Following the previous post about the Doge’s Palace, this post will be about another museum of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE), Museo Correr. Also included in the itinerary is a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Venice and to the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana. 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. Museums of the MUVE
There are in total 11 museums belonging to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, which manages and develops the cultural and artistic heritage of Venice and the islands. I am satisfied that I visited 8 of them but I wish I had more time to know better about them. The 11 museums are:
- Doge’s Palace (formerly the residence of the Doge of Venice and the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, now a museum)
- Museo Correr (the Imperial Rooms, the Canova collection, the art and history of Venice). Included in the combined itinerary are the National Archaeological Museum of Venice and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana.
- Clock Tower (visit the terrace on the roof and learn about the clock mechanism. Please note that visits are only allowed with prior booking)
- Ca’ Rezzonico (museum of the 18th century Venice)
- Palazzo Mocenigo Museum (museum of textiles and costumes with the new itinerary dedicated to perfume)
- Carlo Goldoni’s House (not only Carlo Goldoni’s residence but also a museum exhibiting collections of his life and works)
- Ca’ Pesaro (International Gallery of Modern Art)
- Palazzo Fortuny (Mariano Fortuny’s own photography, stage-design, textile-design and painting atelier)
- Glass Museum (on the island of Murano)
- Lace Museum (formerly seat of the Burano Lace School on the island of Burano)
- Natural History Museum
The museums that I didn’t visit in this foundation are the Clock Tower, because I didn’t book a tour in advance; the Palazzo Fortuny, because it was closed and will be open again from the 24th March 2018 and the Natural History Museum because I didn’t have enough time and I’m not particularly interested in this kind of museums. In five posts, I’m gonna write about all the ones I visited, briefly informing you of the opening hours, ticket prices and the floor plans of them (some of the museums are so big that you might easily get lost in them) and of course focusing on their historical, cultural and artistic values. I hope when you go to Venice and visit them you will have a successful and meanigful trip. Now let’s keep moving and take a look at Museo Correr as well as the National Archaeological Museum of Venice and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana.
5. Museo Correr
Including the National Archaeological Museum of Venice and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana
5.1 Practical information
5.1.1 Opening hours
- 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 – 17:00
- 1st April – 31st October: 10:00 – 19:00
Please note that the ticket office closes one hour before the official closing time of the museum and the opening time shown on Google Map could be inaccurate.
5.1.2 Ticket prices
It seems that there’s no single ticket just for entering Museo Correr. Instead you can buy St. Mark’s Square Museums Ticket which is valid for the Doge’s Palace and the combined itinerary of Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
- Full price: 20 euros
- Reduced price: 13 euros (children from 6 to 14, students from 15 to 25, citizens over 65 and so on)
If you wanna know more about the reduced price, free entrance, family offer, school offer and so on please click here.
As I mentioned in the third chapter, if you plan to visit more than 4 civic museums, please consider buying the “Museum Pass” and if you plan to visit the civic museums as well as the churches of the Chorus Association, please consider buying the “City Pass” from VeneziaUnica.
5.1.3 Floor plan
It is VERY important to figure out the layout of this museum because it is composed of several sections of different themes and you can get lost in it easily. First of all, Museo Correr itself includes 1) the Imperial Rooms of the Royal Palace, where the Empress Elizabeth of Austria resided during her visit in Venice; 2) the neoclassical Rooms of the Royal Palace hosting the Canova Collection; 3) the Venetian Life and Culture exhibition; 4) the “Wunderkammer” or the “Collection of Wonders” and 5) the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery). In the combined itinerary, you can also visit the National Archeological Museum of Venice consisting of two groups of rooms for the “Chronological Tour” and for the “Antiquities from different collections” respectively and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana consisting of the “Antechamber” and the “Library Hall”. Among all the sections, only the Pinacoteca is located on the 2nd floor and all the other ones are on the first floor either in the Procuratie Nuove or in the Napoleonic Wing.
