Venice – an architecture tour along the Grand Canal

After dealing with Venetian Gothic architecture (mainly 14th century) in an earlier post, here are a few more mainly Rennaisance (15th and 16th century) and Baroque (17th and early 18th century) buildings along the Grand Canal that caught my eye.

I’ve put all the following buildings in the order you would see them coming on the vaporetto from Piazza di San Marco. Everywhere mentioned is on my Google map.

The first two buildings are my favourites…

On the left side of the canal you will first see Palazzo Salviati which was built between 1903 and 1906 to be the shop for the Salviati glassworks, and underwent renovation in 1924 when the large mosaic on the façade was added. Other smaller mosaics can be seen over the doors on the ground floor and above the windows on the second. The decoration and date of construction would make it Art Nouveau I guess.

A couple of buildings further on is the lovely Palazzo Dario, originally built as Venetian Gothic but remodelled in Renaissance style in 1496. The ground floor at water level has a central portal and round-arch windows (typical of the Rennaisance period) alternating with oculi, (‘eyes’ or circular openings in a dome, or in this case a wall). The three oculi off to the right of the central axis are particularly noticable for their unusual decoration.

There are two piani nobili (floors containing the main rooms) of virtually equal dimensions, and a top floor. The marble façade has a neo-gothic balcony which was added in the 19th century. Also of note are the tall chimneys which are among the few remaining examples of the period.

Still on the left bank, sandwiched between lots of top notch Venetian Gothic, Ca’ Rezzonico is a particularly notable example of Baroque and Rococo (high Baroque) design, with a tortuous construction history that began in 1649. The ground floor, decorated with ashlar (finely cut and worked stone), has a water portal with three rounded doors, while the two piani nobili have round-arched windows and the attic has oval single-light windows. The heads on the keystones are known as mascaroni, stone masks that were meant to scare away evil spirits (an architectural tradition since Roman times)

Palazzo Balbi (begun in 1582) is mainly Renaissance with some Baroque elements. The rusitcated double-height ground floor has three round-arched portals, each featuring a mascaron and a wrought-iron tympanum (decorative wall surface over a door or window which is bounded by the lintel and the arch). The perfectly symmetrical tripartite façade features a double loggia on the two piani nobili with round-arched windows separated by pairs of Ionic columns and pairs of rectangular single-light windows on the sides. In the mezzanine attic, small oval windows can be seen in the frieze under the dentilled cornice while on the roof are two obelisk-shaped pinnacles.

Palazzo Giustinian Persico is one of the first buildings in Venice to be built in the Renaissance style. It has a symmetrical tripartite facade with two four-light polifora flanked by pairs of single-light rounded windows.

Over on the right bank is Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova, a Renaissance palace completed around 1579. The façade is characterised by the three central openings: the water portal, and above it, two tripartite Serlian windows (aka Venetian windows) which are a key element of Palladian architecture (although not invented by him). On the sides the single lancet windows have curved pediments on the first floor and triangular ones on the second.

Palazzo Papadopoli is a Baroque palace that was built in 1570. It’s now the opulent Aman Hotel which is considered by many to be the best hotel in Venice. Note that the portal on the ground floor is decorated with Doric pilasters, whereas the Serlian window on the first piano nobile has Ionic columns and the one on the second floor has Corinthian columns. This time the single-lancet windows on the sides have triangular pediments on the first floor and curvilinear ones on the second. The attic has seven small oval apertures with cartouche decoration (ornate scrollwork). In common with Palazzo Balbi earlier and a couple of other buildings, it has two obelisk-shaped pinnacles on the roof, peculiarities of a few other Venetian facades.

Back on the left bank, Palazzo Barzizza is a former 13th Venetian Gothic fondaco (merchant’s residential warehouse) that has been given a 16th century Rennaisance makeover. The right hand side of the building is the oldest as indicated by the Gothic single lancet window with a trefoil decoration. The first opening on the left of the polifora on the piano nobile has been bricked up. Centrally, the opening was compromised by eighteenth-century reconstructions: the first opening of the elegant mullioned window on the second noble floor was partially covered and walled up; it corresponds to a smaller mullioned window on the first floor. The façade has become asymmetrical withe the insertion of single rounded windows on the left while the water portal has been partly obscured by the terrace constructed in front of it on the right.

Shortly afterwards you pass under the Rialto Bridge, which began construction in 1581.

Ca’ Pesaro is a Baroque palace on the Grand Canal. Considered one of the most important palaces due to its size and decorative quality, construction began in the mid-17th century and was completed in 1710. The ground floor has a double water portal and is rusticated with smooth-faced ashlar. The numerous columns, bas-reliefs and statues on the double loggia of the two piani nobili create a striking chiaroscuro effect with strong contrasts between light and dark.

Finally, on the right bank, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi (dating from 1481), is the current home of the Casinò di Venezia. The façade gives the impression a two-storey loggia with pronounced string courses separating the floors. The windows are composed of two single-arches enclosed at the top by a semicircle inside which is another circular window. The deep window mullions contribute to the chiaroscuro.

And just before you get to the end of the line at Piazzale Roma is the Ponte della Costituzione (Constitution Bridge) by Santiago Calatrava (famous for the City of Arts & Sciences in Valencia).

There are a few more grand buildings to see along the Grand Canal that didn’t make this post, but hopefully I’ll get them next time.

A spot of shopping next!

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