IN 1419, Gentile da Fabriano and Vittore Pisano, two of the greatest artists of their age, were invited to Venice by the signory in order to decorate the interior of the Doge’s Palace, at an age when native artistic talent was still deficient in the lagoons. They must no doubt have produced some of their finest works in this building. At the close of the 15th century, again, when the great native school of the Bellini had developed its peculiar local excellences, the chief painters of that golden age were further commissioned to adorn with paintings the new portions of the Palace, recently completed. We cannot doubt that many of the noblest creations of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, Cima, Catena, Bissolo, and their contemporaries were painted for this purpose ; while some of Titian’s most splendid works also decorated the walls of the state apartments. Unfortunately, however, almost all these once famous masterpieces perished in the terrible fire of 1574, while the later fire of 1577 destroyed the remainder. We are thus left, both here and elsewhere, with mere scattered fragments of the artistic works produced by the finest age of Venetian painting.
After the great fires, however, the halls were restored with fitting magnificence, and decorated anew with a series of sumptuous paintings, mainly by Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, and Palma the younger, who are here seen to the best advantage. These works are too numerous (and often too similar) for description in full, while many of them, being classical in subject or presenting slight variants on now familiar themes, require comparatively little explanation. Hand-catalogues are also supplied by the authorities in all the rooms, and by their aid the visitor can identify for himself the various subjects. I therefore limit myself for the most part in this book to describing the following three sets of compositions :
(1) The great masterpieces ;
(2) The pictures specially requiring explanation ; and,
(3) Those which call for brief notes on peculiar variants of the customary themes.
Many of the pictures, however, which I do not notice are thoroughly deserving of attentive study by those whose time suffices for the purpose.
Remember that the pictures in the Doge’s Palace thus represent only the last great age of Venetian painting.]
The Palace is open daily rom 9 to 3 ; admission, 1.20 c. per person. It is also open free on Sundays and public holidays, from 10 to 2 ; but as the order in which the rooms must be visited is then altered, and no hand-catalogues are supplied, I do not advise you to see it on a free day. Pay like a man, and see the pictures properly in the right succession.
The entrance is at the top of the Scala dei Giganti; tickets are taken in the loggia on the first floor. Thence you mount the steps, and pass above the Principal Floor to the highest story, which (owing to the peculiar construction of the lower ranges) contains most of the chief reception rooms of the Palace. (The lower floors are mainly occupied by the loggia : no doubt the jealous Venetian oligarchy purposely raised itself to this safe height above popular spying.) We ascend on week-days by the Scala d’Oro, or Golden Stairs, so called from its gilt and painted ceiling : erected by Sansovino, 1556. Up this staircase, in the days of the Republic, only those nobles whose names were written in the Libro d’Oro were permitted to pass.
At the top of the steps we enter first a little ante-room known as the which is practically the main vestibule of the Palace. Its walls are hung with good portraits of senators, by Tintoretto. The ceiling, also by Tintoretto, represents Doge Lorenzo PriuIi receiving the sword of office from the hands of Justice. Above, in clouds, St. Mark is enthroned as representative of Venice ; below, in presence of the personified, crowned and seated Venezia, Justice, holding her balance, presents the sword to the aged Doge, who wears his richly jewelled robe and cap of office.
A door to the L. admits to the
SALA DELLE QUATTRO PORTE,
so called from its four entrances. This was the hall through which ambassadors to the Republic were conducted to the waiting-room. On the entrance wall, in the centre, is a famous picture by Titian, known as the *Fede ; all these pictures, however, though commonly called by such sacred names, are best treated as portraits of Doges, represented in the act of adoring some saint or Madonna. The Doge in this instance is Antonio Grimani, (1521-23 🙂 he kneels, in armour, covered by a rich robe, on a footstool. He has removed his cap of office, but retains the ugly white linen skull-cap beneath it. A page by his side holds the jewelled ducal crown. To the R. are halberdiers in attendance, beside a rich red curtain. The figure before which Grimani kneels is not a saint, but a personification of Faith, holding the cross and cup, and surrounded by a luminous glory of cherubs. Faith is very theatrical, almost vulgar : she fore-shadows the rococo. To the L., St. Mark with his lion represents Venice; the town itself, as it existed in Grimani’s time; is seen in the background. This is the whole of Titian’s picture, painted for another apartment : having been removed later to this room, and to a wall too large for it, the additional figures at either end were added by his nephew, Marco Vecelli. The whole work is a fine, brilliantly-coloured, vigorous, unpoetic picture.
