Venice – the civic museums (Mocenigo Palace & Carlo Goldoni’s house)

Following the previous posts about the Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro, this post will be about another two museums of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE), that is to say, Mocenigo Palace & Carlo Goldoni’s house. 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.


威尼斯及其泻湖: 威尼斯始建于5世纪,由118个小岛构成,10世纪时成为当时最主要的海上力量。整个威尼斯城就是一幅非凡的建筑杰作,即便是城中最不起眼的建筑也可能是出自诸如焦尔焦内(Giorgione)、提香(Titian)、丁托列托(Tintoretto)、韦罗内塞(Veronese)等世界大师之手。

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.

威尼斯(Venice)是一个别致地方。出了火车站,你立刻便会觉得;这里没有汽车,要到那儿,不是搭小火轮,便是雇“刚朵拉”(Gondola)。大运河穿过威尼斯像反写的S;这就是大街。另有小河道四百十八条,这些就是小胡同。轮船像公共汽车,在大街上走;“刚朵拉”是一种摇橹的小船,威尼斯所特有,它那儿都去。威尼斯并非没有桥;三百七十八座,有的是。只要不怕转弯抹角,那儿都走得到,用不着下河去。可是轮船中人还是很多,“刚朵拉”的买卖也似乎并不坏。 威尼斯是“海中的城”,在意大利半岛的东北角上,是一群小岛,外面一道沙堤隔开亚得利亚海。在圣马克方场的钟楼上看,团花簇锦似的东一块西一块在绿波里荡漾着。远处是水天相接,一片茫茫。这里没有什么煤烟,天空干干净净;在温和的日光中,一切都像透明的。中国人到此,仿佛在江南的水乡;夏初从欧洲北部来的,在这儿还可看见清清楚楚的春天的背影。海水那么绿,那么酽,会带你到梦中去。

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 MarkProcuratie Nuove, Napoleonic Wing, Procuratie Vecchie, the Campanile of St Mark’s churchBiblioteca 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:

  1. Doge’s Palace (formerly the residence of the Doge of Venice and the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, now a museum)
  2. 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.
  3. Clock Tower (visit the terrace on the roof and learn about the clock mechanism. Please note that visits are only allowed with prior booking)
  4. Ca’ Rezzonico (museum of the 18th-century Venice)
  5. Palazzo Mocenigo Museum (museum of textiles and costumes with the new itinerary dedicated to perfume)
  6. Carlo Goldoni’s House (not only Carlo Goldoni’s residence but also a museum exhibiting collections of his life and works)
  7. Ca’ Pesaro (International Gallery of Modern Art)
  8. Palazzo Fortuny (Mariano Fortuny’s own photography, stage-design, textile-design and painting atelier)
  9. Glass Museum (on the island of Murano)
  10. Lace Museum (formerly seat of the Burano Lace School on the island of Burano)
  11. 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 start this post with Palazzo Mocenigo, the museum of textiles and costumes with a new itinerary dedicated to perfume.

5. Mocenigo Palace

5.1 Practical information

5.1.1 Opening hours

  • 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 – 16:00
  • 1st April – 31st October: 10:00 – 17:00
  • Closed on Mondays, 25th December, 1st January and 1st May

Please note that the ticket office closes half an 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

  • Full price: 8 euros
  • Reduced price: 5.5 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

The museum is located on the first floor (piano nobile) of the palace and is composed of 20 rooms. The first 13 rooms exhibit the life of a Venetian nobleman between the 17th and 18th centuries including furnishings, paintings, garments and accessories. The rest of the rooms are dedicated to a new itinerary related to a particular aspect of the history of Venetian tradition, perfume. I strongly recommend you trying this section of the museum out because it is very interactive. With the assistance of multimedia devices and in particular 24 containers of essences, I gained much experience and knowledge about perfume and had much fun here. In all the rooms, there are info cardboards available showing you your location and telling you more about the history, furnishings, paintings, garments and so on. Now, let’s start our tour by leaning about the history of the palace and the Mocenigo family.

