Ca’Pésaro (20)

This lavish palace is exhibited with Baroque pride on the bank of Venice’s Grand Canal. Ca’Pesaro is currently the headquarters of the International Gallery of Modern Art of Venice, but visiting it is not only well worth it for admiring the art collections but also to marvel at its architecture. 

The palace was a commission from the Pesaro family, a well-off Venetian family of the nobility and art collectors. The construction took 58 years to complete, between 1659 and 1710. Although the Pesaro family initially entrusted the work to the prestigious Baroque artist Baldasarre Longhena, after his death it was Gian Antonio Gaspari who finished it, respecting the plans of his ancestor. 

The palace is considered to be a masterpiece of Venetian Baroque civil architecture, and is faithful to the style within which it falls, especially for the exuberant sculptural decoration.

The construction gives off a new harmony in its balanced façade, despite the overelaborate architectural composition. The architects worked chiaroscuro through the depth of the different elements that were conjugated on the façade. Thus you will appreciate the two symmetrical doors at the palace entrance, which stand over plinths decorated with projecting lions’ heads and fantastic animals, and which are within a ground plan decorated, on the outside, with an extraordinary relief-work, as if they were tips of diamonds. 

On the two main floors, windows open beneath semicircular arches, which deeply contrast with the columns that project out. Moreover, on the top floor, the sculptural ornamentation is even more emphatic in the entablatures.

Nevertheless, it is admirable how this provocative lavishness is able to transmit the balance that the Pesaro palace emanates. 

If the outside fascinates, then you will not be disappointed by the inside either. Here the play of chiaroscuro of the outside is repeated in the contrasts between the large and semi-dark entrance hall and the clarity of the monumental courtyard. 

The palace rooms still preserve the frescos and some oil paintings owned by the Pesaro family, although many have been moved to other museums. Bellini, Giorgione or Titian were the artists whose work was here in the private collections of the Pesaro family but, unfortunately, on the death of the last member of the family, the majority of this work was auctioned off. 

After the Pesaros, the palace had other owners, until it was bought, in the 19th century, by the Duchess of Bevilacqua La Masa. In 1898, the duchess left the building to the city of Venice with the aim of housing works of unknown Venetian artists, but the collection was immediately enlarged. 

Today, the International Gallery of Modern Art of Venice possesses extremely important collections of paintings and sculpture and graphic arts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Klee, Kandinsky, Matisse, Klimt and Chagall are some of the names present in the lavish rooms and galleries of the palace. Go along and enjoy it because here the art is both inside and outside. 

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