R. of the door, Doge Marino Grimani kneeling before the Virgin and Child, by Giovanni Contarini, a pupil of Titian’s. St. Mark directs the Doge’s gaze to Our Lady and the Child ; on the R. is St. Sebastian ; in the centre background, Grimani’s personal patron, Santa Marina.
The corresponding picture to the L. represents the reconquest of Verona by Venice from the Duke of Milan, in 1439, also by Contarini : feeble.
The wall opposite this is covered by three canvases of less artistic interest, representing Venice as the host and arbiter of foreign nations. L., the Ambassadors of Nuremberg accept the arbitration of the Doge and senate on their law of apprenticeship, by Gabriele Caliari.
Centre, Henry III. of France is hospitably received in state at Venice, by Andrea Vicentino : the picture shows the triumphal arch erected for the occasion.
R., the Persian ambassadors bring presents of rich oriental fabrics from the Shah to Doge Marino Grimani, in 1603, by Carletto Caliari.
The ceiling is painted by Tintoretto, but has been ruined by repainting. Its central panel represents Jupiter bestowing on Venice the sovereignty of the sea ; in the back-ground a riotous chorus of gods. Note the appearance here of pagan mythology.
The door opposite to that by which you entered leads to the with a florid late Renaissance mantelpiece. Here ambassadors sat to await their audience. This room is chiefly decorated with mythological pictures, representing the wealth, power, and arts of later Venice.
L. of the door by which you enter, Tintoretto, *Mercury with the Graces,the commerce and civilization of Venice ; noble specimens of nude figures, admirably rendered.
Opposite this Bacchus and Ariadne, also by Tintoretto. Ariadne, deserted in Naxos by Theseus, is discovered by Bacchus, wreathed in vine leaves : Venus crowns her with the stars of her constellation. A beautiful picture, with exquisitely blended colours, full of poetry, of fancy, and of fleet movement.
Beyond the door, Minerva repelling Mars, by Tintoretto wise counsel saves Venice from war : to the L., Peace brings plenty to Venice.
Wall opposite the windows, Paolo Veronese, *Europa carried off by Jupiter, in the guise of a bull ; one of Paolo’s most famous and beautiful pictures, yet with germs of decadence.
The dark canvas beside this last represents Jacob’s return from Laban, by Leandro Bassano, These two pictures were not painted for the places they occupy : intrusive works.
Between this and the door of entrance, the Forge of Vulcan, by Tintoretto, representing the handicrafts of Venice murky and gloomy.
The next door leads to the
SALA DEL COLLEGIO.
This was the hall in which ambassadors were received by the Doge, sitting on a throne of state on the dais at its further end : beside him sat the signory.
Over the door of entrance, Tintoretto, *portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti. To the L. stands the Doge, in his cap and robe of office, admirably painted. At his feet, angels typify peace and plenty. St. Mark, holding his Gospel, directs the Doge’s look towards the Virgin. On a high throne to the R. sits Our Lady with the Child, a graceful and gracious figure. Around her spreads a luminous halo of cherubs, still slightly mandorla-shaped. On the R. are Franciscan saints, (representative of the order which Gritti specially affected,) St. Bernardino of Siena, with his glowing I.H.S., and St. Louis of Toulouse. The centre of the picture is occupied by a youthful martyr, probably St. Marina, bearing a palm, and presenting one of the Doge’s children to Our Lady. (Padua was taken on St. Marina’s day.)
Over the door to the L. of this, Tintoretto, commonly though absurdly known as the “Marriage of St. Catherine”; portrait of Doge Francesco Donato, who is presented by St. Mark, bearing his Gospel. Behind him, angels (or rather virtues, Prudence and Temperance) bearing plenty to Venice. Below, the Doge’s personal patron, St. Francis. The L. of the picture is occupied by Our Lady and the Child, the latter in the act of placing a ring on the finger of *St. Catharine of Alexandria, crowned and holding her wheel. The Doge thus shows his devotion to Our Lady and to the patron saint of the Venetian territory. Back-ground of the lagoon.
The centre of the wall is occupied by another Tintoretto, Doge Nicolo da Ponte kneeling before Our Lady. The Doge is introduced, as usual, by his official patron, St. Mark. Beside him stands Nicolo’s personal patron, Saint Nicolas, over whose head angels hold the bishop’s mitre. The Most Serene Prince is engaged in adoring a heavenly group composed of *Our Lady and the Child, (one of Tintoretto’s most charming Madonnas,) St. Antony with his crutch and bell, and St. Joseph. In the background, Venice. All these pictures are Very characteristic portraits of Doges with the special objects of their adoration. We have now travelled a far cry indeed from the primitive little figure of the kneeling donor, so common in early Venetian altar-pieces.