5.2 History of the palace & the Mocenigo family

This building is of Gothic origin but was extensively rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century, which gave it its current appearance. From then on, it has been the residence of the San Stae branch of the Mocenigo family, one of the most important families of the Venetian patriciate. As you can see in the first picture above, both façades (one facing the San Stae canal and one facing the Salizàda street) are featured with large Serlian windows, a common characteristic in Venetian architecture during the 17th and 18th centuries, testifying to the influence of Palladianism in Venice. The first time I learnt about this kind of window was during my trip to Vicenza, a beautiful city where 23 monuments, palaces, public and religious buildings designed by Andrea Palladio are located in the center. They are all inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Briefly, the most common structure of a Serlian window is that it consists of a central light with a semicircular arch over, carried on an impost consisting of a small entablature, under which, and enclosing two other lights, one on each side, are pilasters. It appeared quite frequently in Palladio’s designs and is particularly notable in the arcades of the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza. Due to this reason, Serlian window is also called Palladian window. However, please note that this design was first used by Donato Bramante and later mentioned by Sebastiano Serlio (probably where the name of this window came from?) in his seven-volume architectural book “Tutte l’opere d’architettura et prospetiva”.

When you enter from the street entrance and walk to the piano nobile, you will notice that like Ca’ Rezzonico, this palace also has a portego de mezo and a large central hall (portego), which is flanked by rooms on both sides. This is typical in almost all the Venetian patrician homes. The rococo or neoclassical frescoes and furnishings date back to the second half of the 18th century and many of the rooms are also decorated with paintings celebrating the family’s glories, particularly when Alvise IV was the doge between 1763 and 1778.

Since we talked about Alvise IV, let’s take a look at the reason why the Mocenigo family is one of the most important families of the Venetian patriciate. One of the most outstanding contributions that this family made to the Republic of Venice is that it provided the sovereign state with in total 7 doges. They are chronologically Tommaso (1414-1423), Pietro (1474-1476), Giovanni (1478-1485), Alvise I (1570-1577, doge at the time of the victorious Battle of Lepanto), Alvise II (1700-1709), Alvise III (1722-1732) and Alvise IV (1763-78). Besides the doges, numerous procurators, ambassadors, captains, clergymen and scholars who served the Republic also came from this renowned family. The main branch of this family used to live in the palace at San Samuele while the branch descended from Nicolo Mocenigo, brother of Doge Alvise I, settled here in this palace at the beginning of the 17th century.

The family’s last descendent, Alvise Nicolo entrusted the palace to the city of Venice in 1945 under the premise that it would “become an Art Gallery to complete the Correr Museum”. Thirty years later, with the death of his wife, it was left to the city. Opened to the public in 1945, it is nowadays not only a museum but also the seat of the Study Center of the History of Fabrics and Costumes, housing a large collection of clothes and fabrics which belong to the Venice Civic Museums. Most of them came from the Correr, Guggenheim, Cini and Grassi collections. On the mezzanine, the library is stocked with a variety of books specializing in the history of fabrics, costumes and fashion. While going through the 20 rooms on the piano nobile, you can take a glance at the furnishings and paintings which reflect different aspects of the life of a Venetian nobleman between the 17th and 18th centuries. They are from different sectors and deposits of the Venice Civic Museums. In the first 13 rooms, I’m sure your attention will be drawn to the mannequins wearing different types of valuable garments and accessories that belong to the study center located here. If you take a close look at them, you will notice that, made of patterned fabrics and embellished with embroidery and lace, they are so elegant and exquisite. Aren’t they perfect examples of this particular kind of craftsmanship that the Venetians mastered and passed down from generation to generation?

We have always remembered the key role that fashion and costumes played in the history of Venice but what has been neglected is another tradition or industry, perfume. Thanks to the newly opened itinerary, in the next 7 rooms, we can watch a video about the role of Venice in the history of perfume, visit the “lab of a perfumer” and even experience the “fragrance families” from which “all” the fragrances come. I’ll talk more about it when we visit the rooms from No.13 to No.19. Now please follow me to the piano nobile and start our tour.

5.3 Rooms 0-12

5.3.1 Portego

Almost all the paintings on display here are portraits of the members of the Mocenigo family or depiction of the events that they were involved in. The four large portraits on the walls are of the sovereigns for whom the Mocenigos served as ambassadors. Two of the seven doges are portrayed above the doors while the other five are portrayed on the long frieze under the ceiling. If you have read my previous post about Doge’s Palace, you would probably notice that the frieze here is inspired by the one in the Chamber of the Great Council.

5.3.2 Room 1

The paintings in this room are the original decorations in this palace and are of the famous members of this particular branch of the Mocenigo family who lived here. The two oil paintings on canvas with the setting of Rome by Antonio Joli refer to Pietro Mocenigo, who was the first ambassador in London and then in Rome. The three pastel paintings by Francesco Pavona portray Doge Alvise IV, his wife and (maybe) a brother of his.

