The Neoclassical Rooms are included in the 2015 restoration project “Sublime Canova”. Discover the project >>
2. Ballroom. This sumptuous and opulent ballroom is unique in the palace for the refinement of its Empire-style decor. Lorenzo Santi began the works on the design in 1822, and Giuseppe Borsato completed the decoration in 1838. At both ends, the room is bounded by loggias intended to house the orchestra; above the gilded Corinthian capitals of these fluted columns in polished stucco are two small apses that make the upper area of the ballroom into an oval. The centre of the ceiling is frescoed with Peace, surrounded by the Virtues and the Geni of Olympus. Painted by Odorico Politi, the work is a clear reference to the restoration of the Hapsburgs after the Napoleon period. At the end of the room there are two sculptures in Vicenza stone by Antonio Canova depicting Orpheus and Eurydice. Produced in 1777, they come from the garden of the Villa Falier in Asolo. The handling of the bodies and of their relation with the space around them clearly reveals how the young artist’s Late Baroque style was being changing for a revolutionary feeling in sculptural mass.
3. The Napoleonic Loggia. With large windows overlooking St. Mark’s Square, this loggia has a rich interior decor which is inspired by Classical Antiquity and comprises ancient grotesques and motifs based on the discoveries made in Pompeii. The overall scheme was the work of the painter Giuseppe Borsato, with the figures painted by Pietro Moro. The first room, known as The Room of the Fine Arts, has a vaulted ceiling decorated with geometrical motifs and a central tondo of The Virtues Triumphing over Envy; in the corners are mythological figures and two chiaroscuro works with female figures and cherubs. On the wall are bands of decoration with grotesque motifs, musical instruments and foliage. The wall of the St. Mark’s Square side of the room is decorated with an allegory of two female figures and Cupid holding a small yoke; opposite are the figures of Truth, Justice and Prudence flanked by monochrome trophies, and tondi with episodes from Roman history. In the upper part of the wall are eight monochrome tondi depicting The Arts, whilst the panels above the doors are decorated with allegories of Strength and Truth. The loggia also contains a display of important casts of works by Antonio Canova: a Self-Portrait, which is a period cast of a 1812 work that is now in Possagno; bas-reliefs of scenes from Homer’s epic poems, Virgil’s Aeneid and Plato’s Phaedrus (all dating from 1787-1792) and various allegories – Teaching the Unlearned, Giving Food to the Hungry. None of these works were ever actually created in marble, but they reveal an intense phase in the artist’s work, when he was moving between Classicism and a type of experimentation that was closer to the figurative work being produced in Europe. Formerly the property of the Farsetti family, the two Baskets of Fruit are early works by the artist, whilst the themes of Beauty and Love – those for which Canova was best known and most widely imitated – are represented by the plaster casts of the two Herms of Sappho and the Vestal Virgin Tuccia, which the sculptor gave to Giustina, daughter of Doge Paolo Renier. In the short corridor there are also the models the artist produced for two monumental tombs: that for Titian, a design which the sculptor then used for the Vienna tomb of Maria Christina of Austria (and which would later be adopted for Canova’s own cenotaph in the Venetian church of the Frari) – and the, partially wax, model of the never-built monument to Francesco Pesaro, Procuratore di San Marco and the last Librarian to the Republic. In designing these works, Canova introduced a new approach to funereal monuments, with the central concern no longer being celebration of the deceased but meditation upon death itself. On the walls is a plaque that records those who have donated works to the Musei Civici di Venezia. Between the two columns at the end of the loggia stands the cast of the statue of Paris, dated 12 May 1807. This is a perfect illustration of Canova’s working method: having created a life-size model in plaster, he then marked it with the metal “dots” that would enable him to maintain the exact same measurements and proportions when working in marble. In a niche to the right of Paris is a large statue of Napoleon by Domenico Banti(1811), which shows the sovereign in the guise of a Roman emperor, extending his hand is a gesture of “protection”. It was the Venice Chamber of Commerce which commissioned this work from Banti, who was Canova’s pupil and – together with Antonio Bosa – had produced the large statues of Roman emperors that adorn the parapet of the Napoleonic Wing. Having been set up in the Piazzetta, the statue was removed when the Austrians took over the rule of Venice in 1814. After a rather chequered history, it was eventually purchased at a 2002 auction by the Comité Français pour la Sauvegarde de Venice and the CARIVE Foundation, with the intention of presenting it to the city.
4. The Throne Room. Various artists worked on the decor of this room: Giuseppe Borsato did the ornate decoration, Giambattista Canal the lunettes with mythological scenes against a gold background (c. 1811), whilst the wall frescoes (now transferred to panels) are what is left of the neo-classical decor used in a large part of the palace. The two panels above the doors and the two large vertical panels with Dancers and mythological Scenes are fined early works (1817) by the venetian Francesco Hayez, who would become curator of Brera Museum in 1850 and enjoy enormous success as painter of portraits and history scenes. However, amongst the neo-classical decor and furnishings, the dominant presence is again that of Antonio Canova, with the Winged Cupid – a plaster cast of the marble sculpture produced for the Russian prince Jusupov (1793-1979) – and the famous Daedalus and Icarus, a masterpiece of the artist’s youth, formerly in Palazzo Pisani. Canova was just over twenty when he sculpted this piece, in which the two figures are not only an inventive response to the influence of Classical Antiquity but also a full expression of mature Naturalism. With drawn face, the father fixes to his son’s arms feather wings held together with wax, whilst the trustful youth eagerly assists, impatient to savour the full joy of flight.
5. Dining Hall. The Dining Hall of the palace has maintained its original neo-classical decor completely intact. The ceiling fresco depicts Olympus. and is the work of Giovanni Carlo Bevilacqua; the tondi with Stories of Cupid and Psyche. are by Pietro Moro. On the walls, between grisaille decoration against a gold background, are small tondi with the Months of the Year and the Signs of the Zodiac; in the lower band of decoration are tondi with Views of the Capitals of the Lombardy-Veneto regions.. Above the doors are pairs of putti by Sebastiano Santi; dating from 1824-25, they allude both to the Seasons of the Year and to the childhood of Apollo and Diana. The rich and refined furnishings came largely from the Parma palace of Maria Luisa of Austria. The nineteenth-century French table has bronzework by Feuchères; on the table surface are allegorical and mythological scenes, with the Judgement of Paris. at the centre. On the easels are two works attributed to Antonio Canova: the refined and unfinished Portrait of Amadeo Svajer, a famous Venetian antique dealer, which clearly shows the influence of the English portrait school, and a Cupid and Psyche, which in composition is very similar to the sculptor’s famous marble statues of the same theme. Between the windows is a cast of the Italian Venus, another work by Canova (the original is in the Galleria Palatina in Florence). The clay models in the display cases (including a figure of Hector and a very modern rendition of Cupid and Psyche) are again by Canova; they reveal how rapidly the sculptor sketched in the ideas for works that would make him famous the world over.