Rather confusing right? To be honest, I got lost in the museum myself. At the beginning I was in one neoclassical room, and then all of a sudden I entered an imperial room. Then I was in the Venetian Life and Culture exhibition and then I entered another imperial room. Fortunately, upon leaving, I figured out the plan of the exhibition rooms and I’ll explain it to you here so your trip will be more organized and better oriented. First of all, before climbing up the stairs to enter the ticket office, you should see a big info board which includes a floor plan of Museo Correr. You’d better take a picture of it and use it as your guide because it’s very clear and practical. For example, the Ballroom is marked yellow, the Imperial Rooms of the Royal Palace are marked grey, the neoclassical rooms hosting the Canova Collecting are marked orange, the rooms of Venetian Life and Culture are marked red, the monumental rooms are marked purple etc. In fact, rooms of the same theme are arranged together but because I didn’t see the map, I went through all the rooms on one side of the floor and came back through the ones on the other side. That’s why I saw only half of the collection of the museum, but all the themes, on one way and the other half on the way back. Don’t make the same mistake as I did.
While you are in each of the rooms, do check the info sheets and info boards. They will not only provide you with an explanation of the room and/or the collection held here but also show you where (or in which room) on the floor you are (on the map), to which section this room belongs and to which theme this room and/or its collection is dedicated. I’d like to draw your attention to one tiny detail, which is the rectangle with certain color located on the top left corner of the info board. The colors of the rectangles are in accordance with the ones I mentioned before allocated to the different sections shown on the floor plan at the entrance. If as I suggested, you have taken a picture of it, you can easily tell which exhibition of the museum you are in simply by matching the color of the rectangle with the colors of the sections.
After making sure you won’t get lost in the museum, I think we can start our tour. The collection here is so huge that I didn’t finish visiting all the rooms. However, what impressed me most are the Imperial Rooms, the Canova Collection, some parts of the Venetian Life and Culture exhibition and of the “Wunderkammer”, the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana. Now, I’ll give you a introduction to them so that you know what you can expect here. Trust me, this museum will enhance your understanding and knowledge of Venice to a new level.
5.2 The Imperial Rooms
This itinerary was only opened in 2012 to the public and it includes nine restored rooms which were decorated during the Hapsburg period. The decoration of the rooms for the Austrian Empire happened in two phases, with the first one being between 1836 and 1838, before the arrival of Emperor Ferdinand I, who stayed here when he was crowned King of Lombardy-Venetia in September 1838 in Milan. The second phase happened between 1854 and 1856, before the state visit of the young sovereigns Franz Joseph and Elisabeth (you probably know her better by the name “Sissi”), which lasted thirty-eight days between November 1856 and January 1857. Later between October 1861 and May 1862, the empress lived here for another seven months and it is said that her husband Franz came here by train from Vienna at least ten times.
The nine rooms are composed of the dining room for weekday lunches, the Lombardy-Venetia Throne Room, the Audience Room, the Empress’ Bathroom, the Empress’ Study, the Empress’ Boudoir, the Empress’ Bed Chamber, the antechamber of the apartments and the Oval Room. Now, let’s learn some facts about some of them. Please note that the information I’m gonna provide is based on the information from the official website of Museo Correr and from the info boards on site.
First, the dining room for weekday lunches (as you can see in the first picture above). It served both as a dining room for non-official occasions and an antechamber to the following Lombardy-Venetia Throne Room. Designed and executed by Giuseppe Borsato, its decorations “are among the most successful in the palace and are testimony to the continuation of the neoclassical style long after the Napoleonic age”. What’s particularly noteworthy in this room are the frescoes framed by marmorino (a special kind of Venetian plaster), the winged relief figures in gilded stucco, the valued ceiling, the frieze depicting figures of the marine divinities and the lavish French table center piece in gilded bronze (not originally from this palace).
The Audience Room (as you can see in the second picture above) is one of the largest public rooms in the palace and is next to Sissi’s private apartment. It was here that the empress received individuals and small groups of people during her stay in Venice. It is possible that this room dates back to the end of the 18th century when the the rooms were still used by the Procurators of St. Mark’s in the Republic of Venice. Among the furnishings you should pay particular attention to the ten large 18th-century engraved, gilded Venetian armchairs with their original velvet brocades and the large glass chandelier from Murano dating back to the 19th century.
