The famous Ca' d'Oro, a patrician residence that with its undeniable beauty manages to charm those who look at it, the emblem of an entire city, which has become one of its most characteristic symbols.
Expression among the highest of the late Gothic, called flowery, the Ca' d'Oro dominates the left bank of the Grand Canal in the Cannaregio district with its rich and asymmetrical facade.

History of Ca' d'Oro

Long and overwhelming the history of Ca' d'Oro that has known the glories of the glory, the decadence of the negligence, the raids of nefarious interventions up to the love of a man who has dedicated years and effort of his life.
The palace was built by Mario Contarini, exponent of a rich doge family of the city. At the beginning of the fifteenth century Marino married the young heiress Soramador Zeno, who brought some properties located in the area of Santa Sofia, including the Ca' Zeno that overlooked the Grand Canal. The two newlyweds, therefore, went to live in this house, but due to a family quarrel Contarini was forced to re-purchase the property and when his wife died, as if to break with the past, he decided to overthrow and build a new. This thesis is still very much discussed today, as the hypothesis that he had simply incorporated the pre-existing building into the new one took shape over the years. We will remain with doubt.

Ca' d'Oro structure

The asymmetry of the facade is due to the fact that the Contarini reused the foundations of the old building and because the dimensions of the lot were not such as to allow the construction of a large and regular façade.
This asymmetry is also clearly reflected in the plan that takes the typical pattern of the plant in the shape of a C: on the left side opens the portico with steps on the water to dock the boats from which you then reach the large atrium flanked by small side rooms used as storage; the right side has no access to the Canal but is fragmented into small or large rooms, until you reach the inner courtyard from which a beautiful Istrian stone staircase leads to the upper floor, organized around the large portico with the various rooms at destination private. The inner courtyard is completely covered with red bricks, in which two elements of Istrian stone stand out: a unique rampant staircase that leads to the upper floor and a real well sculpted with foliage and allegorical female figures playing the Justice, the Force and the Charity.

Asymmetry, empty and full spaces: the facade of Ca' d'Oro

But to leave breathless is undoubtedly the facade divided into two asymmetric sections, one completely empty on the left and one full on the right: completely covered with polychrome marbles in pastel shades of green, white and pink, was chiselled like a lace burania, embroidered more from the darkness of the voids than from the full. This prevalence of voids creates a subtle and almost transparent diaphragm between inside and outside, in an all-Venetian exchange between public and private life, in a reciprocal interaction between the atmosphere of the Canal and the building.
The left part opens with the portico on the ground floor that allowed the mooring of the boats, up to the magnificence of the two upper floors where a double order of six-arched loggias (esafore) define a complex play of chiaroscuro; here the marble elements seem to be carved or carved into a single monolith: a real white marble lace that seems to come out of the black of the emptiness behind it.
The right side, however, is much less complex in its design but equally protagonist with its juts and its decorations with heads of lions.
Everything is cleverly closed with a frame in which cruciform lances of different heights give a pleasant and sinuous movement that stands out against the color of the sky, itself carved like an immaterial lace.
The construction of the Ca' d'Oro started in 1421 and ended only 15 years later.

Why it's called Ca' d'Oro?

But, have you wondered why this house is called Ca' d'Oro and does not mention the name of the family to which it belongs, as it happened for all the Venetian palaces? Here, the explanation lies in the work of the painter Giovanni Charlier who was contacted by the Contarini so that he would give the building a singular, special appearance, and that could distinguish it from the others. The painter, then, to the polychrome of the marbles added the vivid colors of painting like red and blue overseas, but above all the splendor of the gold color with which he colored many elements of the facade. The result was that of a precious façade like a jewel of a great lady, which was reflected and reflected the waters of the Grand Canal, where one shone with the light of the other, creating an enchanting and fairytale atmosphere, and that merited the appellation of golden dwelling, the Ca' d'Oro
With this decoration the works were closed. It was 1437.

Subsequent events

After many years the palace inherited from Pietro, the son that Marino Contarini had had from Lucia Corner, married in second marriage after having become vedevo. But the subsequent death of Peter marked the beginning of a long period of decline of the palace, made of looting, expulsion and nefarious interventions caused by indifferent owners and unresponsive of the history and wonder of the home.
The black moment of the Ca' d'Oro coincided with the arrival of the Russian prince Alexander Trubetzkoi and his dancer Maria Taglioni who commissioned restoration work to the Venetian architect Giovanni Battista Meduna: he completely twisted the wonderful Gothic construction, stripping it of the its ancient and singular beauty and enriching it with elements completely averse to it.
This artistic tragedy came to an end in the nineteenth century, when the Ca' d'Oro was bought by Baron Giorgio Franchetti. Piemontese with a gentle soul, a lover of art and music, he owned a real collection of works of art. When he arrived in Venice he bought the real well from the Ca' d'Oro from an antique dealer: the real one was the beginning of a link with the palace that never ended. He also bought the entire building and spent all his life and resources in order that the Ca' d'Oro could return to its original splendor. And so it was. The only new work that Franchetti brought was the imposing marble flooring of the portego on the ground floor, which he himself designed: a surface of 350 square meters built with the ancient Roman techniques of marquetry and marble workmanship.

Ca' d'Oro nowadays: Giorgio Franchetti gallery

Currently the Ca' d'Oro is owned by the State by the will of Baron Franchetti, who decided to leave the State his palace and the entire precious art collection after his death, suicide arrived on December 18, 1922. Thus was born the Giorgio Franchetti Gallery.
The works contained in the Gallery are all deserving of admiration, but no doubt stands out what was the most precious masterpiece of the Franchetti collection, the San Sebastiano by Andrea Mantegna, located in the portego of the first floor. In addition, the Gallery preserves works by Carpaccio, Sansovino, Titian, Jean Van Eyck and Van Dyck.
The negligence and the evil actions of the men who met the Ca' d'Oro in the course of its history prior to the work of the Franchetti have taken away the opportunity to admire today the result of years of research and meticulous and passionate work by part of the best workers of the time, a work that in terms of decorations had no equal, but what today opens before our eyes is equally special, because it is the result of love and passion of a man who worked so hard in order to allow the dwelling to return to its former glory and reach in our days.