. The fine furniture in the room in yellow lacquer with patterns of flowers and red curls comes from Palazzo Calbo Crotta.

18. Green Lacquer Room. On the ceiling is a fresco with the Triumph of Diana by Antonio Guardi, from Palazzo Barbarigo-Dabalà at the Angelo Raffaele, which was mounted on a canvas after removal. This allegorical-mythological work is a fine example of the painter’s skill in the typically Venetian rocaille style of airy, refined fantasy; it dates from a late stage of his career, in the 1750s. On the walls are views and landscapes, but the most striking feature in the room is undoubtedly the furniture in dark green lacquer with decorative elements in gilded pastiglia from Palazzo Calbo Crotta in Cannaregio. It is a suite of furniture of a single design, finely decorated in the taste of the 1750s, when chinoiseries were very appreciated. The tiny polychrome figures of Chinamen with moving heads are in lacquered papier-maché; they are 18th century oriental works.

19. Guardi Room. Three more frescoes by Antonio Guardi from Palazzetto Dabalà, formerly Barbarigo, are on the wall here, part of the same series as the ceiling in the Green Lacquer Room. Although in a precarious state on account of their removal, these works – the only examples of frescoes by Antonio Guardi known to us – still reveal the artist’s lively skill in decoration. The room contains furniture in green lacquer with polychrome flower patterns, a bequest of the Savorgnan Brazzà family. The furnishings are completed by the fireplace in red Verona marble, from Palazzo Carminati at San Stae, whose hood bears the original stucco-work, with delicate chromatic tones: in the centre, within an oval, is a figure of Abundance. The fine chandelier with faceted crystal drops is a Murano work of the second half of the 18th century, in imitation of similar Bohemian products.

20. Alcove. In this room, and in the small ones beyond, an 18th century bedchamber has been reproduced with its dressing-rooms, wardrobe-room and boudoir. The alcove comes from Palazzo Carminati at San Stae and dates from the second half of the 18th century. In the centre of the headboard is a Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant St. John. Above, in the beautiful, original gilded frame is a Madonna in pastel by Rosalba Carriera, dating from the late 1720s. On the ceiling is a small round canvas, an anonymous work, with the Virgin and Child. Outside the alcove the furnishings consist of a chest with lid (bureau-trumeau), probably of Lombard origin, and a lacquered cradle with neo-classical decorations. On either side of the bed, two small doors lead to parallel corridors: the one on the right has a door opening onto the alcove and, at the far end, is a show-case containing the fine toilette-set formerly of the Pisani family, consisting of 58 silver items, finely gilded and chased, inset with onyx. The coffer on the lower shelf of the show-case bears the twinned crests of the Pisani and Grimani families, which suggests that the set was a wedding-present for a marriage between these two families. It is a work by the celebrated craftsmen of Augsburg and dates from the end of the 17th century: it includes all the toilette-items a lady could need. The door to the left of the alcove gives onto another narrow passageway, which, after passing through the wardrobe, leads into the intimate Stucco Chamber, transferred here from Palazzo Calbo Crotta. This is an octagonal room, whose walls are coated in the original 18th century polychrome stucco. On the ceiling are illusionist frescoes by Jacopo Guarana.