5.3.3 Room 2

In this room the 18th-century carved and lacquered furniture is originally from this palace and the valuable silk fabrics are from the Study Center of the History of Fabrics and Costumes. The ceiling fresco dates back to the time when extensive decorations were carried out for the wedding of Doge Alvise IV’s grandson and Laura Corner. Painted by Giovanni Scajaro, it depicts allegorical figures such as Fame, Glory and Hymen, god of marriage ceremonies.

5.3.4 Room 3

The most noteworthy item in this room is probably the tablecloth decorated with handmade Burano lace (as you can see in the picture above). The furniture belongs to this palace and except the screen, dates back to the 18th century.

5.3.5 Room 5

The paintings in this room depict war scenes or events related to the Mocenigo family. For example, the naval battle was a fight near the Island of Sapienza in Greece between the pirates and the Venetians led by Zaccaris Mocenigo, who preferred setting his own ship on fire than falling into the hands of the enemies. The ceiling fresco, “Apotheosis of the Mocenigo Family“, painted by Jacopo Guarana portrays allegorical figures which are characteristic of the family. For example, the winged Knowledge, the political and religious Power, Justice with the scales, Peace with an olive branch, Fortitude and warrior Virtue. What you should not miss here is the chandelier (as you can see in the picture above) in Murano glass, blown and hand made into flower bouquets. Originally part of the furnishings in this room, it is attributed to the most important Venetian glassmaker in the 18th century, Giuseppe Briati.

5.3.6 Room 7

Unfortunately, when I was visiting the museum (November, 2017), the women’s dresses in Room 6 were under route maintenance so I didn’t get the chance to see them. I hope that when you visit it, they will be on display again.

In Room 7, the paintings again depict stories of the Mocenigo family, but the most remarkable items are the valuable ancient 13th/14th-century fabrics covering the large table in the middle. They have silver and gold threads and an extremely rare piece of “allucciolato brocade” reflecting the light and producing a sparkling effect can be seen. The Murano glass objects on the table such as the chalices, fruit stands, plates, etc. were mould blown and hand made.

5.3.7 Room 8

All the portraits here are of the Venetian patricians and some of them belong to this palace while the others belong to the Correr collection. Of course, I believe that once entering this room, instead of to the paintings, you will be immediately attracted to the gowns on the mannequins. As you can see in the picture above, most of the garments in this room have abandoned the 16th- and 17th-century models of military inspiration and adopted a looser and more refined form including certain features popular in female fashion at that time such as lavish lacework and embroidery. I read from the info sheet on site that the gown was the official form of dress for patricians. “Made of black fabric with large sleeves, for the Savi, Avigadori and heads of the Quarantia, it had red lining while for the Senators and Advisors, it was completely red.” All the members of the noble families had to wear the gown whether they were carrying out their institutional duties, or simply staying at the St. Mark’s Square.

5.3.8 Room 10

The three paintings by Antonio Stom in this room, “Arrival of Princess Violante De’Medici in a Square in Verona”, “Ball in Honor of Violante De’Medici” and “Violante De’Medici’s Entrance to Verona” belong to the series of the “Splendors of the Mocenigo Family“. They refer to the visit of Princess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, wife of Ferdinando de’Medici, who was received by a member of the Mocenigo family on the territory of the Republic of Venice (Verona). On the bureau, you can see a charcoal drawing depicting Costanza, who was the wife of the last Mocenigo and bequeathed the palace to the city in the 20th century. Particularly noteworthy are the eight valuable ancient fabrics and glassware from different periods. For example, the filigree plate dates back to the 16th century, the fruit stands and candleholders to the 18th, the chalcedony chalice to the 19th and the goblet to the 20th.

5.3.9 Room 11

This room is small in size but big in collection. It is dedicated to classical male garment with more than 50 samples from the Cini deposits among the collections of the Study Center of Textiles and Costumes. Knee long, completely buttoned up in the front and usually made of valuable materials, the waistcoat became popular at the end of the 17th century. At that time, the front of it was usually made of silk and the back of linen or cotton. Designed with long sleeves, it was usually worn under the jacket to keep warm. In the 18th century, it gradually changed its form. For example, the total length of the waistcoat was shortened and reached just below the waist, ending with two “tails”. By the end of this century, it no longer had sleeves but sometimes had a collar instead. In this small “changing room”, you can not only admire various finely, elegantly and exquisitely designed waistcoats but also witness the evolution of this specific type of garment.

5.3.10 Room 12

The Mocenigo legacy also included a collection of noble archives of significant importance. Carefully preserved on one of the palace mezzanines, it includes archives from different important families (from the 11th to the 20th centuries), which arrived here as a result of marriages or bequests. In this room, you can see a selection of 205 archive bundles, which were rearranged at the beginning of the 20th century by the last owner.

