Following my previous posts about the churches belonging to the Chorus Association and the museums belonging to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, this post is about, in my opinion, one of the most important art galleries in the world. If you are a fan of the Venetian school, which is represented by Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Bassano, this gallery is a must-visit. If you have read my previous posts about Venice, please click here to jump directly to the main content of this one. If not, the following paragraphs will be about an explanation of the outstanding universal value of Venice in terms of its history, city planning, architecture and art; some practical tips concerning the ideal length of your stay, the proper season of your visit and what you should note while eating in the restaurants and an introduction to the public transport system as well as the entrance prices and opening hours of some of the major attractions such as the churches belonging to the Chorus Association and museums of the MUVE. Now, let’s get to know Venice, a precious gem on the Adriatic sea.
As the UNESCO comments:
Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.
1. Venice and its outstanding universal value
When’s the first time you heard about Venice and how? Well, I guess the first time I heard about Venice was in my English literature class when I was introduced to William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice“. Or maybe it was in my history class when I learnt that Marco Polo departed from here in search of China, Annam (nowadays Vietnam), Tonkin, Sumatra (an island in Indonesia), India and Persia. His voyage reminds us of the role that the Venetian merchants played in the discovery of the world, though after the Arabs, around 200 years before the Portuguese. In fact, it’s also possible that I heard about Venice even earlier, in my Chinese literature class when I was appreciating the essay “Venice” written by Zhu Ziqing, a renowned Chinese poet and essayist.
Zhu studied at Peking University (always one of the 2 top universities in China), and during the May Fourth Movement became one of several pioneers of modernism in China during the 1920s. Zhu was a prolific writer of both prose and poetry, but is best known for essays like “Retreating Figure” (背影), “You. Me.” (你我) and the long poem “Destruction” (毁灭). This time, before leaving for Venice, I told my parents that I was going there and my dad said, “Oh, Venice, the city that Zhu Ziqing visited and wrote about. Don’t forget to take the gondola and check whether they are the same as he described or not. Maybe they have changed now?” The text above is part of what Zhu wrote and I’ll try to translate it by myself here. I hope and will try my best to keep the “original taste” of it.
Venice is a unique place. Once leaving the train station, you will immediately realize that there are no cars here. Wherever you wanna go, you can to take either a steam ship or a gondola. The Grand Canal goes through Venice like the letter “S” and it is the “main street” of the city. What’s more, there are 480 small canals and rios and they play the same role as the small alleys (hutong) in Beijing. The steam ships are like buses in other cities, “driving” passengers hither and thither. Gondola is similar to a rowed boat and it’s unique here in Venice. Wherever you wanna go, it can take you there. There are no bridges? Of course there are and there are 378! That’s a lot and enough because after turning around and around, you can basically reach everywhere without touching the sea water. Nevertheless, still quite a lot of people choose to take ships and it seems that gondola is also a rather popular option among them. Composed of many small islands and located at the northeast corner of the Italian peninsula, Venice is called the “city in the sea”. Seen from the top of San Marco Campanile, the islands are like floral clusters floating on the Adriatic sea. In warm sunlight and with almost no smoke, my sight goes through the seemingly transparent whole until it reaches the horizon where the sea meet the sky. As a Chinese, Venice reminds me of the water towns in southern China. After my trip to northern Europe in early summer, I can still find spring here, retreating yet clear. The water, so green and so “strong”, flows into your dreams.
The essay is much longer and I hope you can grasp a general idea or feeling of it from my translation. I’m happy that writing about Venice gives me the opportunity to read Zhu’s work again. I think the last time I read the “Venice” by him was somewhat more than 10 years ago and I have forgotten almost all of it except the “gondola”. A city floating on the sea? Doesn’t it only exist in fairytales or the magical world? As Zhu mentioned in his essay, I was born and grew up in southern China and I know Suzhou (Soochow) is called the “Oriental Venice” because of its rivers and bridges. I lived in this city for four years and I’ve always dreamt of seeing the real Venice. Eventually, the opportunity has come.
In this lagoon covering 50,000 square kilometers, nature and history have been closely connected since the 5th century when the Venetian ancestors came to the sandy islands of Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco. As time went by, temporary settlements turned to be permanent and the fisherman and peasants became a maritime power. With its expansion over the centuries, Venice never ceased to consolidate its position in the lagoon. What is it that made the UNESCO decide to protect the whole city and its lagoon? What kind of historical, cultural and educational values does Venice possess? Based on what I read from the UNESCO World Heritage website, I’ll try to answer these question from three main aspects, that is to say, the city planning (protection), the monuments (architecture) and the art (painters and paintings).
