During his short stay in Venice, Giorgio Vasari painted a coffered ceiling with nine compartments for a room at Ca’ Corner Spinelli. The palazzo was designed by Mauro Codussi in the late 15th century. According to Vasari’s memories (Ricordanze): “adi otto di aprile 1542 il Magnifico Messer Giovannj Cornaro […] mi alloga per ordine di Messer Michele da San Michele […] un palcho o soffitto di legniame a dipingere a oljo con nove quadri grandi”. The paintings depict five Virtues with Charity in the center and Putti with tablets in the corners: “in uno di mezzo la Carità […] in quattro quadri la Fede, la Speranza e la Giustizia e la Pazienza […] e di più 4 quadri drentovi quatro putti né canti”.
The ceiling is representative of an pivotal moment when central Italian Mannerist art had a profound influence on Venetian painting as well as the great masters of the 16th century. Presumably in the early 19th century, the ceiling was broken into sections and its individual parts were scattered through the European antiques market.
In 1961, Jürgen Schulz, attempted to piece together the ceiling based on Vasari’s description, tracking down six of its nine sections, including Patience, Justice, and two Putti in the Di Capua collection in Rome (they were still in Venice in the Giovanelli collection in 1908) and Hope, and Faith in private European collections. The Di Capua panels, shown in 1981 at the From Titian to El Greco exhibition were purchased for the Gallerie dell’Accademia of Venice in 1987. Another segment of the ceiling, depicting a Putto with a tablet was identified by Luisa Vertova as a segment of the famous ceiling. She recognized it in a photograph of a Milanese apartment building published in Architectural Digest in 1998. This piece of the ceiling was designated a work of Italy’s national heritage and was sent to the Gallerie dell’Accademia in 2002.
In 2012-2013, the Ministry of Culture, with the support of Venetian Heritage, organized a fundraising to purchase the segment depicting Faith. Support was given by many individuals, businesses and public and private institutions. Since 1960, the painting had been in Lady Kennet’s collection in London, from which it was purchased.
James Ivory, the famous director from the United States, author of unforgettable masterpieces like “A Room with a View,” “Howard’s End,” and “The Remains of the Day,” as honorary member of the Venetian Heritage Foundation, in October 2016 launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the last panel of the ceiling, property of the Lord Weidenfeld heirs. Using the same effective strategy adopted for the purchase of the Faith, based on a synergic collaboration between public and private actors, we have successfully carried out the purchase of the Hope. Less than a year from the start of the fundraising campaign and six months before the term agreed upon with Christie’s, Hope has been purchased and brought to Venice. The purchase of the painting was made possible by: Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, Venetian Heritage, Venice in Peril Fund and Pro Venezia Sweden.
Through purchases and deposits, the Soprintendenti of Venice managed to obtain eight of the nine segments (one Putto with a tablet is considered permanently lost).
The recovered sections of the ceiling will be permanently installed at the Gallerie dell’Accademia.