The Renaissance represented for Italy and Europe a real revolution: we are in the mid-fifteenth century and the need to move away from the dark period of the Middle Ages led to a splendid flowering of the arts, literature, sciences. A real rebirth that developed a strong awareness of man's means and his abilities.


The Serenissima in the fifteenth century: economic and artistic prosperity

In this period the Republic of Venice remained politically and economically the maximum Italian power: this solidity and economic prosperity allowed the development of the arts and the continuation of the great local tradition.

The Venetian Renaissance rather than consist in the search for a new language, was generated by the cultural contacts that the Serenissima had with the rest of Italy: the art and architecture of Venice were renewed thanks to the direct and indirect knowledge of the renewal that it happened above all in Florence and Rome.

The history of Palazzo Corner Cà Granda

One of the best fruits of this wave of artistic novelty is undoubtedly Palazzo Corner Ca Granda, located in the Sestiere of San Marco: it is one of the most important buildings of the city as it belonged to one of the richest and most influential Venetian families in the historical-political panorama of the Serenissima, and because it represented one of the very first elements of breaking inserted in the traditional city fabric, which partially overturned the typical pattern of patrician buildings.

The current building is the reconstruction of an existing building, Palazzo Malombra, belonging to the homonymous family: these, at the end of 400, sold their home to Giorgio Corner, exponent of one of the richest families in the city, owners of plantations of sugar cane in the Piscopia colony of Cyprus, and father of the famous Caterina Corner, who became Queen of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia for having married James of Cyprus.

It is the beginning of the 500 when the building, however, was destroyed by a terrible fire, probably caused by the heat generated by the stoves used to dry the sugar. Then, the son of Giorgio and brother of Caterina, Giovanni Corner, strong of its economic and political power, decided to rebuild the building and commissioned the architect Jacopo Sansovino the work, which was so impressive in order to celebrate the greatness and power of the family.

We are in 1533 and the works were completed 20 years later by Vincenzo Scamozzi, due to the death of Sansovino.

The play of light shades: the palace and the facade on the Grand Canal

The Sansovino project involved the construction of an imposing and grandiose building, from which the palace took the name of Ca Granda (Domus Magna), which was an element capable of interrupting the continuity of the palaces on the Grand Canal. He moved away from the classic Venetian scheme and organized the building around a large central courtyard: he brought the classical scheme of the mainland buildings to the lagoon.

The façade is regular, symmetrical and geometric: it completely distorts the typical tripartite scheme of the palaces of the Grand Canal presenting a splendid design of elements that give it vertical momentum and at the same time characterize precisely the 3 floors, where the voids prevail over the full, creating a magnificent play of chiaroscuro.

On the ground floor a dense rustication gives a pleasant play of light and dark, amplified by the presence of the 3 large arches that lead to the inner courtyard. On the main floor are the 7 large openings with a round arch with a balcony in front of it: a real novelty in an urban fabric in which they had always dominated oriental elements and pointed arches. An imposing string course, which strongly shows its presence, divides this floor from the upper one, which is similar to the underlying. Everything is closed with a crowning frieze decorated with oval windows.

The architecture of open spaces: the courtyard and the garden on the Grand Canal

The internal courtyard reflects the geometry of the external façade, presenting a white ashlar on the ground floor and large and slender openings with balustrade for the upper floors. At the center there was a real well with puttini holding fruit festoons, typical of Tuscan sculpture: today it is still possible to admire the it but it is necessary to reach Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, in the center of which it was placed.

This palace expressed its magnificence also for the presence of an English garden overlooking the Grand Canal: the property of a large green space on the bank of the Grand Canal was undoubtedly synonymous with wealth and power, and a certain savoir vivre ... who would not want a garden on the most beautiful street in the world ?!

The movement of lights and shadows: the reflection of the waters of the Grand Canal

The light reflected in the canal creates a rich movement in the plots of the bugnato and in the tunnels of the balustrades, invests the smooth columns, penetrates the building, in a complex relationship of light, dark and intermediate gradations, corresponding to the tonal texture of the painting of the period.

Sansovino's architecture does not embellish with colored marbles, like the late-Gothic medieval Venetian ones, but obtains the equivalent using the infinite possibilities of light, depending on how it affects the walls.

Corner Cà Granda Palace today

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Nicolò Corner, the last exponent of the family, with the fall of the Republic sold the building with all the furnishings to the Italic Regime that installed the offices of the government. Subsequently, with the Austrian occupation, the government installed the prefecture, then became property of the City that did not change the intended use: in fact, today the building houses the Metropolitan City of Venice and Prefecture.

The original furnishings have all been dispersed, as well as the precious art collection, but currently, although hosting offices, they have been wisely furnished and tastefully arranged in a manner consonant with the grandeur of the building.

perhaps you do not know that...

Nicolò Corner, as we have said, was the last exponent of this family so in view of the Serenissima. A politically engaged man and a lover of the arts and enlightenment ideas, he had a fraternal friend, the surgeon Davide Zuliani. When Nicolò fell ill, his friend Davide was at his bedside. After hours that Nicolò no longer gave any sign of life, David thought he was dead. But suddenly Nicolò woke up from his bed for a moment and with his last strength embraced his friend and said: "Davide, do you have any heart? Let's go to Hell together! ", And then he died. After this event, poor David fell ill with a chronic illness that led him to his death. When you say "who finds a friend, find a treasure ..."