Ca’ Rezzonico: virtual tour of the 18th-century secret Venice
Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the most beautiful buildings on the Grand Canal, is the apotheosis of 18th-century Venetian luxury, a reflection of the Dolce Vita led by the nobles families of the time. Initially based on a project by the famous architect Baldassarre Longhena, Giorgio Massari took over his legacy and completed it at the end of the 17th century on behalf of the powerful Rezzonico family. Throughout the 19th century, the building changed ownership several times until 1935 when it was purchased by the Municipality of Venice. Among his famous tenants, we remember the writer Robert Browning and the musician Cole Porter, famous for the extravagant parties, such as the one in which he enlisted 50 gondoliers to serve drinks and a tightrope team to stage a show suspended on the Grand Canal.
Let’s discover the world’s unique treasures kept in the Palace thanks to the virtual tour which can be accessed via the website or App Google Arts & Culture.
After climbing the entrance staircase, we come across the magnificent Ballroom, the most beautiful in the entire Venice both for size and decorations. Here, you can admire rare pieces of the building’s original furniture such as the wonderful golden wooden and metal chandeliers and, along the walls, the wooden elements made by Andrea Brustolon, the artist defined by Honoré de Balzac the “Michelangelo of wood”, and originally made for Palazzo Venier in San Vio.
Walking into Sala dei Pastelli, we find the works of the female Italian artist most famous across Europe in the 18th-century: Rosalba Carriera, an extraordinary miniaturist who reached an incredible reputation for her interpersonal skills as well as the painting technique, very modern for the time, thanks to which she was able to capture the personality of people’s she portrayed.
But Ca’ Rezzonico houses other masterpieces in addition to the paintings and frescoes by Giambattista Crosato, Peter Visconti, Giambattista Tiepolo, and Jacopo Guarana: we are talking about its furniture, unique handmade pieces that exemplify the highest trends in home decor, a real status symbols of the time. In the Bridal Allegory Room we find, for example, the precious collection of porcelain that belonged to Count Nani Mocenigo. The porcelain “recipe”, in fact, was a well-kept industrial secret in China and it was recreated in Europe only starting from 1710. Venice, already in 1720, became an important production center and Vezzi and Cozzi were among the most important manufactures.
In the Tapestry Room we find more treasures: the tables with green marble cover and the two gheridoni (three-legged tables) decorated with sea foam and broken shells, as well as another rare element of the original furnishings of the building. This is the lacquered door dating back to 1760 and finely decorated with oriental motifs which testify the great passion for chinoiserie of the time. Boost by legendary trips to the wonderful Cathay, the Chinese art was, in fact, a fashion trend that spanned across all aspects of the visual arts.
We then come to a truly exceptional room: it is that of Andrea Brustolon, whose works are considered the greatest masterpiece of early 18th century Venetian carving. The most famous piece is the vase holder console which represents Hercules winning the Lernaean Hydra which was part of a series consisting of 40 elements sculpted by the artist on behalf of the Venier family. But it is not the only treasure in the room: just look up and you will see an extraordinary bohemian crystal chandelier decorated with brightly colored glass paste flowers. Produced in the mid-eighteenth century by the famous Murano glassmaker Giuseppe Briati, just think that it is “the one” that gave the name to the “Rezzonico” style, today the most famous icon of the Murano glass chandelier production.
Going up to the second floor, we find all the greatest painters of the ‘700: Francesco Guardi, Giambattista Piazzetta, Gaspare Diziani and Antonio Canal known as Canaletto. The latter, keen observer and “photographer” of his time, offers us the opportunity to see what Venice was like in the 1700s down to the smallest detail. In particular, his masterpiece “The Grand Canal”, painted at 23 years of age, is a tribute to Venice as the ‘city of water’ when, even more than today, all life flowed on its canals. We also invite you to explore the work of two other great men of the time, Francesco Guardi and Pietro Longhi who describe, with different styles, the daily and social life of the Venetian aristocracy with all its rituals: from the Carnival parties in the “ridotti”, to the chocolate break, up to the gallant visits of a knight in bauta (mask) to his lady, giving us a detailed description of the costume of the time.
On the top floor, to end up with, we point out a curiosity: the pharmacy “ai Do San Marchi“, which had been in Campo San Stin since the second half of the 1600s. Perfectly preserved in its original furnishings, it boasts the iconic dark walnut briar furniture and lovely decorated majolica vases, the work of the Venetian Cozzi manufacture. In 1908 the widow of the last owner decided to sell it to the Parisian antiquarian Raoul Heilbronneur who, due to the difficulty of bringing the pharmacy to France, decided to donate it to the Venetian Civic Museums.
These are just a few examples of a Palace that, through its objects and decor, leads us to know a period of history, the Venetian 18th century, which for artistic-cultural production as well as social emancipation has few equals in the world.