Now let’s take a look at Sissi’s apartment. It consists of the bathroom, the study, the boudoir and the bed chamber. Decorated and redecorated during various periods of time, the study was used both by the Vice-Queen of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia and by Sissi as a private space for reading and writing. The large piece of furniture standing in the middle will surely attract your attention. Made in neo-baroque style, it dates back to the mid-19th century and is a “showcase” of different Venetian handcrafts (intaglio, inlay work, lacque, painted mirror etc.). In the boudoir, if you take a close look at the decorations (as you can see in the fourth picture not he gallery) such as the garland motifs, you will probably notice the frequent recurrence of lilies of the valley and corn flowers. They are Sissi’s favorite flowers. Also in this room, the medallion in the center of the ceiling depicts “The Protective Goddess of the Arts”, whose features are similar to those of the empress. In the bed chamber, the empress’ bed is no longer present. The dormeuse you see in the middle is one of the few pieces of furniture from the Napoleonic period that have remained in the palace. It belonged to the step-son of Napoleon, Eugène de Beauharnais, viceroy of the short-lived Kingdom of Italy founded by Bonaparte. By the way, do take a look at the painting between the windows. It is an altarpiece by Carlo Caliari, son of the famous 16th-century painter Paolo Veronese. Originally made for a church in Belluno, it was taken to the Chapel of the Royal Palace during the Napoleonic era.
The last room I’d like to talk about in this section is the Oval Room (as you can see in the third picture above), which, telling from its name, is an oval-shaped room. It was the conjunction between the public rooms of the palace overlooking St. Mark’s Square and the royal apartments overlooking the gardens and the Venice Basin. During Franz Joseph and Elizabeth‘s stay, they sometimes had their breakfast, lunch or dinner here. Created by Luigi Pizzi, the remarkable marble busts are of Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife Marie-Louise of Austria.
If you wanna know more about the Imperial Rooms, please click here. Besides these nine rooms, there are more neoclassical rooms in the Royal Palace. Now let’s move on and visit them together with the “Canova Collection”.
5.3 Neoclassical rooms hosting the “Canova Collection”
This section of the museum invites you to visit some other neoclassical rooms of the palace such as the Ballroom, the Napoleonic Loggia, the Throne Rooms, the Dining Hall, etc. Don’t mix the names up with the ones of the Imperial Rooms. More importantly, a collection of Canova’s works is exhibited in these rooms under five themes of “Canova, from drawing to model”, “Canova, the beginning”, “Canova and Venice”, “Canova, the Empire, the Glory” and “Napoleonic Gallery”. If you are a fan of this great neoclassical artist, you shouldn’t miss the collection. The info sheets and info boards in each of the rooms will introduce to you what these works are and detailed explanations will be given to the ones of particular importance. As shown in the pictures above, I’ll talk more about the Ballroom (the first picture above) and one sculpture called Daedalus and Icarus (the third picture above), one of Antonio Canova’s early masterpieces.
The Ballroom should be the first room that you will visit in this museum, even before the Imperial Rooms. As I read from the official website, this room should also host some works by Canova but when I was there (November 2017), I didn’t see any. I guess that was because of some rearrangements? Anyway, this luxurious ballroom is unique in the palace because of its glorious empire-style decor. Lorenzo Santi began the work in 1822 based on a design and Giuseppe Borsato finished it between 1837 and 1838. At both ends, the loggias were intended to house the orchestra and above the gilded Corinthian capitals, two small apses make the upper part of the room into an oval. Above the chandelier, remember to take a look at the central fresco on the ceiling. Painted by Odorico Politi, it depicts “Peace surrounded by the Virtues and the Genius of Olympus” and is a clear reference to the restoration of the House of Habsburg after the era of Napoleon. Now please go through the Imperials Rooms and continue our visit to the neoclassical rooms and the “Canova Collection”. If you wanna know more about the other rooms, please click here.
In the “Canova Collection”, many of his works are exhibited. For example, a self-portrait, the bas-reliefs of scenes from Homer’s epic poems, Virgil’s Aeneid and Plato’s Phaedrus, the “Winged Cupid” (a plaster cast of the marble sculpture produced for the Russian prince Jusupov) and so on. However, what impressed me most was the famous “Daedalus and Icarus“, created by the 20-year-old Antonio Canova. Commissioned by the procurator Pietro Vettor Pisani for his Palazzo Pisani Moretta overlooking the Grand Canal, this sculptural group suggests a contrast between the classical model (Icarus) and the “characteristically Venetian particular 18th-century pictorial naturalism“, inspired by Giambattista Piazzetta’s group of heads. If you wanna know more about the Greek mythology about the wings of Daedalus and his son Icarus, please click here. If you wanna know more about this sculptural group, please click here. As I read from the info board, presented at the “Fiera della Sensa” in 1777, this artwork was a huge success and earned Canova 100 gold zecchins. He used this money to travel to Rome for the first time and it was there that he “encountered” the classical antiquity and met various supporters. Indirectly, we can even say that the “Daedalus and Icarus” resulted in Canova’s decisive turn to the classical and his later renown all over the world. Now please follow me and enter another section of the museum, Venetian Life and Culture.