1.1 Urban setting
Before seeing it, it’s rather difficult to imagine a city built on the sea. We sometimes say though a sparrow is small, it has all the organs that it needs. From Torcello to the north to Chioggia to the south, the islands here in this lagoon are similar to the sparrows, small yet highly functional. Made up of these islands and located at the heart of Veneto, Venice “stood as one of the greatest capitals” in the Middle Ages. In this distinctive city, street means canal, alley means rio, bus means ship and pedestrian crossing means bridge. This unique landscape resulted from a long and sophisticated process which reflects the interaction between people and the natural environment and it is this interaction that demonstrates people’s high technical and creative skills in the “realization of the hydraulic and architectural works” in this area. Although Venice presents a complete typology of medieval architecture, what makes it more special and valuable is that these buildings were constructed according to certain urban setting which had to adapt to the special conditions of the site.
Was it an easy task to organize the islands in such an urban system? It was not and it is not an easy task to keep the system or to update it nowadays either. Venice was and still is vulnerable due to various reasons. One of them is the irreversible natural and climate changes. We human beings can change a lot of things but one of the few things that we can never take control of is nature. Though very difficult, negotiating with nature and protecting their home is a task that the Venetians never forget or give up. When you are in the city, you will see ingenious devices and designs that have been applied to the streets and buildings (palazzos, churches and so on) for this specific purpose. As part of the coherent ecosystem, the muddy shelves, the small islands, the pile dwellings, the fishing villages, the rice fields and so on (which can be easily neglected) all need the same level of attention and protection. Shouldn’t we remember the crystallization of wisdom of these people who were, are and will be coping with nature to preserve this glorious gem of the sea?
1.2 Architecture and monumental arts
The second aspect showing Venice’s outstanding universal value is its influence on the development of monumental arts. I was writing about Palladio and his works in and around Vicenza some time ago and I mentioned some of his original designs in Venice. Honestly, for me, visiting Venice is like visiting the historic centers of Rome and Paris in the aspect that almost every building has its own history and is worth knowing about. This is the reason why the UNESCO emphasizes that “the lagoon of Venice has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces in the world”. From the palazzos to the squares (piazza and campi), from the bridges to the streets (calli), from the churches to the Scuole hospitals and chartable and cooperative institutions, one who sees Venice sees the complete catalogue of medieval architecture and even more.
While we are talking about the city’s history and buildings, how can we miss its significant role as the capital (810–1797) of the Republic of Venice? For almost a millennium, Venice was the major witness to the ups and downs of this powerful sovereign state and nowadays, its architectural ensembles make it possible for us to see the magnificence of the Republic’s Golden Age. What’s more, internationally, the monuments built based on the Venetian models “first through the Serenissima’s fondachi or trading stations, along the Dalmatian coast, in Asia Minor and in Egypt, in the islands of the Ionian Sea, the Peloponnesus, Crete, and Cyprus” are strong evidence of the width and strength of this Republic’s influence on architecture.
1.3 Paintings and decorative arts
When the Republic of Venice started to lose its power over the sea, it exerted its influence in a rather different manner. I personally am a great fan of Italian paintings and besides the Manneristic Renaissance painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, the ones belonging to the Venetian school are always among my favorites. From the later part of the 15th century, Venice had a distinctive, flourishing and influential art scene. Beginning with the work of Giorgione and the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, major artists of the Venetian school included Titian (Tiziano Vecelli), Tintoretto (also known as Jacopo Robusti in his youth), Paolo Veronese (also known as Paolo Caliari) and Jacopo Bassano (also known as Jacopo dal Ponte). Together with Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, their revolutionary and ingenious masterpieces illustrating a brand-new perception of space, light and color left a decisive mark on the development of painting and decorative arts in the whole of Europe.
I remember that in the museums in other cities, once I saw paintings of these masters that I mentioned above, I would definitely take a close look at them. Nevertheless, in Venice, I only chose to take a look at the most famous ones or the ones that I like the most. Why? Because there are so many! I assure you that in no other city of the world can you see such a complete collection of works created by these great painters. These marvelous masterpieces are scatted all over Venice in the churches, houses, palazzos and of course in the museums and art galleries. For example, in the Church of San Zaccaria, you can see Giovanni Bellini’s “San Zaccaria Altarpiece”; in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, you can see Titian’s “The Assumption of the Virgin”; in the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, you can see Tintoretto’s “Last Supper”; in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, you can see Paolo Veronese’s “The Feast in the House of Levi” and “Mystical Marriage of St Catherine”, Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin” and many more. Trust me, if you are a fan of any of those masters in the Venetian school, you will certainly feel Venice is the paradise of art. Just a reminder, as a city built on 118 small islands floating on the Adriatic Sea, the beauty of Venice also inspired numerous landscape painters such as Canaletto, Guardi, Turner and so on.