Now I’ve finished introducing to you the first 13 rooms in the palace dedicated to the Museum of Textiles and Costumes and please note that I included most of the rooms but not all of them. If you wanna have a full list of and a more detailed explanation about them, you can either click here to read online or click here and scroll down to down the PDF profile. The information I provided above is both based on what I learnt online from the official website and on site from the info boards. Now, let’s enter Room 13 and start our exploration of the secret of perfume.

5.4 Rooms 13-19

Room 13 is the beginning of a new section of the museum, dedicated to the to a particular aspect of the Venetian history, that is to say, perfume. By going through this and the next six rooms, you will have a better understanding of the role that this city played in the origin of this “aesthetic, cosmetic and commercial tradition”. The short video here (in Room 13) is available in three languages (which plays one after another) and it gives you a brief introduction to the Venetian history of perfume up to the Middle Ages, including the secrets of ancient production, the passion of the rich clients and the trend that changed over time.

In Room 14, you will see a reproduced alchemical laboratory of the perfume maker, who from the 16th century on had always been the keeper of the techniques and recipes of making soap, essential oil, powder and liquid to perfume clothes, houses, people and so on. The raw materials of making perfume are usually expensive and exotic and sometimes very rare. On the panel on the wall with a map, you can tell through which routes did the Venetian convoys obtain them from the 13th to the 17th centuries. On the table opposite to the map, you can see 18th- or 19th-century instruments (as you can see in the first picture above) such as the loom used to extract essential oil from flower and the chest full of white paste Venetian soup filtered using an ancient process. This part of the room does evoke some kind of magical atmosphere because it reminds me of the herbology classroom in the movie “Harry Potter”.

Room 15 is dedicated to raw materials and production techniques. The books on display were printed in Venice in the middle of the 16th century and revealed the secrets and the art of making perfume. In Room 16, you will see a selection of perfume phials and containers which are on loan from the Storp family, founder of the Drom Fragrances in Munich, Bavaria. With great passion and skills, they collected more than 3000 pieces covering 6000 years’ history.

Room 17 is my favorite room in this section or even in the entire palace because I can actually smell the essences and read more about them on the tablets nearby. Again, I was so happy to have visited the museum in the low season (November, 2017) because during my visit, I was basically the only visitor in the room and I could take my time to experiment, experience, explore and to learn. On the big table, you will see 24 containers (as you can see in the second picture above) forming six of the main fragrance families such as citrus, floral, oriental, fougère and so on. You can lift the cover to smell the 24 essences and read about them in more depth on the tablet in the middle of each of the fragrance families. Some tips for you are that don’t inhale too much when you smell them because after trying 24 kinds, you might get a headache. If you feel you can’t tell the differences between them anymore, you should take several deep breaths smelling coffee beans in the large container on the table and continue your exploration later. In Room 18, take a look at the Perfume Maker’s Organ, which is an extraordinary instrument used to invent perfume using more than 200 kinds of essential oil in phials arranged in the shape of an amphitheater (as you can see on the third picture above).

Now, after visiting the residence of the Mocenigo family with the furnishings and paintings, the Museum of Textile and Costume as well as the seven rooms dedicated to the new itinerary about perfume, let’s move to Carlo Goldoni’s house, which hosts a museum about this great playwright’s life and works.

6. Carlo Goldoni’s house

6.1 Practical information

6.1.1 Opening hours

  • 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 – 16:00
  • 1st April – 31st October: 10:00 – 17:00
  • Closed on Wednesdays, 25th December, 1st January and 1st May

Please note that the ticket office closes half an hour before the official closing time of the museum and the opening time shown on Google Map could be inaccurate.

6.1.2 Ticket prices

  • Full price: 5 euros
  • Reduced price: 3.5 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.

6.1.3 Floor plan

Compared with the other museums I mentioned in my previous posts, the layout of this one is rather simple. There are in total two floors and by visiting them including the original paintings and furnishings (on the first floor), you can take a look at the birthplace of the great playwright Carlo Goldoni. The first floor also hosts a museum which occupies three rooms and is dedicated to the main themes of the theatre of Carlo Goldoni. Once you enter the portego on this floor, remember to obtain a booklet in your preferred language from the staff and don’t forget to return it after your visit. It contains information about this house, the life of Carlo Goldoni as well as a brief introduction to the plots of some of his most important works represented by various scenes here. Alternatively, you can also click here, scroll down to the middle of the page and download the booklet from the official website before your visit.