The rest of this wall is filled by a Tintoretto : portrait of Doge Alvise Mocenigo, adoring the Saviour, who appears in clouds of luminous glory to the L. of the picture. Beneath him, an angel. St. Mark introduces the kneeling Doge. The right-hand side of the picture is occupied by two brothers of the Doge, in prayer, with their patrons, St. Nicolas and St. Andrew. Behind them are St. John the Baptist and St. Louis of Toulouse, (Doge Alvise’s personal patron,) with a long perspective of the Libreria Vecchia and the Campanile.
Over the throne, which occupies the centre of the dais, portrait of Doge Sebastiano Venier, rendering thanks to the Saviour for the victory of Lepanto, (in which he took part,) by Paolo Veronese. The Doge is introduced by St.
Mark and (I think) St. Justina of Padua (on whose day the battle was fought). Behind him, another saint, perhaps St. Catharine, holds his ducal crown ; pages support his robe and helmet. To the L. kneels Faith, with the symbolical cup. Beyond her, we catch a glimpse of the battle of Lepanto, which is here votively commemorated. Behind the Doge stands the heroic Agostino Barbarigo, the real conqueror, (killed in the battle,) holding the consecrated banner of St. George. In clouds, we see the Saviour, bearing the crystal globe, giving his benediction, and visibly ordering the affairs of the universe. The figures in painted niches at the sides are the Doge’s two patrons, St. Justina (his lucky day) and St. Sebastian (his name-saint).
The rich ceiling is entirely painted by Paolo Veronese. In its centre oval is Faith ; over the dais, *Venice enthroned on a globe, attended by Peace and Justice.
The door here gives access to the
SALA DEL SENATO,
still fitted up with the Doge’s throne, stalls for the Procurators, and the seat of the Senators. Its decorations, less rich, are mainly by Palma the younger.
End wall, opposite the throne, *portraits of Doges Lorenzo and Girolamo Priuli, brothers who successively held the dukedom, by Palma the younger. To the R. kneels Girolamo, attended by his namesake St. Jerome, with his lion and his translation of the Vulgate. To the L. is Lorenzo, with his namesake St. Lawrence. (The tomb of these two Doges, similarly attended by their two patrons, covers a wall in San Salvatore, and may be profitably visited in connection with this picture.) Above, in clouds, a feeble figure of Christ, attended by St. Mark and the Blessed Virgin. This is a good Palma, but far inferior to the Tintorettos and Veroneses.
Window wall, San Lorenzo Giustiniani elected as first patriarch of Venice in 1451, by Titian’s nephew, Mares Vecelli.
Wall opposite this, to the L., portrait of Doge Pietro Loredan by Tintoretto. L., his patron, St. Peter ; R., St. Louis of Toulouse. Above, L., Our Lady, in clouds, as the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception, surrounded with stars, and without the Infant : this new form of Virgin was then the most popular embodiment of the Madonna : R., St. Mark with his lion. Background of St. Mark’s, the Campanile, the Clock Tower, etc.
Over the door, a picture by Palma the younger, symbolical of the resistance to the League of Cambrai, formed by the European powers to crush Venice. In the centre, Doge Leonardo Loredan, crowned by angels. To the L., Venice, with the lion of St. Mark and the sword of Justice, eagerly attacking Europe on a bull. Europe bears a shield blazoned with the various arms of the allied states. To the L., allegorical figures bring corn and plenty to Venice ; the length of her purse makes her capable of withstanding united Europe.
To the R. of this, Portrait of Doge Pasquale Cicogna, by Palma the younger. The Doge kneels before the risen Saviour, to whom he is introduced by St. Mark, though, oddly enough, he is looking away towards the allegorical figure representing, I believe, Crete, and holding a labyrinth as symbol. (Cicogna had been governor of the island.) To the R., Faith ; fo the L., Peace and Justice, embracing, with the olive branch and scales. Very emblematic.
The last picture on this wall is a portrait of Doge Francesco Venier, by Palma the younger. It shows the last stage in the de-Christianisation of these Doges’ portraits. Note that the Doge stands no longer before Our Lady or a saint, but before enthroned Venice, to whom he presents the various cities of which he has been governor, typified by beautiful female attendants. Above, on the R., are St. Mark, and the Doge’s personal patron, St. Francis.