5.4 Venetian Life and Culture
This section of the museum illustrates the life and culture of the Venetian Republic over the centuries. Instead of offering a continuous narrative, the collection is divided into various parts which make up an idea of Venice including its history, civil authorities, political system, festivities, art, etc. The themes of the rooms are Pisani Library in San Vidal, the Magistrature (Civil Authorities), Coinage, Venice and the Sea, the Arsenal, the Bucintoro, Festivities and Arts and Crafts. What interested me most were the rooms about the Pisani Library in San Vidal, the Coinage and the theme Venice and the Sea. Now I’ll talk a bit more about them.
5.4.1 Pisani Library in San Vidal
Once entering this room, I’m sure you will be attracted to the monumental bookcases. Made of walnut, they came from the Pisani family palace in San Vidal. They are worth appreciating because they are magnificent examples of the 17th-century furniture, a combination of classical style, reflected on the two orders of Corinthian columns, and baroque style, reflected on the large volutes of the columns of the upper order. Within them are rare manuscripts and printed works dating from the early 16th century to the end of the 18th century. In the center of the room, as you can see in the picture above, is a big 18th-century chandelier made of Murano glass. Like the one in the next room, it was probably produced by the famous workshop of Giuseppe Briati.
5.4.2 The Coinage
The Correr Museum has an extraordinary numismatic collection because it includes almost all the coins minted by the Republic of Venice from its foundation (around 820) to its fall (1797). While you are inside the room, please note that the showcases of the selected pieces are arranged chronologically, clockwise around the room. As you can see in the picture above, these coins are the oldest ones and from here on you can start your exploration. Apparently the coins played the role of a currency in trading. Nevertheless, because of Venice’s strategic position on the sea, they also reflect the development of the city’s history. If you are interested in knowing how the development of the coins reflects the development of the Republic, please click here and scroll down to “11. Coinage”. Also related to coins, the showcase in the middle exhibits tools and dies from the Venetian Mint. On the walls, pay attention to a large canvas depicting “Santa Giustina and the Treasurers”. It is a work by Tintoretto in 1580.
5.4.3 Venice and the Sea
Thanks to its favorable geographical location, Venice gained absolute commercial and naval power in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean seas. I still remember that during my trip to Croatia, I visited the Venetian works of defence between the 16th and 17th centuries in Šibenik and Zadar. They are also inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and if you are interested you can click here to read about them. The key to Venice’s success on the seas was its fleet and its power largely depended on the galleys, which were driven by both oar-power and sail-power. It is said that these galleys can travel the length of the Adriatic in just a few days. The crew on one gallery usually comprised 150 men who were recruited in the Republic’s dominions but in emergent cases, the oarsmen could also be prisoners, who served on the ships for a commutation of their sentences.
Inside the room, I suggest you take a look at the two models of galleys in the center of the room, together with some shipboard tools and original navigational instruments. On the end wall, two paintings depicting “Naval Clashes near the Curzolari Islands” recall a scene in the famous Battle of Lepanto (1571). On the side walls, you can see on the left, one painting depicting an incident in the Battle of the Metelino Channel on the 8th September 1690 and on the right, one painting depicting another battle in the waters of Metelino (20th September 1698). If you wanna know more about the historical events depicted in the paintings, please click here and scroll down to “12. Venice and the Sea”. Now let’s move on to another section of the museum, the “Wunderkammer”.
5.5 The “Wunderkammer” (collection of wonders)
In 2013, nine rooms on the first floor of the Museo Correr have been reset to host the surprising “collection of wonders”. Over 300 artworks are categorized and exhibited in the nine rooms based on eight different theme, which are Medieval Venice, a crossroads of precious artworks; European Renaissance in Venice; In a Venetian merchant’s home; Venetian 16th century amidst culture, luxury and marvels; The masterpieces of Renaissance majolica; Small Veneto bronzes from the Renaissance; Venetian 16th-century bronzes; and De Barbari and the art of woodcut printing. In each of the rooms, the info board will give you an elaboration on the specific theme presented there.