Though I myself didn’t visit them, I read from the website of the museum that there is also a vidéothèque, where the documentary on Carlo Goldoni’s life “A Venetian between World and Theatre” is played, and the Library of the Centre for Theatre Studies, which is located on the third floor and provides true enthusiasts with more in-depth knowledge on Carlo Goldoni’s entire theatre production. If you are interested please click here to know more about them. (Please note that as I read online, “access to the library is usually reserved to scholars, researchers and university students preparing their final thesis, or in their third year of study. It can, upon request, be extended to anyone who, for reasons of study, is interested in the material and documents the libraries contain”. Therefore, I don’t think it’s a tourist attraction.)

6.2 The museum

First of all, if you wanna know more about the life and major contributions of this Italian playwright and librettist, please click here. If you are interested in this 15th-century Gothic palace, please click here. As I read from the booklet, “Goldoni’s theatre output includes five tragedies, sixteen tragicomedies, one hundred and thirty-seven comedies, to which must be added, in the service of music, two sacred pieces, twenty entr’actes, thirteen dramas, forty-nine drammi giocosi, three farces and fifty-seven scenarios”. In the portego on the first floor, you will see scenes representing “Harlequin, the Servant of Two Masters“, “The Sedan Chair, a way of getting around town without tiring”, “The fake Patient”, “The Obedient Daughter”, “The Venetian Lawyer”, “The Boors” and “The Liar”. In the Hall of Theater, you will see scenes representing “The Gambler” and “The Conversation”. Please note that the scene in the toy theater is inspired by Scenes 13 and 14 in the Third Act of the famous comedy “The Servant of Two Masters”. In the Dining Room, you will see a scene representing “Avenging Wrongs” and various paintings by the school of Pietro Longhi. If you are interested in the plots of the plays that I mentioned above, you can read them in the booklet. I strongly recommend you reading at least “The Servant of Two Masters“, one of Goldoni’s best known works, which has been translated and adapted internationally numerous times. The story is briefly described in the booklet as follows:

The action is centred on Truffaldino’s character. Following the news that her suitor Federigo has been killed in a duel by Florindo, Clarice is betrothed to Silvio by her father Pantalone. In the meantime, Federigo’s sister Beatrice arrives in male garments and using her brother’s name, looks for her beloved Florindo, who ran off following the duel. Truffaldino, Beatrice’s servant, also becomes the servant of Florindo without her knowledge, and the comedy continues to flow from the confusion and misunderstandings caused by Truffaldino. Finally all is cleared: Florindo marries Beatrice, Silvio marries Clarice, and Truffaldino marries Smeraldina, Clarice’s maid. The comedy is packed with comedic effects, such as when Truffaldino makes Beatrice believe that Florindo is dead and Florindo that Beatrice is dead, in order to cover up a mistake of his. This is a simple Goldonian trope.

In addition, I’d like to draw your attention to the two etchings made by Marco Alvise Pitteri hanging in the portego because they drew my attention when I was passing by. Based on the painting by Giambattista Piazzetta, both of them were etched in 1754. The first portrait (with the hat) dates back to the first months of 1754 because it was mentioned in the letter dated 17th July 1754, sent by Goldoni to Pitteri. In this letter, the playwright expressed a sincere appreciation of Pitteri’s work, thanking him for “the loving care in making me truly eternal with the excellent work of your hands”. As we can see, the portrait on the right does present to us the cheerful and “youthful” 47-year-old Goldoni. Unfortunately, not many prints of the “cap etching” were made because Pitteri modified the copper almost immediately, replacing the cap with a wig. This makes the portrait on the left the second stage of the portrait with cap. It is unclear why Pitteri made this change but scholars assume that this is because the formal wig made the portrait appear more dignified at that time. As I read form the booklet, the cap replacement partially worsens the quality of the engraving, first because of the poor execution particularly of the place where the wig hairline joins the forehead, and secondly, because in general the portrait assumes a more formal tone, “perhaps less attuned with Goldoni’s personality”.

After finishing these two museums, we know more about the history and development of Venice in the aspects of textiles, costumes, perfume and playwriting. In the next post, which is also the last post about the civic museums in Venice, I’ll introduce to you the Glass Museum and the Lace Museum, witnesses to the mastery of such craftsmanship by the Venetian experts throughout centuries. Please note that this time, we will leave the main island of Venice and go a bit further to visit another two beautiful islands, Murano and Burano. Now, let’s board the water bus and start our journey.

Venice – the civic museums (Mocenigo Palace & Carlo Goldoni’s house) was last modified: August 7th, 2019 by Dong

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