Palazzo Cini, a gem hidden in the glitter of Venice
Palazzo Cini, in the district of San Vio in Dorsoduro
If during these years I have not given you enough reason to come and stay in Venice for more than 48 hours, here is another one for you to add to your bucket list!
A visit to the incredible Palazzo Cini, in the district of San Vio in Dorsoduro.
The district of San Vio is the beating heart of Venice and right here, in about half a square kilometer, there is one of the highest concentrations of art in the whole world.
We are on the right bank of the Canal Grande, far enough from San Marco and most of the crowds: here, in the alleys of Dorsoduro, you can find the Venetian masterpieces of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the great avant-garde collection of Peggy Guggeheim in the gardens and terraces of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and the super contemporary exhibitions put on display by François Pinault in Punta della Dogana.
And then Palazzo Cini, a gem hidden in the glitter of Venice, but set in the path of the true traveller who steps out from the usual tourist’s itinerary.
I took the opportunity to visit it on these quiet post-lockdown days in Venice, lucky to have the rooms practically to myself – it really felt like to have a private visit!
Palazzo Cini, a house-museum
The Galleria di Palazzo Cini in Venice belongs to a type of museum pretty rare in Italy: a house-museum. Born in 1984, it houses a precious nucleus of the collection of ancient art by one of the most important collectors of the Italian twentieth century: the entrepreneur and philanthropist Vittorio Cini. Cini lived between the late nineteenth and seventies of the twentieth century and was one of the greatest Italian collectors of his time.
The San Vio complex was originally an Italian jewel reserved to a few close friends and many scholars.
The museum is the result of the gift of Yana Cini Alliata of Montereale, who in 1981 left to the Foundation part of the collections of her father and some rooms of the Grimani palace, purchased by Cini together with the adjoining Palazzo Foscari between 1919 and 1920.
The rooms of Palazzo Cini are developed on two floors: the first floor, a suggestive testimony of a cultured collecting in Venice, restoring the charm of the patron’s home and the second floor, usually hosting temporary exhibitions and cultural initiatives.
A legacy that guaranteed the inseparable relationship between the collection and the home, nowadays presented to the public thanks to the contribution of Assicurazioni Generali.
The collection of art in Palazzo Cini
The donation consists of Tuscan paintings from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, various sculptures and works of art among which a collection of Renaissance enamelled branches, a group of Gothic ivories and the Cozzi porcelain service, set up in the neo-rococo lounge, designed by Tomaso Buzzi.
In 1989 an extraordinary collection of Ferrarese paintings of the Renaissance was added to the original nucleus, thanks to the generosity of Ylda Cini Guglielmi di Vulci, whose heirs in 2015 enriched the Gallery with a new group of works of art and furnishings, always from the original collection of Vittorio Cini.
In the collection the paintings, sculptures and furnishings, range from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 20th century, and we can find names such as Botticelli, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Pontormo and Giandomenico Tiepolo.
After all, we are in the wake of the wishes of the founder Vittorio Cini who wanted this in 1951 in memory of his son Giorgio who died in an accident with his private plane near Cannes. Manager, entrepreneur, politician, powerful protagonist of the transformation of Italy from a peasant country to an industrial nation, Cini was always a man of such power and prestige. So much so to be able to obtain promotion from the 1940s regime in the aristocracy with the title of Count of Monselice and the state concession of the island of San Giorgio from the post-war republican state, enabling him to establish Fondazione Cini there, dedicated to the professional training of new managers.
The extraordinary spiral staircase
Not to be missed in Palazzo Cini is the spiral staircase that connects the first and second floors of the building, designed and built by Tomaso Buzzi.
Italian architect, designer and interior designer, he created this beautiful spiral staircase in perfect neo rococo style.
The spiral staircase, together with all the lighting and the imaginative decorations of the building, were designed and built between 1958 and 1959. Subsequently they were subject to restoration to bring them back to their former glory.
Thanks to these interventions, today Palazzo Cini and its wonders can be admired by all those who decide to take a walk back in time.
Palazzo Cini: Piranesi Rome Basilico
From 20 June 2020, Piranesi Rome Basilico is open to the public.
In the year of the Architecture Biennale, the exhibition celebrates the fascination of Rome by comparing the ancient city in Piranesi’s etchings and the contemporary capital captured in Gabriele Basilico’s photographs.
To mark the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of the birth of Giambattista Piranesi (Venice, 1720 – Rome, 1778), the Fondazione Giorgio Cini is paying tribute to the great Venetian artist in the exhibition Piranesi Rome Basilico, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, director of the Institute of Art History, in collaboration with the Archivio Gabriele Basilico.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi is considered to be the last great exponent of 18th century Venetian etching.
Designer, engraver, archaeologist and architect, also known as Giambattista, he was born in Mogliano Veneto in 1720. Son of Angelo, a Venetian stonecutter, and Laura Lucchesi, he studied Latin and learned the basics of literature and ancient history from his brother Angelo, a Carthusian monk. He began working in the Magistratura delle Acque with his uncle engineer in the Venetian Lagoon.
In 1740 he went to Rome and stayed in Palazzo Venezia. During his stay, he designed the Roman ruins and in 1741 he started to work with Giuseppe Vasi who taught him the art of etching and engraving. After a 5-year return to Venice, from 1748 he settled permanently in Rome, opening a shop in via del Corso.
In Rome he was welcomed in the circle of Monsignor Giovanni Bottari, librarian of the Corsini family, a great connoisseur of engravings.
In the following thirty years he made the famous series with the Views of Rome, Roman Antiquities, characterized by the so-called “ruinism” and by “whims” (imaginary views), including the famous invented prisons. In 1761 he entered the Academy of San Luca and as an architect he designed the restoration of the choir of San Giovanni in Laterano at the request of Clement XIII, but above all he built the church of Santa Maria del Priorato (1763).
Inspired initially by the ruinist intuitions of Marco Ricci and having assimilated the lesson of Tiepolo and Canaletto, he often altered the dimensions of buildings to make them seem even larger than they actually were and his work has played an important role in shaping the popular image of the city. He integrated the lesson of neo-Palladian classicism, a vital component of eighteenth-century Venetian culture, with the extreme baroque solutions developed by the school of Bolognese scenographers Bibiena and Valeriani.
Piranesi’s activity has influenced not only architects, but also set designers and painters, such as his friend Hubert Robert, as well as leaving a strong impact on literary imagination as well.
He died in Rome in 1778 after a long illness. By the will of Cardinal Rezzonico, he is buried in the church of Santa Maria del Priorato, designed by him.
The exhibition is amazing: the incredible details in the etchings of Piranesi compared to the black and white photos by Basilico.
Visitors will be able to admire some of the great symbolic landmarks of the eternal city in twenty-five original prints made in the 18th century by the Venetian engraver, selected from the complete corpus preserved in the Cini graphic art collections, and in twenty-six views of Rome by the Milanese photographer, taken from the same viewpoint as the Piranesi etchings, including twelve not shown in the exhibition The Arts of Piranesi. Architect, Etcher, Vedutista, Designer, staged at the Fondazione Cini in 2010.
Now tell me again how you can see Venice in under 48 hours!
Campo San Vio,
Dorsoduro 864 Venice.
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12.00 – 20.00
The Piranesi Exhibition From 20 June to 23 November 2020
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