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If, looking at Canaletto’s paintings, you want to find out more about what Venice was like in the 18th century, you are in luck, since one of the grand palaces of the Grand Canal, Ca’Rezzonico, has been turned into a museum that shows this era to the visitor. And remember that you are doubly lucky, since it is one of the only palaces in the whole city that is open to the public.
Originally, the building was designed by the Baroque architect Baldassare Longhena for the aristocratic Bon family. However, the construction works, which had begun in 1649, were incomplete for a whole series of circumstances, since the economic problems of the Bon family combined with the death of the architect in 1682.
In 1687, the Rezzonico family moved to Venice from Lombardy. As they were traders and bankers, they bought their noble title and, in 1751, Longhena’s unfinished building. Giambattista Rezzonico then entrusted the architect Giorgio Massari to finish building the palace, a task that had been completed by 1756.
The building you can see today is an eclectic mixture of solutions designed by both architects. On the one hand, the Grand Canal façade and first floor are by Longhena, whereas the ostentatious entrance that faces the street, the large stairway and the enormous ballroom follow Massari’s project.
As you would expect, the first thing the Rezzonico did after the construction work on the palace was completed, was to sign up the best artists of the city to decorate the interior. This meant that here worked grand masters such as Giambattista Crosato, Pietro Visconti, Giambattista Tiepolo, Jacopo Guarana and Gaspare Diziani.
Now fully decorated, the palace stood out as a symbol of the enormous prosperity of its owners, who reached their zenith in 1758 when Giambattista Rezzonico’s brother, Carlo, who at the time was Bishop of Padua, was chosen as Pope with the name of Clement XIII.
Nevertheless, such opulence was reduced as from the early 19th century, since Ca’Rezzonico came to be owned by different people, until in 1935 it was bought by the city council, the Comune di Venezia.
Its role as a museum began in 1936, but before that the palace was remodelled. The aim of Nino Barbantini and Giulio Lorenzetti, the architects responsible for fitting out the space for its new mission, was to provide the visitor with the experience of seeing the museum as the residence of grand splendour that it had once been. To this end they decorated it with lavish items such as frescos, paintings and furniture which came from both other buildings within the Musei Civici Veneziani network and from different antique dealers.
The result is really excellent, and much more so since Ca’Rezzonico reopened in 2001 after a meticulous restoration. Due to the conscientious work of its heads, the building will enable you to capture, above all thanks to Massari’s magnificent ballroom, the essence of this city of extreme luxuries that was eighteenth-century Venice. In recent years the museum has received new donations, which have considerably expanded its collections with pictorial works by authors such as Cima da Conegliano, Tintoretto and Bonifacio de’ Pitati.
Gran Canal (1A)
Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (22)
Palazzo Ducale (6)
Ponte dei Suspiri (10)
Santa Maria della Salute (42)
Basilica de San Giovanni e Paolo (36)
Columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore (8)
Palazzo Grassi (26)
Ponte dell’Accademia (3)
Torre dell’Orologio (9)
Basilica di San Marco (5)
Ca’Vendramin Calergi (19)
Fondaco dei Turchi (17)
Palazzo Labia (16)
Ponte di Rialto (2)
Chiesa dei Gesuiti (33)
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (41)
Statue of Colleoni (38)
Calle del Fumo (30)
Chiesa del Redentore (47)
I Gesuati (43)
Malibran Theatre (35)
Palazzo Mocenigo (25)
Calle Larga XXII Marzo (14)
Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto (31)
La Giudecca (45)
Mercato di Rialto (18)
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni (39)