Ca'd'Oro Palace


Venice: Ca'd'Oro - 28 kB

General remarks:

Date:1421/22 until 1434/38
Architect:Bartolomeo Bon, Giovanni Bon, Matteo Raverti, Giovanni Benzon et. al.
Address:Cannaregio 3933
Current use:museum
Overview map:locate


A jewel of gothic palace architecture on the Grand Canal. The palazzo has lost much of its original substance. It was built from 1421 on in commission of Marino Contarini, son of a procurator. A predecessor building, the palazzo Zeno, which Contarini got as a dowry from his wife Sora Zeno, was pulled down. Note that some inferior sources misleadingly mention a "Doro" family having erected the palace. Through the research work of Paoletti, who found the bills and documents, we can have a insight to the history of the palazzo. Until today, the Ca'd'Oro is the sole gothic palace from which those documents were found. Goy's book is based to a large extent on Paoletti's research.
The name Ca'd'Oro - house of gold - is derived from the initial gildings on some façade areas. Already the naming (not the average 'palazzo' + family names) shows that a very speical building is intended. We know the former colors of the Ca'd'Oro through the extensive research work by Manfred Schuller, who made detailed measurements of the entire façade.
Although the façade is for sure the most splendid of all gothic palaces in Venice, its composition has some defects. Tracery loggias with six arches occur in both piani nobili. The second piano nobile has a lower rank on the façade than the first one, as it has a reduced height of the loggia, no pending capitals in the single windows, and a smaller saracinesca in the wing. Only a right wing exists, but, despite some technical literature telling the contrary, the palazzo was intended as a asymmetrical building. A hypothetical reconstruction of a symmetrical façade in Diedo and Cicognara's book "Le fabbriche e i monumenti cospicui di Venezia" (1838) was questioned already some years later by O. Mothes and other authors, and is rejected by modern scholars.
The balcony consoles and the polychrome marble incrustations are remarkable details. Besides the window solution in the first piano nobile, other decoration elements on the façade only occur at the Ca'd'Oro: the double corner framing, a coat of arms (1426; one of the few conserved from the gothic period), and the merlons. The 'vera di pozzo' by Bartolomeo Bon in the courtyard is certainly one of the most precious examples of a well head, an essential element of a gothic palace.
Numerous drawings, lithographies, engravings etc, which were made in different epochs, show the alterations made. As an example, before 1847, the left two arches of the water floor (which is itself a singular solution within the venetian gothic) were bricked up and breaked through with two balconies. Obviously appartments had been inserted. Around this time, the original balconies didn't exist any more. After 1850, the mezzanine in the wing had two additional windows towards the middle saracinesca.
Among the numerous subsequent proprietors were many well known aristocratic families like the Marcello and Loredan. After the fall of the Venetian Republic, the building suffered. Especially during the 19th the proprietors changed often, and each one altered the Ca'd'Oro after his fancy. Particularly the dancer Maria Taglioni has to be mentioned here. She let remove the gothic stairway and balconies in the courtyard - a fact which Ruskin describes with sorrow in his famous book "The Stones of Venice".
In March 1894, baron Giorgio Franchetti acquired the building. He let restore the stairway and the balconies. The original stairway of the Palazzo Contarini dalla Porta di Ferro clearly served as a model, as the similarity of the foliage-like decorations on the stairs easily proves. Franchetti compiled the rich art collection, which became - together with the entirely restored building - property of the state after his death. Today the palazzo as well as the collection can be admired in the museum.

Additional pictures:

façade detail 2nd piano nobile with Contarini coat of arms
45 kB (100x66)

first piano nobile façade detail : single gothic window - right wing. 2003
68 kB (66x100)

Second piano nobile detail. 2004
90 kB (65x100)

Ground floor and mezzanine of the right wing, vastly renewed in the 19th/20th century.
63 kB (64x100)

Related buildings


Goy, Richard: The House of Gold. Cambridge 1992
Valcanover, Francesco: Ca'd'Oro. Milano 1986
Concina (1995) pp. 105, 108, 110s, 157, 177, 293, 310
Diruf (1990) pp. 131-155
Lauritzen/Zielcke (1979) p. 93-103
Romanelli (2000) p. 370
Schuller (2000) pp. 304-318

External resources


© 1999-2007 J.-Ch. Rößler
Venice architecture - palaces

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