Over the throne, *portraits of two Doges, by Tintoretto. To the L. kneels Doge Marc’ Antonio Trevisano, accompanied by his patron, St. Antony the Abbot, with his crutch and bell. Close by, to the L., is the wounded St. Sebastian, a precaution against plague. To the R. kneels Doge Pietro Lando, accompanied by St. Mark and by his own patron, St. Peter Martyr, near whom stands his spiritual father, St. Dominic, with the lily. The central, or spiritual portion of the picture is occupied by a fine Pietà, the dead Christ supported by angels : the St. Mark and St. John to the L. appear to be writing their Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion.
Of the numerous pictures in the magnificent painted ceiling, the most important is the central panel, by Tintoretto, representing Venice enthroned among the gods as Queen of the Sea, with Tritons and Nereids rising from below and bearing their gifts from the ocean. Careful examination of this fine and sweeping but confused work will bring out many hidden allegorical meanings.
The door to the R. of the throne gives access to the
ANTICHIESETTA, OR VESTIBULE OF THE DOGE’S PRIVATE ORATORY.
Of the pictures which this small apartment contains, only two or three need here be noticed. Opposite the door by which you enter, *Tintoretto, the Princess and the Dragon. This is clearly an allegorical work, the meaning of which I have never succeeded in satisfactorily deciphering. St. George, in armour, has dismounted from his horse ; the Princess is bestriding the conquered beast ; to the R. is a handsome young bishop, whom I take for St. Louis of Toulouse. The picture must cover some political fact (like that which represents the League of Cambrai 😉 but I must leave the solution of this difficult problem to the ingenuity of my readers. Opposite, over the door by which you entered, two memorial magisterial saints, St. Jerome and St. Andrew, by Tintoretto.
Most of the other pictures in this room are paintings by Rizzi, designs for the mosaic which now adorn the façade of St. Mark’s. You will recognise their subjects.
We enter next the CHIESETTA, OR PRIVATE ORATORY OF THE DOGES,
where mass was said daily by the Ducal chaplain.
The altar-piece is formed by a sculptured Madonna and Child, by Sansovino, in a Renaissance niche, over which are placed the arms of Doge Pasquale Cicogna, a crane, (the meaning of his name in Italian,) with the ducal cap above it. Of the pictures which it contains I will only notice four early Madonnas, more or less of the school of Bellini, none of them of high merit ; and, on the L. wall, near the altar, a Pietà, by Paris Bordone, chiefly noticeable for the unconventional and unsymmetrical arrangement of the mourning angels. Near this is a harsh early-Renaissance Netherlandish picture (by Mostaert ?) of Christ bound to the column.
Return now through the Sala del Senato and the Sala delle Quattro Porte, and enter, through a little anteroom, the
SALA DEL CONSIGLIO DEI DIECI.
The Council of Ten, the Venetian ” Star Chamber,” sat in this apartment. It was armed with summary administrative-judicial powers. The pictures in this fine hall are for the most part late in date and inferior in merit. They represent episodes (more or less real) in the past history of Venice, supposed to reflect special glory upon the Republic.
Wall of entrance, L. and F. Bassano, a huge and some-what confused canvas representing Pope Alexander III. coming forth to meet Doge Sebastiano Ziani on his return from his victory over Frederic Barbarossa, in the war which Venice undertook against the Emperor in defence of the fugitive Pope. The Doge in armour, enveloped in an ample robe of state, stands near the centre of the picture, his mantle and cap borne by pages. The proscribed Pope, under a portable canopy, welcomes his champion, surrounded by cardinals, bishops, and other ecclesiastics. The Bassani, like other Venetians of their age, envisage the scene as though it took place with the arms and costume of their own period.
Opposite this, Marco Vecelli, (Titian’s nephew,) the Peace of Bologna, between Pope Clement VII. and the Emperor Charles V., in 1529. This is a self-explanatory picture, of a fine ceremonial character, with excellent portraits, and a stately somewhat formal arrangement of the component personages.
The end-wall is occupied by a dark and confused Adoration of the Magi, by Aliense, a feeble follower of Tintoretto, who has sedulously acquired the master’s faults without his conspicuous merits.
The ceiling is by Veronese and his followers, typical of the glory of Venice. The best compartment is the one just above the Pope and Emperor’s head ; it represents wealth showered down into the lap of Venice. The figure of an old man, with his head on his chin, (in the compartment by the corner between the Magi and Pope Alexander III.,) is by Veronese.
The next room is the
SALA DELLA BUSSOLA,
with uninteresting pictures, chiefly of military operationstaking of Brescia, Bergamo, etc., confused and unsatisfactory. The Doge opposite the windows is Leonardo Donato, by Marco Vecelli.