2. General tips for visiting Venice
Having elaborated on the outstanding universal value of Venice, now, by answering four questions, I’d like to give you a general introduction to the city accompanied by some suggestions or tips based on my own experiences. The first question that I guess many people, who have never been to Venice, have in their mind is: “What are the must-visit attractions in this wonderful city?” Well, I guess anyone who knows Italy knows Venice and anyone who knows Venice knows St. Mark’s Square. It is the principal public square of Venice and is generally known just as la Piazza (“the Square”). Together with the Piazzetta (“little Square”), an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon in its south east corner, it forms the social, religious and political centre of Venice. In fact, All the other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzale Roma) are called campi (“fields”). Dominated by the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, Procuratie Nuove, Napoleonic Wing, Procuratie Vecchie, the Campanile of St Mark’s church, Biblioteca Marciana, and Doge’s Palace, these two spaces are worth the name “the drawing room of Europe” (a comment which is said to have been left by Napoleon).
Take your time but remember, don’t spend all your time here. Otherwise, you will miss a big part of Venice. I somehow feel that visiting Venice is like going through a general body examination. It’s of vital importance to check the heart (visit the St. Mark’s Square) but without checking other parts, this examination just doesn’t make much sense. All in all, I’d really like to remind you that Venice is much more than just St. Mark’s Square. Visiting the bridges (such as Ponte dell’Accademia and the Rialto Bridge), the churches (such as the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health), the houses or palaces (such as Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro), the islands (such as Murano and Burano), the museums (such as the Lace Musem and the Glass Museum), the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Grand Canal and so on will help you gain a much more detailed and comprehensive understanding of Venice.
“How long should we stay in Venice?” Well, this is a very difficult question because depending on how much you wanna see and how much you wanna learn, the length could vary from three days to a month or even longer. If you wanna have a good understanding of the city, I would say you need to spend at least a week here. “What’s the best time to visit Venice?” I visited Venice in November and at the beginning I was a bit disappointed because my friends told me the weather in the summer is much better. Nevertheless, when they told me they waited for one, two or even more hours to enter the churches and museums, I was so glad and realized that I chose the right time. In totally, I visited 18 churches and 9 museums and I didn’t spend any time waiting for entering them. Though in the winter, almost all the museums close earlier than in the summer, I’m still happy that I can use the time standing in the lines to have a nice dinner and enjoy the view of Venice at night. Briefly, if possible, I still recommend you visiting Venice in the low season to avoid large crowds.
“Is it safe to travel in Venice?” According to my experience, I would say my own trip was rather smooth and successful. I wouldn’t say there’s anything life-threatening that you need to be reminded of. Nevertheless, do keep an eye on your personal belongings because similar to any other big or famous touristy cities, thieves are inevitable. What’s more, don’t fall for their tricks when someone offers you free stuff or asks you to sign something. Just remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Besides,there are two more things that I’d like to share with you concerning having lunch and dinner in the restaurants. Firstly, please note that cover fee and service fee are two different charges so when you go to a restaurant where they say they don’t charge compulsory service fee, don’t be surprised when the cover fee appears on your bill, and vice versa. Honestly, as for the cover fee, I think its reasonable to charge it and as long as they provide ok service, I prefer that the restaurants just charge the service fee directly so I don’t need to calculate and think about how much tip I should leave. The thing I hate the most is that sometimes they say one thing while doing another (For example, some guy standing in front of the restaurant inviting customers in said that the restaurant wouldn’t charge service fee or whatsoever. Nevertheless, by the end, both fees appeared on the bill and I saw some customers complaining to him and he seemed to suggest that he would talk with the manager and give their cover and service fees back. Of course 99% of the people would say “Ah, it’s just a few euros, never mind,” and that’s how he does his “business”.) I don’t mind paying a few more euros but if you lie to me, I won’t allow myself to be tricked like a fool and pretend nothing has happened. The second thing is that when you make your order, make sure you see your dish and the price on the menu. For example, in one restaurant, the waitress asked my friend and me, “do you want some garlic bread”? and I said “sure, why not.” but when I got the “garlic bread” they turned out to be tomato buchetta. I bet that if I questioned her she would say “oh, sorry I can’t speak English well or oh sorry, isn’t buchetta garlic bread?” What else could I say? Fortunately, nowadays on Google Map you can check reviews of the restaurants and I strongly recommend you doing so before entering them. How I regret I didn’t do it because later on I checked the reviews of that particular restaurant and there had been so many similar cases much worse then mine. Can you imagine how you would feel if you and your family enter a restaurant planning to have a simple dinner for around 60 euros and end up paying 200 instead? I sincerely hope that the local authorities could deal with these kinds of restaurants which are obviously trying to “rip tourists off”. We tourists need to respect Venice and on the other hand, Venice (relevant administrations) also needs to respect its visitors. Only in this way can we achieve a harmonious relationship between the city and the people.
