Contarini del Bovolo Palace


Venice: Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo - 21 kB

General remarks:

Date:goes back to the 14th century
Address:San Marco 4299
Current use:private, the famous can be visited
Overview map:locate


The mainly gothic palazzo Contarini Minelli dal Bovolo is well known for the winding-stairs, the scala del bovolo. It was built from 1499 on by Giovanni Candi. Its name is derived from the venetian word for a snail-shell, bovolo. Even the branch of the Contarini that inhabited the palace was named after that singular architectural solution. According to stylistic relationships with the capitals of S. Salvatore, the recent scholarship assumes that not Candi, but Giorgio Spavento was the author of the stairway.
The building's history goes back to the 14th century. Pre-gothic round arches can bee seen at the back façade. The palace was at least partially restored in the interior. Through a missing piece of window at the stairway one can see some rooms, where parts of a pre-gothic arch are visible.
For didactic purpose, some remains of frescoes (which surely covered the whole façade at that time) were uncovered on a stairway platform. The half arches of fourth order, which are visible at the stairway corridors, were initially complete. Alterations are quite evident on this part of the palace. The former entrances to the piano nobili are today bricked up. An old photography by Domenico Bresolin from 1855 shows windows inserted into the loggias and the terminating platform - these parts were in all likelihood used as living space.
The main façade with five-light loggias of fifth order (according to Ruskin's categorisation) on thin columns is towards the Rio di San Luca. It can be partially seen from the Ponte della Verona - a view that can be also found on some postcards. A closer look reveals that the water floor has been much altered later; some of the arches in the piani nobili's wings are bricked up, too. The mansonry by the Calle de la vida front was much altered, too.
The palazzo Contarini del Bovolo has a second, smaller courtyard, which is situated between the main and the back façade. A traditional portego obviously does not exist.
Numerous "vere di pozzo" (well-heads) from the 13th to 15th century are collected at the stairway base and clearly show the development of this essential part of a venetian palace. At least one of them has the Contarini coat of arms.

Contrarily to the much and often restored staircase, the palazzo itself is not in a good state.

Additional pictures:

the stairway - scala del bovolo
53 kB (96x150)

late gothic frescoes
33 kB (79x117)

stairway base
47 kB (130x90)

Main façade detail - capitals of the first piano nobile central loggia
70 kB (76x100)

Related buildings


Arslan (1970) pp. 128, 254
Bassi (1976) p. 322
Diruf (1990) pp. 87-97
Huse/Wolters (1996) p. 32ss
Romanelli (1988) p. 353
Wolters (2000) p. 67. 32ss
Salvadori Rizzi, Lea: Giorgio Spavento e la Scala del Bovolo di palazzo Contarini, in: Arte documento, 10.1996, pp. 43-47

External resources


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

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