The little room to the R. of this last picture is the
STANZA DEI TRE CAPI DEL CONSIGLIO.
These were the inner circle of the Ten, a cabinet within a cabinet. L. of the entrance door, Catena, Doge Leonardo.
Loredan adoring Our Lady ; a picture of the earlier type, where the Doge’s portrait is still duly subordinate to the sacred subject: he is introduced to Our Lady by St. Mark, who is balanced by St. John the Baptist ; a good picture in a hard, dry, early, manner.
Next to it, Bonifazio, St. Christopher bearing the infant Christ, between St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. This is a magistracy picture, bearing the arms of the three donors, whose surnames are thus indicated, while their Christian names are allusively given by their patrons.
The central panel of the ceiling is by Veronese ; it re-presents the Virtues driving away the Vices.
Return to the hall last visited, (della Bussola,) and descend the staircase known as the Scala dei Censori, to the Principal Floor of the Palace.
The vast room to the L. at the bottom of this staircase is the
SALA DEL MAGGIOR CONSIGLIO,
which forms the greater part of the South Front of the Palace. This immense chamber was built for the Council of Nobles, the most popular and sovereign assembly in the closely oligarchal Venetian constitution, for whose sake mainly the existing building was erected. Every adult man whose name was inscribed in the Libro d’Oro belonged to it by right of birth.
Before you begin the examination of the pictures in detail, look well first at the great hall itself, with its palatial decorations. Also, go out on to the South Balcony, which you have already seen from the outside, both in order to orient yourself, and for the sake of the beautiful *view over the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio, as well as the Giudecca, the Salute, and the tapering point by the Dogana. This balcony likewise affords the best front view of the lion of St. Mark on the granite column, with his fore paws placed on the open Gospel : well seen with an opera-glass. Examine here also the detail of the window and its decorations.
Re-enter the hall. The whole of the end wall above the Doge’s throne is entirely occupied by Tintoretto’s gigantic picture Paradise, (proudly pointed to by the guides as “the largest oil-painting in the world.”) It is a huge, black, gloomy, and confused picture, sadly lacking focal concentration, but containing a vast number of admirable single figures, and full in parts of great and vigorous drawing. A colossal but uncurbed imagination here runs riot. I will only attempt to give a very general conception of the immense design. It is based upon the old conventional type of Paradise, but utterly altered in treatment in accordance with Tintoretto’s own revolutionary conceptions. The centre of the upper portion of the picture is occupied by the usual figures of Christ and Our Lady, (with exquisitely ten-der faces,) seen against a luminous background of glory : beneath their feet is a cloud-borne floor of cherubs. To the L. soars the flying figure of the archangel Gabriel, with the Annunciation lily, close to Our Lady. To the R., the arch-angel Michael holds the scales in which he weighs souls, close to the Saviour, who is thus shown to be sitting in His character of Judge. These positions are of course traditional : you may remember them in the Campo Santo at Pisa. In the centre below, just under the floor of cherubs, looms the third archangel, Raphael, almost nude, and with feminine features and figure, occupying the same place as he always does in all pictures of the Last Judgment, from Orcagna downward. L. and R. of Raphael, but supported on another floor of angels, (each floor standing for a separate angelic grade,) are seated the Four Evangelists ; to the L., St. Mark with his lion, and St. Luke with his bull ; to the R., St. Matthew with his angel, and St. John with his eagle : these four have very luminous halos, and each holds the book of his Gospel. The L. side of the picture is mainly occupied by a confused tumult of patriarchs, prophets, and Over a door, (u.) Gamberato. The Doge escorts the Pope and the Emperor to Ancona, on their way to Rome.
End wall, (12.) Giulio dal Moro. The Pope presents consecrated banners to the Doge in the church of St. John Lateran at Rome.
Though these works are of relatively little interest from an artistic point of view, they deserve notice as an embodiment of the same type of popular ideas of past events as those represented in English history by the story of Alfred burning the cakes or of Canute and his courtiers. More still : they influenced and coloured thought in later Venice.
The series on the R. wall represents, in the same manner, the popular Venetian story of the part borne by Doge Enrico Dandolo in the great (4th) Crusade, and in the conquest of Constantinople.
Begin once more near Tintoretto’s Paradise :–
(1.) Giovanni Le Clerc. Doge Enrico Dandolo, en-throned in St. Mark’s, concludes an alliance with the Crusaders in 1201. The Republic was the only power which could furnish the necessary ships for transporting so large a body of men by sea. It was thus this Crusade which above all else established the supremacy of Venice in the East.