3. Brief info about public transport and major attractions (that I visited)
As I mentioned above, during my this trip to Venice, I visited 16 churches belonging to the Chorus Association, a conservation organisation aiming at safeguarding, conserving and restoring the artistic, historical and cultural heritage contained within the 18 Venetian churches that presently constitute its membership (Church of Santa Maria del Giglio, Church of Santo Stefano, Church of Santa Maria Formosa, Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Church of San Giovanni Elemosinario, Church of San Polo, Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Church of San Giacomo dall’Orio, Church of San Stae, Church of Sant’Alvise, Basilica of San Pietro di Castello, Church of the Santissimo Redentore, Church of Santa Maria del Rosario (Gesuati), Church of San Sebastiano, Church of San Giobbe, Church of San Giuseppe di Castello, Church of San Vidal and Church of San Giacomo di Rialto), 8 museums belonging to the Venice Civic Museum Foundation (Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia) (Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Pesaro, Glass Museum in Murano, Natural History Museum, Mocenigo Palace, Fortuny Palace, Lace Museum in Burano, Carlo Goldoni’s house and Clock Tower (visits only upon prior booking)) as well as the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore as well as the Gallerie dell’Accademia.
If you want to visit both the churches and the civic museums I recommend you buying the City Pass from VeneziaUnica which costs 29.9 euros for people from 6 to 29 years old (39.9 euros for people from 30+) and gives free admission to: Doge’s Palace and all 10 Civic Museums of Venice, 16 churches of the Chorus Circuit (another 2 are free), the Querini Stampalia Foundation and the Jewish Museum. Please click here to check more offers provided by VeneziaUnica such as St. Mark’s City Pass (free access to Doge’s Palace and the Corror museum on St. Mark’s square + 3 churches in the Chorus circuit of your choice), St. Mark’s City Pass + tour of the Teatro La Fenice with audioguide, City Pass + lagoon tour, City Pass + public transport and so on.
If you only wanna visit the churches of the Chorus Association, I suggest you buy the Chorus Pass which costs only 12 euros for an adult (please note that entrance to each church in this circuit costs 3 euros already). For more information about the reduced-price Pass, Family Pass, free tickets, opening hours of the churches and so on, please click here.
If you only wanna visit the civic museums, you can buy the “Museum Pass” which grants entrance to most of them except Palazzo Fortuny and the Clock Tower. The full price is 24 euros. Depending on which and how many museums in this foundation you want to visit, either buying the tickets separately or buying the “Museum Pass” can be cheaper. However, if you plan to visit more than four museums in this circle, it’s for sure a better deal to just buy the Pass. Please click here and click the PDF file “Civic Museums of Venice – short version” to check both the full and reduced entrance prices for each of the museums and click here to know more about the different types of the “Museum Pass” (such as family pass, child pass, senior pass etc).
As for public transport, water bus (ship) is the main means. According to my experience, it’s fun exploring the main island both on foot and by boat because the former means gives you the opportunity to be closer to the narrow streets and authentic residential blocks while the latter makes your journey much easier and more convenient because there are so many lines and stops. Nevertheless, if you want to visit the Church of the Santissimo Redentore, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Lace Museum on Burano Island, the Glass Museum on Murano Island and so on and have a cruise on the magnificent Grand Canal, you have to take the water bus. Depending on how many days you will spend in Venice and where you want to go, you can buy one-way ticket (7.5 €), 1-day ticket (20 €), 2-day ticket (30 €), 3-day ticket (40 €), 7-day ticket (60€), water bus tickets with Marco Polo Airport transfer and so on. For more informations about group tickets and some special offers please click here and click “Public Transport”.
4. Gallerie dell’Accademia
Just like when you go to Paris, you can’t miss the Louvre; when you go to Rome, you can’t miss the Vatican Museums; when you go to Florence, you can’t miss the Uffizi Gallery; when you go to London, you can’t miss the National Gallery and when you go to New York, you can’t miss the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when you come to Venice, you can’t miss the Gallerie dell’Accademia. The Venetian school, with their revolutionary and ingenious masterpieces illustrating a brand-new perception of space, light and color, left a decisive mark on the development of painting and decorative arts in the whole of Europe. What you will see here are not just any works by the greatest painters such as Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Giorgione, Tiepolo, Canaletto, but their outstanding and representative masterpieces. I’ll talk more about them later.
What you should note is that Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” is also kept in this gallery. In pen and ink on paper, the drawing depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. Before my visit, I read online that because this drawing is extremely fragile, it’s only exhibited to the public for a short time every four years. I didn’t expect myself to be so lucky so I wasn’t that disappointed when I was informed that it’s not currently on exhibition. However, I was rather upset when I learnt that the first floor is undergoing a long restoration project divided into four phrases starting from June 2017 and the first phrase includes the rooms from No. 6 to No. 11, which means that I wasn’t able to see Paolo Veronese‘s “Feast in the House of Levy” during my visit. Besides the “Presentation of the Virgin” by Titian and “Stealing of St. Mark’s Body” by Tintoretto, it was my main “target” in the gallery. Anyway, I saw more and learnt more than I expected because I “discovered” many other exceptional pieces which I had not heard of or had not known are here.
