Egidio Martini’s donation is the most important that has been made to the city of Venice since the beginning of the 20th century, for the number of works, their high quality and their philological and historical importance. It is a collection of paintings, almost all of the Venetian school, ranging from the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th. It includes works by important masters as well as paintings by artists who owe their place in the history of Venetian art to the studies of Martini himself.
Egidio Martini, an eclectic scholar, began his activity of restoring ancient paintings in the 1940s. He discovered works by artists not fully appreciated by the critics or by the market, identifying and re-evaluating their role. At the same time, with great acumen and many personal sacrifices, he began to assemble a collection of works which made a major contribution to our understanding of 17th- and 18th-century painting in the Veneto.
His gallery faithfully reflects his work as a critic. It throws an entirely new light on many aspects, episodes and protagonists of Venetian art. The range of works is very wide – genre-scenes, mythological works, marine landscapes, portraits, religious subjects and allegories – and it includes a number of highly significant masterpieces.
The names represent the very best of Venetian art over a prolific period, which starts well before the 17th century and concludes long afterwards. They include Cima da Conegliano, Alvise Vivarini, Bonifacio de’ Pitati; Tintoretto, Schiavone, Bassano, Paolo Fiammingo, Sustris; Padovanino and Carpioni, Pietra Vecchia and Giovanni Segala, Palma il Giovane, Bernardo Strozzi, Francesco Maffei, Langetti, Pietro Liberi; Balestra, Niccolò Bambini and on up to Piazzetta, Nicola Grassi, the Tiepolo family, Longhi, Rosalba, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Pellegrini, Amigoni, Diziani, Antonio Marini, Zuccarelli and Zais. After the 18th century we come to Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Natale Schiavoni, Ippolito Caffi, Mancini, Emma Ciardi: but this is only a partial list of the artists represented in the gallery.
The collection had become an important reference-point for scholars when Martini conceived the idea of donating it to the city. The Picture Gallery, thanks to this enlightened and generous gesture, is now open to the public and offers a fascinating itinerary to round off the panorama of Veneto painting offered by the other museums in the city.