Considering I’m a fan of painting, I recommend you taking a look at the small “Dio Padre” by Lorenzo Lotto, the “Portrait of Ferrante d’Avalos” traditionally attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, a drawing with “Sant’Anna” by Dürer as well as a “Madonna and Child”, a “Pietà” and the remarkable “Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” (as you can in the first picture above) recently attributed to Vittore Carpaccio. Of course, you can also see many sacred art objects, bronze statues and plaques, medals, woodcuts and so on. All in all, if you don’t have three hours to spend in Museo Correr, in this section, I think you should just choose the themes you are interested in and go to the corresponding rooms. If you have enough time to spend here, I suggest you walk through the nine rooms and read more about the pieces that catch your attention immediately. Now let’s keep moving and enter the rooms dedicated to the Venice National Archeological Museum.
5.6 The National Archeological Museum of Venice
While you are visiting this section of the museum, please keep in mind that it is composed of two parts, namely, “The Chronological Tour” and “Antiquities from Other Collections“. The former is entirely dedicated to sculptures and you should go from Room 3 to Room 10 to have a chronological tour while the latter includes rooms opened during the 1950s with collections organized in different themes (rooms 17, 18 and 20) and in different materials (rooms 1, 2, 7, 14 and 15). Again, on the floor plan at the entrance, the two parts are marked in different colors so it should not be too difficult to distinguish them.
The Venice National Archeological Museum houses not only an ancient collection of sculpture but also bronze and ceramic works, gems and coins. Since 1939, it has been housing the Archaeological Section of the Correr Museum with its collections of Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian antiquities. The origin of the museum dates back to the 16th century when Domenico and Giovanni Grimani left a large legacy (a large part of their antiquity collections) to the Republic of Venice. Further donations in the 17th and 18th centuries made the collection even richer. The initial layout of the collection was organized by Carlo Anti between 1923 and 1926 and it basically reminded unchanged until Bruna Forlati extended the museum from 1949 to 1954. The latest additions of the museum came in 1963 with collections of ceramic, glass and gems from the Museum of San Donato in Zera and in 1982 when Giancarlo Ligabue donated various prehistoric and protohistoric objects in bronze. If you wanna know what are exhibited in each of the rooms, please click here. Now let’s enter the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana, two of my favorite rooms in Museo Correr.
5.7 The Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana
The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana is called National Library of St Mark’s in English and it is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. Please note that the two rooms we are going to visit are located on the first floor so after your visit to the National Archeological Museum of Venice, you should see them easily. It was a bit embarrassed of me when I went to the Biblioteca Marciana main building facing the Piazzetta and asked about how to enter the two rooms… Anyway, do remember that once you are in Museo Correr, you will find them according to the direction shown on the info boards. There is more than one Biblioteca Marciana? Well, there’s only one but it is composed of different parts. In order to understand this, let’s start by looking at the library’s history.
The library was originally set in a building designed by Jacopo Sansovino. The first sixteen arcaded bays of his design were constructed from 1537 to 1553, with works on frescoes and other decorations continuing until 1560. In 1570, Sansovino died, but in 1588, Vincenzo Scamozzi undertook the construction of the additional five bays based on Sansovino’s design and brought the building further down to the embankment, next to Sansovino’s building for the Venetian mint, the Zecca. The first collection came from the Byzantine humanist, scholar, patron and collector, Cardinal Bessarion, who gave his codices, manuscripts and some printed books to the Republic of Venice as a gift. As I learnt from Wikipedia, later, the library profited from a law of 1603 that required that a copy be deposited in it of all books printed at Venice and in the late 18th century, it collection was enriched by the transfer of the collections accumulated in several monasteries, such as SS. Giovanni and Paolo in Venice and S. Giovanni di Verdara in Padua, which were suppressed under the Napoleonic rule. In 1811 the library was moved to the Doge’s Palace because Napoleon wanted to use the occupied rooms for the residence of the king of Italy. It stayed there until 1904, when the collection was moved to Sansovino’s Zecca. Since then, the library has been expanding back to its original quarters including the two rooms we are going to have a look at now.
The rooms we will see are the antechamber and the library hall, both designed by Jacopo Sansovino. On the table in the antechamber, you will find info sheets introducing to you not only the history of the two rooms but also the decorations. In the same room, you will see some Greek and Roman statues, which were donated by Giovanni Grimani to the library. Before, there were more than 150 pieces of them but nowadays most of them are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum. What you should not miss is the central canvas painting “Wisdom” on the ceiling (as you can see in the third picture above), a work painted in around 1560 by Titian. The trompe-l’œil perspective of the ceiling is the work of Cristoforo and Stefano Rosa and was done at the same time as the painting. Now please follow me and enter the magnificent Library Hall.