In the following three sections, I’ll first of all provide you with some practical information such as the opening hours, ticket prices, etc. of the gallery. In the second part, I’ll briefly introduce to you some of the masterpieces that impressed me. However, this is just my own opinion. I believe that when it comes to art, everyone has his or her individual taste, so I suggest you rent an audio guide and discover the masterpieces of your own interest. Normally I don’t talk about temporary exhibitions. However, the one held in the gallery during my visit was about Francesco Hayez, leading artist of Romanticism in the mid-19th-century Milan, and Antonio Canova, often regarded as the greatest of the Neoclassical artists. Therefore, I’ll dedicate the third section to a brief introduction to the temporary exhibition called “Canova, Hayez, Cicognara. The last of Venice’s final glories”.
4.1 Practical information
4.1.1 Opening hours
The museum is open:
- Mondays: 8:15 – 14:00
- Tuesday to Sunday: 8:15 – 19:15
- Closed on Monday afternoons, 25th December and 1st January
Please note that the ticket office closes one hour before the official closing time of the gallery.
4.1.2 Ticket prices
- Full price ticket: 15.00 euros
- Reduced price ticket: 7.50 euros (European citizens aged 18 to 25 and permanent state teachers)
- for information about free tickets for both individuals and groups, please click here.
- the gallery provides free admission to the public on the first Sunday of each month. You can collect your tickets directly at the ticket office but no reservation is available.
- if you wanna book your tickets in advance either online or by phone, please click here. Booking for individuals costs 1.5 euros per person while booking for schools or groups costs 7 euros (from 11 to 25 people).
- whilst temporary exhibitions are being hosted, the price of admission is subject to change.
4.1.3 Guided tour and audio guide
Guided tour can be booked in advance for groups with 10 to 25 people and is available in Italian, English or French upon request. It costs 100 euros and lasts around 1 hour. Please note, booking MUST be made at least 15 days in advance. If you wanna make a booking please click here for more information.
Alternatively, if you are not traveling in a group, audio guide is a good option for an in-depth visit of the gallery. Actually, sometimes I even prefer renting an audio guide than joining a guided tour because it’s more flexible and personal. I can spend more time on the artworks that I am interested in and visit the gallery at my own space. You can choose your preferred language from Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese and it costs 6 euros per person.
4.1.4 Floor plan
The gallery is composed of two floors (the ground floor and the first floor) with many rooms dedicated to various masters of different periods of time. I strongly recommend you obtaining a map at the ticket counter because different sections are marked in different colors and you can use it to better orient your visit. For example, on the first floor (your itinerary should start from the first floor), rooms marked in yellow exhibit artworks from 1300 to 1450 attributed to Paolo Veneziano, Lorenzo Veneziano and so on; rooms marked in blue exhibit artworks from 1450 to 1600 attributed to Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and so on; rooms marked in purple exhibit artworks from 1700 to 1880 attributed to Pietro Longhi, Zais, Zuccarelli and so on. On the ground floor, rooms marked in light purple exhibit artworks from 1600 to 1700 attributed to Saraceni, Fetti, Liss, Strozzi and so on; rooms marked in purple exhibit artworks from 1700 to 1880 attributed to Rosalba Carriera, Canaletto, Tiepolo, Hayez and so on; rooms marked in light blue exhibit sculptures from 1770 to 1880 attributed to Canova, Borro and so on. The rooms marked in green on both floors are for temporary exhibitions.Now please climb up the monumental staircase and start our journey on the first floor.
4.2 Some of the masterpieces
4.2.1 San Giobbe Altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini
This altarpiece is one of the masterworks of Bellini’s mature period. Mary sits on a tall marble throne, holding the Child. At her feet are three musician angels, while at the sides are, in symmetrical positions, six saints. They are, on the left, Sts. Francis, John the Baptist and Job, and on the right, Sts. Dominic, Sebastian and Louis of Toulouse.
4.2.2 Old Woman by Giorgione
Giorgione was an Italian painter of the Venetian school in the High Renaissance, whose career was ended by his death at a little over 30. As I read from Wikipedia, “Giorgione is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are affirmatively acknowledged to be his. The uncertainty surrounding the identity and meaning of his work has made Giorgione one of the most mysterious figures in European art.” It won’t be difficult to notice the writing on the scroll, “col tempo”, which means “with time”. Depicted with shriveled flesh, aged eyelids, toothless mouth, the subject seems to suggest the fading of beauty over the years.
Another painting by Giorgione that you should not miss in this gallery is “The Tempest“.