(2.) Andrea Vicentino. The French and Venetian Crusaders, by a mean bargain, besiege Zara, on the Dalmatian coast, on their way to the east.
(3.) Tintoretto the younger. The surrender of Zara.
(4.) Andrea Vicentino. Alexis, son of the dethroned Greek Emperor Isaac, asks the aid of Venice for his father, thus affording an excuse for the coming conquest of Con stantinople by the Franks and Venetians.
(5.) Palma the younger. The Franks and Venetians conquer Constantinople, 1203. This is the first conquest, when Isaac was restored to the throne on condition of paying a heavy subsidy, and conforming to the Catholic Church. Isaac did not fulfil these onerous conditions, so-
(6.) Tintoretto the younger. The Franks and Venetians reconquer Constantinople, 1204. It was on this occasion that the Doge sent to Venice the Bronze Horses, the relics of St. James and St. George, the Head of St. John the Baptist, and the body of St. Lucy. Bodies of saints were the chief articles of import during the early middle ages.
(7.) Andrea Vicentino. The Crusaders, in St. Sophia, elect Baldwin of Flanders as Emperor of the East.
End wall, (8.) Aliense. Doge Enrico Dandolo crowns Baldwin as Emperor.
Between the windows is a picture by Paolo Veronese re-presenting one of the other heroic exploits of Venice in the War of Chioggia, in which she overcame the Genoese, and made herself finally mistress of the Mediterranean. Its subject is the return of Doge Andrea Contarini after his victory at Chioggia in 1379.
The ceiling of this hall contains several works worthy of notice, out of which I select for notice only the three largest :
The oval nearest the Paradise is by Paolo Veronese ; it represents *Venice enthroned as Queen of the Sea, amid fancied architecture of a decadent style, with ugly and useless twisted columns ; the loggia contains several good portraits of voluptuous women.
The *central square is by Tintoretto, and is another of the later type of pictures in which the Doge is represented as doing homage, not to a divine or sainted personage, but to an allegorical and secular personification. In this case it is Doge Nicolo da Ponte, who offers the homage of the nobles and the subject cities to an embodied Venice. The back-ground consists of a view of St. Mark’s. Below are grouped the various arts, handicrafts, and commercial avocations of the town and territory.
The oval furthest from the Paradise is by Palma the younger : it represents, again, Venice enthroned and crowned by Victory.
A door near the last picture leads to the
SALA DELLO SCRUTINIO,
where the votes were counted for the election of the Doge.
Old Testament saints, conspicuous among whom are Moses with his horns of light, and David with his harp : near them, Noah and Solomon. On the R. side are gathered most of the greater saints of Christendom, many of whom you may gradually make out (with an opera-glass) by means of their symbols. Among the most notable are the Four Doctors of the Church, discriminated by their larger and brighter halos. The remainder of this saintly and angelic throng I must leave to the reader’s personal intelligence, with the following hints. The heavenly hierarchy is represented in the picture by concentric semicircles of seraphs, cherubs, thrones, dominations, virtues, and powers. To the far L., below, virgins, including monks : to the far R., below, martyrs. The fair-haired figure at the very base, in the centre, just over the Doge’s throne, is said to represent the Angel of Venice, rising from the waves, and imploring the assistance of heaven for the Republic. You must look long and carefully at this wonderful picture, from many points of view, if you wish to read its full meaning. Ruskin has overpraised it. It can only be fully comprehended by minute comparison with earlier Paradises elsewhere. Photographs assist.
The other walls of this room are occupied, above, by mediocre portraits of all the Doges, in many cases either imaginary or modernised from early representations ; and, below, by two series of pseudo-historical works, representing somewhat imaginary episodes in the history of Venice, from the point of view in which the later Venetians desired to see them. These works are artistically of inferior merit, and I will merely give in brief the names of their subjects :
The wall to the L contains the story of the war under-taken by Venice against Frederic Barbarossa, in defence of Pope Alexander III.
(1.) Beginning just to the R. of the Paradise : School of Paolo Veronese. The Doge Ziani receives the fugitive Pope Alexander III. at the convent of La Carità.
(2.) School of Paolo Veronese. Venice and the Pope send ambassadors to Frederic Barbarossa : the ambassadors are seen departing from Parma on their way to the Emperor’s court at Pavia.
Above a window, (3.) L. Bassano. The Pope gives the Doge a consecrated candle.
(4.) Tintoretto. The ambassadors before Barbarossa, who refuses to acknowledge Alexander III. as Pope.
