Casa (or. Ca'), since there were only three palaces that deserved the denomination "palazzo": the Doge's palace (Palazzo Ducale), the bishop's palace and the residence of the patriarch of Grado (Schulz p. 5). A noteworthy exception was the destroyed
palatiumerected by the Ziani family in the parish of Santa Giustina (13th century) 1. Only few examples of byzantine palaces from the 13th and 14th century have survived, and most of those that still exist have been thoroughly modified during the 19th century. A better part of old substance is conserved at the Ca' da Mosto on the Grand Canal near the Rialto bridge, but the building's current decline repeatedly causes polemics not only in the local press. The decorative details of the Loredan-Farsetti complex, today used as town hall and offices for the municipal administration, date from the 19th century, but nevertheless the façade composition of a
casa-fondacocan still be read off: a gallery in the ground floor formerly used to disembark goods, and a piano nobile (noble floor) loggia with round arches that takes up the whole width of the building. The loggia covers a large hall with a T-like plan view (called
à crocciola, the central element of the palace.
portego, changed from a "T" to a "L". In 15th century venetian gothic, the portego became a long corridor with a quadratic cross section, opened in most cases by a loggia with four arches. The architects of some palaces along the Canal Grande use traceries based on the upper floor gallery of the Doge's palace, a style that is called
gotico fiorito. Its most prominent examples is the Ca' Foscari at the
volta di canal. Towards the end of the 15th century, the lateral rooms gained importance (Palazzo van Axel). In the 1990s, a polychrome painted decoration was proved for the Ca'd'Oro, and the increasing sensibility lead to the conservation of these remains during the restorations of other palaces. In recent singular cases of ignorance (Palazzo Gritti Badoer, 2004), large surfaces of gothic friezes were amateurishly paint over and partially destroyed. Paintings from the 15th and 16th century, especially the "Miracle of the Cross at the Bridge of S. Lorenzo" by Gentile Bellini, show the intensive polychromy of the byzantine and gothic architecture. Still in the 1480s, when in Florence the Renaissance had triumphated for almost a century, gothic palaces were built in Venice.
Serliana, a round arch flanked by two colonnades, became the most popular solution for portego apertures and replaced the galleries. In his Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande as well as his library building on the
piazzetta, Jacopo Sansovino uses elements having their source in Roman Renaissance. Other architects like Michele Sanmicheli also use antique forms, but contrary to Sansovino, their plans are conventional.
In the 19th century, the Venetian palace architecture endured severe losses. Not only was the church Santa Lucia pulled down for the creation of the railway station, but the whole surrounding quarter with the palaces Rezzonico, Bragadin Vescovi und Lion-Cavazza was also extinguished 3. The two schools of restoration according to Viollet-le-Duc and conservation also fought each other in Venice4. Besides, a couple of neogothic (re-)constructions date from the Ottocento: Palazzo De Maria on the Giudecca as well as the radical modifications made to Palazzo Donà Giovannelli. Only the main façade of Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti still dates from the 15th century; the rest of the palace is a 19th century invention. The important Palazzo Balbi Michiel Malpaga5 at San Barnabà was demolished. On its place, the Palazzetto Stern was built in the early 20th century. Other palaces suffered despoilment and vandalism, as it was noted by John Ruskin especially for the Ca'd'Oro. Few palaces, such as the Palazzi Barbaro, found new cultivated owners that succeeded in conserving the interior and exterior aspect of the buildings.
On these pages, the author tries to compile a catalogue of the palaces in Venice with special regard to the less known buildings in the remote districts of Venice. The catalogue is not complete.
Basic scholarship: Selvatico Estense, Pietro: Sulla architettura e sulla scultura in Venezia. Dal Medio Evo sino ai nostri giorni, Venezia 1847; Mothes, Oscar: Geschichte der Baukunst und Bildhauerei Venedigs, Leipzig 1859; Tassini, Giuseppe: Curiosità veneziane, Venezia 1863, Fontana, Gianiacopo: Cento palazzi fra i più celebri di Venezia, Venezia 1865; Muratori, Saverio: Storia Urbana di Venezia, Roma 1959; Maretto, Paolo: L'edilizia gotica veneziana, Roma 1961; Bassi, Elena: Architettura del Sei- e Settecento a Venezia, Napoli 1962; Arslan, Edoardo: Venezia Gotica, Milano 1970; Zorzi, Alvise: Venezia scomparsa, Milano 1972; Bassi, Elena: Palazzi di Venezia, Venezia 1975; Lorenz, Hellmut: Überlegungen zum venezianischen Palastbau der Renaissance, in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 43.1980 pp. 33-53; Wolters, Wolfgang / Huse, Norbert: Venedig : die Kunst der Renaissance; Architektur, Skulptur, Malerei 1460 - 1590, München 1986; Maretto, Paolo: La casa veneziana nella storia della città, Venezia 1986; Wolters, Wolfgang: Architektur und Ornament. Venezianischer Bauschmuck der Renaissance, München 2000; Schulz, Juergen: The New Palaces of Medieval Venice, Pennsylvania 2004
1 cf. Fees, Irmgard: Reichtum und Macht im mittelalterlichen Venedig - die Familie Ziani, Tübingen 1988, passim. The Ziani palace must not be confounded with the building called Pal. Ziani today, cf. Giandomenico Romanelli (a cura di), Palazzo Ziani, Venezia 1994.
2 cf. Frommel, Sabine: Sebastiano Serlio e il palazzo Zen a Venezia Il committente e l'architetto, in: Annali di Architettura, Rivista del Centro Internazionale du Studi die Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza 13/2001, pp. 53-69
3 cf. Bassi, Elena: Palazzi di Venezia, Venezia 1975, pp. 368-380 and the view by Quadri, c. 1838
4 The most important personality of the "restauro conservativo" school, influenced explicitly by Ruskin, was Conte Alvise Pietro Zorzi. Especially the restoration of the eastern and northern facades of San Marco, done by Giovanni Battista Meduna, was criticized. Zorzi's pamphlet from 1877 is subject of Wolfgang Wolters' study 'Noch einmal: Restaurieren oder Renovieren?', in: Strobel, Richard; Mörsch, Georg: Die Denkmalpflege als Plage und Frage - Festgabe für August Gebeßler, Munich 1989, pp. 191-193
5 cf. Bassi, op. cit., pp. 107, 118; Arslan, Edoardo: Venezia Gotica, Milano 1970, p. 255