4.2.3 Martinengo Pieta by Giovanni Bellini
If you take a close look, you will notice the signature of Bellini on the rock to the left of Mary and Christ. It is one of Bellini’s last works and is the last pietà that Bellini painted. As I learnt from Wikipedia, Albrecht Dürer was in Venice at that time and “the work’s contorted hands and sharply-defined drapery recall his work”. What’s more, Bellini included elements of the “Vesperbild“, the German variant on the pietà. At the background, you can see a lawn encloses the figures and behind it is a desert with a fig tree. The buildings are actually based on the real structures in “Vicenza (the cathedral, Torre Bissara, Basilica Palladiana), Ravenna (the bell tower of Sant’Apollinare) and Cividale del Friuli (Ponte del Diavolo)”. If you wanna do a match, you can check my previous post about the 23 monuments, palaces, public and religious buildings designed by Palladio in the center of Vicenza.
4.2.4 Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple by Titian
This painting depicts the three-year-old Virgin Mary entering the Temple of Jerusalem. It was commissioned by the fraternity based in the Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Carita, a building later incorporated into the Galleria dell’Accademia. Do you remember that when I was writing about the guest house in Villa Valmarana ai Nani in Vicenza, I mentioned a fresco painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo depicting an old woman with a white shawl covering her head, who is about to go to town to sell eggs? As you can see from the picture below, it is said that Giandomenico copied the figure from Titian’s painting, who is sitting by the steps (as you can see from the picture above).
4.2.5 Presentation of the Ring by Paris Bordone
This is an oil-on-canvas painting by the Venetian Renaissance painter Paris Bordone. Commissioned by the confraternity of San Marco in 1340, it tells the legend behind the tempest that struck Venice on 15th February 1340, depicting a gondolier returning the ring of Saint Mark to Doge Bartolomeo Gradenigo. In my opinion, the story behind the painting is even more interesting than the painting itself. Briefly, it tells how St. Mark, St. George and St. Theodore, with the help of a gondolier, defeated the demons on the sea to protect Venice. If you wanna know the full legend, please click here.
4.2.6 Hieronymus Bosch
It was rather interesting for me to see Hieronymus Bosch‘s paintings here in Venice. Please note that he neither is Italian nor belongs to the Venetian school. Being a Dutch or Netherlandish draughtsman and painter from Brabant, he is widely considered one of the most notable representatives of early Netherlandish painting school. His works are known for their detailed landscapes and fantastic illustrations of religious concepts. In fact, the first time I came to notice his paintings was during my visit to the Museo del Prado in Madrid. His “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things” caught my attention immediately and somehow reminded me of the paintings by Salvador Dali.
In this gallery, you will see the famous “Santa Liberata Triptych” and “Four Visions of the Hereafter“. The latter is composed of hour panels representing punishment and reward. As you can see in the second picture above, the paintings from the left to the right depict “Fall of the Damned”, “Hell”, “Earthly Paradise” and “Ascent into Heaven“. If you wanna know more about them, please click here.
4.2.7 Stealing of St. Mark’s Body by Tintoretto
Painted by Tintoretto between 1562 and 1566, it is also called “St Mark’s Body Brought to Venice”, “The Abduction of the Body of Saint Mark” and “Translation of the Body of Saint Mark”. This painting was actually produced as part of a series of works about St. Mark for the Sala Capitolare of the Scuola Grande di San Marco. The other two of them are “Miracle of the Slave“, which is also hanging in this gallery, and “Finding of the body of St Mark”, which is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.
This work is remarkable for its deep perspective background lines. As you can see, the colors of the subjects, which are “close” to us, are much darker than the figures in the background, which are almost white. The orange sky is almost entirely covered by dark clouds, riven with a thunderbolt, giving the painting a heavy and dramatic atmosphere. Do you find the old bearded man next to the camel and holding the body of St. Mark familiar? That is Tintoretto himself.
4.2.8 Pietà by Titian
This Pietà was painted by Titian for his own tomb in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, but was not finished upon his death. It was then completed in the marginal areas by Palma il Giovane, who seems to have done his best to match Titian’s own style. As he wrote, “the work left unfinished by Titian was finished by Palma with reverence and dedicated to God.” Next to Virgin Mary, who is holding the dead Christ, are St. Jerome (a self portrait of Titian) and Mary Magdalene. If you see the whole painting, you will find two statues at the sides of the niche representing Moses on the left and the Hellespontine Sibyl on the right, both identified by inscriptions on their pedestals. If you wanna know more about this painting please click here.
4.2.9 Creation of the Animals by Tintoretto
In a blaze of golden light, which does not entirely escape the darkness still partially wrapping up the newly created earth, God the Father is portrayed suspended in the air in the act of creation. The birds shoot across the sky and the fishes dart through the water. If you see the full picture you can even see a unicorn to the right. As I read from Web Gallery of Art,”Tintoretto’s model for this composition was Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne“, now exhibited in the National Gallery in London. “He adopted the flying divine figure as well as the setting.”