(5.) F. Bassano. The Pope presents the Doge with a consecrated sword. The chief interest of this crowded picture lies in the fact that it well and accurately depicts the Venice of Bassano’s own time, with groups of ladies in the loggia of the Doge’s Palace ; it is thus useful as an historical document, not for the age it pretends to represent, but for the age in which it was painted. This is more or less true of all the other pictures in the series.
Above a window,
(6.) Fiammingo. The Doge sets out for war, with the Pope’s blessing.
(7.) Tintoretto the younger (a very minor painter : do not confuse him with his father). The Battle of Salvore, in which the Venetians, after a fierce struggle, conquered the Imperialists, and took prisoner the Emperor’s son Otho. As a matter of fact, this famous battle is imaginary,one of the pious patriotic frauds of later Venetian historians.
Over a door,
(8.) Andrea Vicentino. The Doge brings back to the Pope the conquered Otho.
(9.) Palma the younger. The Pope sends Otho to his father, to induce him to recognise Alexander’s claim to the Papacy.
(10.) Zucchero. The Emperor Frederic Barbarossa kneels in submission before the Pope. The episode is said to have taken place in the atrium of St. Mark’sa legendary tale made much of in later Venetian history. Venice as a Republic was always opposed to the Imperial claims, and this half apocryphal story of Barbarossa’s humiliation is a picturesque embodiment of the Guelf theory of Italian freedom against the autocratic pretensions of the Franconian Emperors. (The adherents of the Pope were called Guelfs ; the adherents of the Emperor, Ghibellines.)
A window to the R. in the anteroom here affords a good out-look over the Renaissance portion of the building.
The Sala dello Scrutinio itself is another handsome ball, with a fine ceiling, and from its windows impressive views are obtained, especially from the one on the L. with the balcony, which affords an excellent survey of the Piazza and Piazzetta,in particular of the façade of Sansovino’s Library and of the very quaint and ornate chimney on the top of the Zecca. This is also one of the best points of view for the lion of St. Mark and for St. Theodore on his crocodile. The richness in colour of the South Front of St. Mark’s comes out well in the sunlight from this stand-point.
Re-enter the hall. The entrance wall is entirely occupied by Palma Giovane’s Last judgment, a work in which Palma unequally endeavours to imitate Tintoretto’s Paradise ; to the L. are the elect, to the R. the damned.
The other walls are occupied by late historical or pseudo-historical pictures, again representing episodes in the history of Venice reflecting credit on the Republic. They begin at the far side of this room, the end wall of which is wholly occupied by the triumphal arch and monument of Francesco Morosini, who reconquered the Morea from the Turks in 1690 ; it was erected in his honour during his lifetime by the senate, as the inscription on the ugly half-length bronze figure below testifies. (Hence his title of Peloponnesiacus.) Of the pictures which the monument contains, (all by Lazzarini,) the only one worthy of notice is that on the L. below, which represents the Doge in his ducal costume and armour, holding a marshal’s baton, and presenting to Venice the reconquered Christian Morea, whose chains he is striking off; they lie at her feet, together with the Turkish turban and the map of the Morea which symbolise his conquest ; Venice herself is somewhat uncomfortably enthroned on St. Mark’s lion. This is a fair example of the overwrought later allegorical treatment of similar subjects.
The pictures on the wall on the Piazzetta side are as follows ;
(1.) Pepin, king of the Franks, lays siege to the town of Rivo Alto in 809, by Vicentino.
(2.) Pepin, and therefore the Frankish empire, driven away from Venice, also by Vicentino.
(3.) Domenico Michiel defeats the Caliph of Egypt in a naval engagement at Jaffa, in 1123, by Peranda.
(4.) Domenico Michiel takes Tyre in T125. (This is the victory of which the columns in the Piazzetta are trophies.) I need hardly add that in all these cases the later Venetians figure their ancestors with their own costumes and their own weapons of warfare.
(5.) The victory of the Venetians over King Roger of Sicily in 1148, by Marco Vecelli.
The series continues just opposite :-
(7.) Capture of Zara from the Hungarians in 1346, by Tintoretto.
(8.) The victory of Lepanto in 1571, by Vicentino.
(9.) The battle against the Turks in the Dardanelles in 1656, by Pietro Liberi.
The compartments of the ceiling contain similar pictures of real or supposed glories of Venice, but of little interest.
