A guide in Venice
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Venice Case


An old palace and a new museum open in Venice

After 27 years of thoroughful restauration the palazzo Grimani is ready to reopen on Jan 7th.

The Grimanis in the 16th century
Antonio Grimani, doge 1521-1523 had five sons including
Domenico (+1523), cardinal and patriarch of Aquileia and Gerolamo.
Gerolamo had 4 sons including
Marino (+1546) cardinal and patriarch of Aquileia, Vettore (+1558), procurator of Saint Mark and Giovanni (+1593), patriarch of Aquileia.

The Grimanis besides being one of the oldest, noblest and wealthiest families of Venice, were the main disseminators of the roman-tuscan art style in Venice. The 3 brothers Marino, Vettore and Giovanni employed and favour a number of artists from central Italy such us Jacopo Sansovino, Francesco ‘Salviati’. Giuseppe della Porta and Federico Zuccari. In their entourage we find also artists from Veneto who got mostly influenced by the roman mannerism such us Giovanni da Udine, Michele Sanmicheli, G. B. Ponchino and Battista Franco. Most of the Grimani commissions to these artists were to decorate the family palace in Santa Maria Formosa and tomb in the church of san Francesco della Vigna.
The palace become then the greatest example in Venice of roman mannerist decoration like the chamber of Apollo all decorated in an ‘ancient’ style showing the old god’s stories set on a great naturalistic scenes showing birds, bears, tigers, monkeys and fantastic landscapes with divinities, muses, winged victories and cameos. In 1558 Giovanni Grimani begun a huge refurbishment and enlargement getting to close the courtyard on four sides imitating a roman peristilio (columnaded courtyard). New features were added like the oval staircase, the private chapel and the great coffered ceiling room and all this came with beautiful decorations: stuccos, marble decorated fire places and a new extraordinary frescos showing birds, fish, fruit, vegetation. But the main attraction was the huge collection of ancient statues, busts, coins and books.
This collection was begun by Domenico Grimani cardinal from 1493. Domenico was the son of Antonio duke for less than 2 years between 1521 and 1523. Availing himself of the great wealth of his family, Domenico obtained the cardinalship and exploited this new position to obtain an even larger amount of ecclesiastic titles and offices for himself and his nephews. He was considered by Erasmus as one of the most cultivated primate of the Roman Papal court. He owned the world famous Grimani illuminated Codex now in the Marciana Library. Domenico was also a great collector of roman and greek statuary that he put together along his years in Rome. Some were found by chance inside his own villa on the Quirinale hill. Besides this Domenic was an ardent collector of ancient cameos, medals, coins and gems. But he also lked modern art works as painting by Titian and Giorgione not to mention his Flemish paintings including artists as Bosch, Memling, Patinir.
The collection was further extended by Domenico’s nephew Giovanni who brought it at an unparalleled level of completion transforming the palace in a true archeological museum. A large number of statues was from Crete a Venetian until 1669. In 1587 Giovanni bequest his collection to the State now to be seen in the Archeological Museum of Venice. Giovanni, taking the chance of the huge refurbishment of his palace, made his home in a true museum, a must for distinguished visitors such as the king of France Henry the 3rd on his way to France in 1574.
Dispersion begun already at the end of the 17th century up to 1897 when the last Grimani died. The end of the collection took place when the palace was sold to the first of many private owners of which the last was the Olivetti company in 1969. The palace was left then in total neglect. In 1981 the Italian State bought the building and in 1984 the restoration finally begun.

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