4.2.10 The Archangel Raphael and Tobias by Titian
The story of how the Archangel Raphael helped a young man named Tobias is found in the Book of Tobit. When Tobias is sent by his blind father to a distant land to collect a debt, the archangel appears in the guise of an older companion and guide. At one point he helps Tobias catch a large fish with curative power. When they reach their destination and Tobias falls in love with a young woman troubled by an evil spirit, Raphael teaches him how to drive the spirit away so that the two can marry. When they return home, the archangel prepares a ointment from parts of the fish and heals Tobias’ blind father. Because of this story, St. Raphael has long been considered the patron saint of healers, travelers, and fishermen.
4.2.11 St. John the Baptist by Titian
It was painted in 1540 and the lamb to the left of John’s feet probably refers to the Lamb of God, a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John. In the background you can see a Giorgionesque landscape with River Jordan, where Christ was baptised.
4.2.12 Mystical Marriage of St Catherine by Paolo Veronese
In this painting, Veronesian colour reaches a peak of richness and splendor. As Marco Boschini, an Italian painter and engraver of the early Baroque period in Venice, commented in the 17th century, “it is almost as if the painter to create his effects used gold, pearls and rubies, emeralds sapphires and purest, most perfect diamonds”. For more information about this paintings please click here.
Antonio Canova was an Italian Neoclassical sculptor, famous for his marble sculptures. He is often thought to be the greatest of the Neoclassical artists. As I read from Wikipedia, “his artwork was inspired by the Baroque and the classical revival, but avoided the melodramatics of the former, and the cold artificiality of the latter”. As I mentioned in my post about Museo Correr, I first encountered Canova’s sculpture on the Museum Island in Berlin and since then, I have always kept his name in my mind whenever I go to a sculpture collection. If you wanna know more about him please click here.
4.2.14 Institution of the Eucharist by Giandomenico Tiepolo
4.2.15 Perspective View with Portico by Canaletto
Canaletto, also called Giovanni Antonio Canal, was an Italian painter of city views or vedute, of Venice, Rome, and London. He was further an important printmaker using the etching technique. In the period from 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he painted many sights of London and achieved great success. When you look at his paintings, you will be amazed at their details, precision and accuracy. As I read from WGA, he “concentrated his clearsighted vision on creating a space-light synthesis of extraordinary truthfulness”. This painting was donated by Canaletto himself to the Accademia in 1765 for his admission in the capacity of a painter of perspective in September, 1763. Even though the subject is imagined, its details are extraordinary.
4.2.16 Discovery of the True Cross and St. Helena by Giambattista Tiepolo
This painting was made by Giambattista at the beginning of the 1740s for the ceiling of the Venetian church of the Cappuccine in Castello. It depicts Helena, mother of Emperor Constantin, discovering the True Cross during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In the bottom center next to the cross, you can see the victorious figure of St. Helena, with angels hovering above her. Studies show that there are significant iconographic changes between the model and the final work. Haskell suggests that this might be due to the taste of the client, the patriarch Antonio Correr. This work was much praised by Tiepolo’s contemporaries because of his extraordinary talent with color.
These are the masterpieces that impressed me during my visit. Nevertheless, please remember that this is just my personal point of view and I believe that during my next visit to this gallery, I will discover more. Some other highlights that you might find interesting are Jacopo Bassano’s “Adoration of the Shepherds”, Giovanni Bellini’s “Sacred Conversation”, Vittore Carpaccio’s “Cycle of St. Ursula”, Lorenzo Lotto’ “Gentleman in His Study”, Andrea Mantegna’s “St. George”, Giambattista Pittoni’s “Penitent Magdalene”, Tintoretto’s “Lamentation”, “Resurrection” and “Miracle of the Slave”, Titian’s “Virgin and Child” and Paolo Veronese’s “Battle of Lepanto”. I also hope that during your visit, you will be lucky enough to see Paolo Veronese’s “Feast in the House of Levy” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”.
4.3 Temporary exhibition: “Canova, Hayez, Cicognara. The last of Venice’s final glories”
As I mentioned before, I don’t usually write about temporary exhibitions. However, considering this one is about Hayez and Canova, I decided to give you a brief introduction to some of the famous artworks. In general, this exhibition is held in various rooms with 10 themes, which are 1. The return of the horses to St. Mark’s, 2. Leopoldo Cicognara between Canova and Hayez, 3. The arrival in Venice of Giuseppe Bossi’s drawings, 4. The tribute of the Venetian provinces to the court of Vienna, 4 A. The Giove Egioco and the tribute’s volumes, 5. Teachers and pupils at the Venetian Accademia, 6. Byron in Venice, 7. The myth of Canova as a national glory and universal icon, 8. Hayez creates Romanticism and leaves Venice and 9. The casts from antique sculptures in the collections of the Gallerie dell’Accademia. Most people probably know Hayez and Canova, but who is Leopoldo Cicognara? After a disputed political career in Milan, he became the president of the Accademia de Belle Arti in Venice in 1808. As a world-renowned theoretician, scholar, historian, archaeologist and writer on art, he re-evaluated the contemporary artists who were being trained in the Accademia, including the young Hayez. Also during this period of time, he became a close friend and major interpreter of Antonio Canova. Among his published books is one called “The Works of Antonio Canova in Sculpture and Modelling”. Below I’ll show you some of their works which I think are very important. Please note that the explanations are based on what I read from the info boards on site.