Return through the Sala del Maggior Consiglio to the portal by which you first entered that large hall : a door on the R. gives access to the
a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts, the description of which, however, lies outside the province of this Guide. One of its chief treasures is the famous Grimani Breviary, with exquisite illuminations by Gerard David, Horenbout, and other Flemish masters of the late 15th century, (exhibited on Wednesdays only, in an inadequate and unsatisfactory manner.) Students of art may obtain special leave to consult it.
The door to the L. leads into the
which contalns several second-class works of classic art, and a few masterpieces.
ROOM I.Corridor. Figures of deities, marked on the pedestals, and few of them of any exceptional interest. Colossal Minerva. Bacchus. Faun and Fauness. Bust of Juno, etc.
ROOM II.State Dressing Room of the Doge, has a very charming early-Renaissance chimney-piece by P. Lombardo. Over the door of entry is a graceful relief of Doge Leonardo Loredan adoring the Madonna and Child, accompanied by St. Mark, St. Nicholas, and another doubtful saint. Over the opposite door is a pretty coloured group of a Madonna with angels. Round the walls are three successive paintings of the Lion of St. Mark, by Jacopo del Fiore, 1415, Donato Veneziano, 1459, and Carpaccio, 1516. The *coffered ceiling of this beautiful little room is deserving of notice.
ROOM III.–(dello Scudo) contalns ancient maps, the earliest of which is that by Fra Mauro, (1457,) in a round frame, near the centre of the room ; it has the south at the top of the map, instead of at the bottom as usual. Interesting and curious. From the L. window of this room you get an excellent view of the domes of St. Mark’s, and the connecting portion between the church and palace. Nowhere else can you so well observe the oriental shape of the minor cupolas surmounting the domes.
Continue along the same line as before into
ROOM IV., Hall of the Busts.This has an over-decorated Renaissance mantelpiece, and a fine ceiling. It contains numerous busts of the imperial Roman period, some named, and some of them excellent, mainly the gifts of Cardinal Grimani. On the wall of entrance, high up, is a good Antinous ; among the other busts, notice Septimius Severus, Faustina, Lucius Verus, two stages of Marcus Aurelius, Vitellius with his coarse bull-neck and vulgar sordid features, the solid common-sense of Vespasian, and the capable figure of Trajan. (Chronologically, the series begins at the far end.)
ROOM V. of the Bronzes, with a fine ceiling and a good early-Renaissance mantelpiece, topped by ugly later figures, contains a few antique bronzes ; round the walls are Greek pottery and other works of minor interest.
ROOM VI. has nothing of note but an Adoration of the Magi, by Bonifazio.
The long room beyond this gives access, on the R., to a staircase with a fresco of St. Christopher, by Titian, (ill pre-served,) the interest of which is mainly historical.
The Room of Bronzes, beyond, contains several admirable works of the Renaissance. L. of the door, three busts by Aspetti, named. On a fine bronze candelabrum, the Doge’s cap of Doge Paolo Venier. In a case by the wall, exquisite medals by Pisanello and others. Above, fine bas-reliefs in bronze, by Riccio, with the history of the Emperor Constantine,his Vision of the Cross, his victory over Maxentius, the discovery of the True Cross by Helena, and the Miracle of the True Cross, the genuineness of which is proved by its cure of a sick man. In the centre, between these, Florentine Assumption of the Virgin. In the middle of the room, bronzes and medals. On the R. wall, beautiful bronze doors for a tabernacle, containing a relic, with a Pietà and Deposition, by Riccio. Tomb in imitation of the antique, by Tullio Lombardo, a fine reproduction of the Roman spirit. Charming relief of St. Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar by Riccio. In the cases, coins and medals of Venice. Many of the other works in this room deserve close attention, but cannot here be adequately described. This is a collection for the leisured.
Room of the lesser Antiques.Minor works of antique sculpture : a Venus of the same type as the Capitoline at Rome ; Ganymede carried away by the eagle Leda and the Swan ; an Apollo Citharaedus, and other figures. By the far wall stand three of the most important antique works in this collection,three *fallen and dying Gauls, of the school of Pergamum, reduced copies (or originals) of sculptures belonging to the same series as the famous (so-called) Dying Gladiator of the Capitol at Rome. These are very characteristic specimens of the local Pergamene school, which represented the combat of the Greeks with the invading Gauls.
Room of the larger Antiques.Other antique figures, among the most interesting of which is a somewhat inferior archaic Diana, resembling the one at Naples, but not of equal merit. This figure belongs to the stage when Greek sculpture was just emancipating itself from its earliest stiffness.
Your tickets also entitle you to visit the Dungeons. I am not aware of any sufficient reason why you should desire to avail yourself of this permission.