If you enter the monumental rooms from the Archeological Museum, you will probably arrive at the library hall first. Nevertheless, I recommend you walking directly into the antechamber because there you can obtain some info sheets explaining to you what the paintings on the walls and the on ceiling in the library hall are about and who their painters are. On the walls, I’d like to draw your attention to five paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto and two paintings by Paolo Veronese. On the ceiling, I’d like to draw your attention to another three paintings by Paolo Veronese. Though the hall is richly decorated, I believe you can find them rather easily by comparing them with the small pictures on the info sheets. Some other artists who contributed to the paintings here include Schiavone, Salviati, Battista Franco Veneziano, Lambert Sustris, Giulio Licinio, Giambattista Zelotti and so on. I learnt from the info sheet that it was Titian who chose the painters for the ceiling and when the job was finished, he together with Sansovino, having heard the opinions of the other painters, informed the procurator of St. Mark’s that Veronese was the one who had done the best job. Then the procurator gave Veronese a gold chain as a symbol of honor.
Please note that you can exit the museum from the antechamber but please DON’T do that because on the second floor a very important section of the museum is hosted, the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery). All the sections we talked about above including the Imperial Rooms, the neoclassical Rooms hosting the Canova Collection, the Venetian Life and Culture exhibition, the “Wunderkammer”, the National Archeological Museum of Venice and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana, are located on the first floor and now please follow me to go upstairs and take a look at Venetian painting from its very earliest days to the 16th century.
5.8 The Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery)
On the second floor of the Procuratie Nuove is the picture gallery of Museo Correr. It occupies 19 rooms and exhibits not only works of the Venetian school but also some very important ones from outside the Veneto region. Here you can see incomparable masterpieces by Paolo, Lorenzo and Stefano Veneziano, by members of the Vivarini and Bellini families, by Vittore Carpaccio and so on. As for the paintings by artists from outside the Veneto, you can see two rare and beautiful “Pietà”, one by Cosmè Tura (as you can see in the fifth picture above) and the other one, probably painted in Venice, by Antonello da Messina. What’s more, in some of the rooms you can also see works by some German and Flemish painters which testify to the international influence of Venetian art.
The general themes of the 19 rooms are: Paolo Veneziano and 14th-century Veneto painters; Lorenzo Veneziano; Flamboyant Gothic; Gothic painting, Stefano Veneziano, Jacobello di Bonomo and Gothic artists; the early 15th century, international Gothic; Cosmè Tura; the Ferrara school, Bartolomeo Vivarini and Leonardo Boldrini; the Room of Four Doors; 15th-century flemish artists; Antonello da Messina, Dieric Bouts and Hugo van der Goes; Flemish and German artists; the Bellini family; Alvise Vivarini and his world, Cima da Conegliano; Vittore Carpaccio; Carpaccio and minor artists of the early 16th century; followers of Bellini, collection of ivories; 16th- and 17th- century Greek Madonnas; 15th- and 16th-century majolica and the library. As you can see, I highlighted some of the big names in history and if you are interested in one or more of them, you can go to the correspondent rooms to admire their masterpieces and at the same time learn about their significant roles in painting history from the info boards. Personally, I’d like you to pay attention to an early version of the “Crucifixion” and the “Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels” by Giovanni Bellini (as you can see in the first and second picture above) as well as the “Two Venetian Ladies” by Vittore Carpaccio (as you can see in the third picture above). If you wanna know about the masterpieces in each of the rooms please click here.
Now I’ve finished giving you a rather detailed introduction to Museo Correr as well as the Archeological Museum and the two monumental rooms of Biblioteca Marciana. I hope that after reading this post, you will have a clear idea of its layout because only in this way can you truly make the most of your time here. As you have probably realized already, the museum is so big that it seems impossible to take a close look at all the collections here. Well, you don’t have to. As I said, if you have read my this post, you can just stand in front of the floor plan at the entrance and choose which sections of the museum and which particular themes of them that you are interested in. After locating the chosen rooms (themes) on the plan, you can just go to them directly and if on your way you see something curious, you can always make a stop. In my opinion, this is a very efficient way because it both saves your time and energy. If you read about all the pieces in all the rooms in such as huge museum, at the beginning you might still be excited and interested but after 2 or 3 hours, you will mostly likely feel tired and bored. Why not spending your precious time on something that you really like? In the next post, I’ll introduce to you another two museums of the MUVE scattered on the main island of Venice, that is to say, Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro which will show you the 18th-century Venice and modern art in Venice.