4.3.1 Portrait of the Cicognara Family by Francesco Hayez
After his stay in Rome with his second wife Lucia Fantinati and his son, Francesco, from the first marriage, Leopoldo Cicognara commissioned Hayez to paint a portrait of his family, which recalls the deep friendship between him and Canova. As you can partially see in the picture above, the sculptor is represented by the large bust to the right of the couple. The print we see held by Leopoldo and Lucia is also by Canova. It depicts a large statue which was originally designed for St. Peter’s Basilica or the Pantheon. Nevertheless, because of the rejection of the Vatican curia, it was never realized. Being one of Hayez’s masterpieces, this portrait was kept in Canova’s studio in Rome before being sent to Venice.
4.3.2 Rinaldo and Armida by Francesco Hayez
Please note that these two paintings actually belong to the Gallerie dell’Accademia so even if the temporary exhibition is finished I think you can still see them here. They are decisive accomplishments for Hayez’s training and they confirm that the expectations of Canova and Cicognara were well met or even exceeded. In 1809 Hayez won a competition from the Accademia of Venice for one year of study at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome but he remained there until 1814. It was in 1813 that he created and sent the “Rinaldo and Armida” to Venice as a test piece for his fourth year of residence in Rome. As I learnt from the info board, in the two paintings, “there is an echo of Canova’s sculpture in the fragrant nudity of Armida as well as of Titian, whose sensuality was always congenial to Hayez”.
4.3.3 Portrait of Lord Byron in his “The Corsair” by Giambattista Gigola
“The Corsair” is Lord Byron’s most popular work, of which ten thousand copies were sold on the day it was published. In it you can find the author’s portrait by Giambattista Gigola, framed by allegorical figures. At the top is Fame held back by the monsters of Envy. At the bottom are five mournful cherubs weeping for Lord Byron’s death in 1824 in Greece, where he had gone to fight for its freedom.
4.3.4 Ideal head of Helen by Antonio Canova
As a token of gratitude, Antonio Canova personally gave this magnificent effigy of Helen to Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi. It was kept in Palazzo Albrizzi until the end of the 20th century and can be considered the most beautiful head he ever modeled. This “divine sculpture” as defined by Cicognara, was the great attraction of her famous salon and even Lord Byron admired and devoted an epigram to it in November 1816:
In this beloved marble view
Above the works and thoughts of man
What nature could, but would not, do
And Beauty and Canova can!
4.3.5 Self-portrait by Francesco Hayez
“In his experiments with the new expressive frontiers of Romanticism, Hayez regenerated, not only history painting, but also another genre held to be secondary, portrait.” In this extraordinary self-portrait and in the portraits made during this period of time, Hayez showed great talent to go beyond physical appearance and reveal the soul and psychology of the sitter. “Through an audacious visual angle, he has managed to give a direct vision of himself.”
After the fall of the Republic of Venice, a supportive group of artists and scholars made great efforts to bring the rebirth and glory of contemporary art. Canova and Cicognara focused above all on Francesco Hayez, hoping that he could retrieve the past splendor of Italian painting, something that Canova had done for sculpture. During the years in Venice, Hayez created Romanticism but it was fully understood and spread in Milan. Coincidentally, when I was in Milan, I also attended a temporary exhibition of him, where I saw a big collection of his works including “The Kiss” and “Portrait, Ballerina Carlotta Chabert as Venus”. If, after my introduction, you have grown interest in this leading artist of Romanticism in the mid-19th century Milan, please click here to learn more about him.
I hope that after my introduction of the gallery, you have at least an idea of what you can expect here. Just like I emphasized before, if you are a fan of art of the Venetian school, you have to spare some time to come here. From Paolo Veneziano to Bellini, from Giorgione to Titian, from Veronese to Tintoretto, from Pietro Longhi to Rosalba Carriera, from Canaletto to Tiepolo, from Hayez to Canova, Gallerie dell’Accademia offers you an art feast which will take you weeks or even months to “digest”. I’m thinking of a second visit not only because of the “Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci, but also because I want to know more about some other paintings in the rich collection. As you can see, this time, I was more focused on Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. In the next trip, I’ll pay more attention to Pietro Longhi, Rosalba Carriera, Canaletto and Tiepolo. By the way, if you have discovered some masterpieces during your visit, please don’t forget to inform me. I am not professional but I do love art, in particular painting and sculpture.
In my next post, I’ll focus on the other two important churches which are not members of the Chorus Association. That is to say, St. Mark’s Basilica, the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture, and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century Benedictine church designed by Andrea Palladio in classical Renaissance style.