Ridotti or Casini are a venetian singularity. Ridotti are small, but luxuriously furnished appartments that served amusement in various forms. It is a supplement and a complement to the palace. The word casinò etymologically means a place for playing, but actually the casini were mostly locations where intimate business meetings, conversations with friends or political discussions took place. The palaces' piani nobili served for representation. It was possible, though, that Casini were situated in the palace itself: the last floor of Palazzo Sagredo contains the Casinò. The majority of the Casini was to be found around St. Mark's square and normally in buildings of the so-called
venezia minore, i.e. the anonymous venetian architecture without special artistic value. In 1755, 73 casini were located in the
contrada of San Moisè. The still existing Ridotto Pubblico, based on a Dandolo palace and was depicted on several paintings by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793), was the largest and most important one. In 1768, the Ridotto was rebuilt by Benedetto Maccaruzzi. Like the palazzi, the ridotti suffered severe losses during the 19th century, especially when it comes to the interior decorations (e.g. the Casin of Palazzo Gradenigo was demolished), but some examples are nevertheless well conserved.
Apart from the Casinò of Giustina Renier Michiel (San Marco 2426) with frescoed allegories by Giovanni Scajario (an imitator of Tiepolo), the Casinò Venier (San Marco 4939) is noteworthy. Its ceiling and wall decoration, consisting of polychrome stucco works and tiles from Delft dating from 1750 to 1760 is virtually entirely conserved, but the furniture is missing. Today it is seat of the Alliance française and can be visited. Casinò Mocenigo on Murano, built around 1600 and lately well restored, is one of the oldest remaining casini. On the Giudecca island, the Ridotto Sagredo Barbarigo with the adjacent Giardino Eden is still existing.
Casinò Venier, ceiling and wall decoration of a lateral room. Photo 2000
The library, an institution that gained importance during the 16th and 17th century, was a similar typology. Two prominent examples of libraries in dedicated buildings, can still be found near the Carmini church: the neopalladian Casin of Ca' Zenobio, designed by Tommaso Temanza (1705-1789), and the library of Palazzo Foscarini, a building that once contained the library of Marco Foscarini (1695-1763), later Doge and publisher of Venice's first history of literature. Like the Casinò of Palazzo Zenobio, the Biblioteca Foscarini delimits the palace garden. A similar situation, today illegible due to the devastations made to the courtyard, once was found behind Palazzo Zane at San Stin. Luckily, the casin, designed by Antonio Gaspari, did not suffer the fate of the palace. Its interior decoration remains perfectly conserved.
Like the villeggiatura, casini and ridotti are essential elements of the venetian palace architecture.