Curated by Toto Bergamo Rossi e Daniele Ferrara
Palazzo Grimani, Venice
7 May 2019 – 30 May 2021
After more than four hundred years, the inestimable collection of the patriarch of Aquileia, Giovanni Grimani, returns to its Venetian home in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa. It is an exceptional event: the reconstruction of Grimani’s awe-inspiring “Chamber of Antiquities”, Grimani’s visionary setting for his unparalleled collection. Palazzo Grimani, originally purchased by the doge Antonio, who established the Grimani family in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa, is a rare and precious gem. It features unique architecture, evoking the ancient Roman domus and Renaissance designs, exceptional frescoes and stuccowork by Giovanni da Udine, a collaborator of Raphael, and other works by 16th-century masters, such as Francesco Salviati and Federico Zuccari.
Palazzo Grimani was a cultural landmark in its day for scholars, writers, ambassadors, and monarchs visiting the Serenissima, where patriarch Grimani’s collections – ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and Renaissance medallions, cameos and other masterpieces (as well as an important collection of books) – added luster to the Republic of Venice.
Grimani’s Chamber of Antiquities, better known as the Tribune, was the patriarch’s inner sanctum where he received his most illustrious guests. He had envisioned it as the showcase for his extraordinary collection of sculptures, but it is a work of art in its own right, featuring pilasters, niches, and marble frames. Those entering this space find themselves in a stunning and magnificent treasure chest.
In 1587, Giovanni bequeathed his splendid collection to the Republic of Venice. After his death, it was transferred to the Biblioteca Marciana, where it formed the first nucleus of the Statuary of the Republic. The major restoration work in the vestibule of the Marciana necessitated moving the statues, thus the opportunity to return the collection to its original location, where it had been until 1594. The exhibition itinerary includes the rooms leading up to the Tribune, where visitors have the opportunity to admire furnishing, paintings, and extraordinary art objects evoking the atmosphere of this 16thcentury aristocratic dwelling, decorated with a sumptuousness that was truly unique in Venice at that time.
The operation is fully in keeping with the efforts to conserve and make the most of the national artistic heritage and constitutes an example of effective collaboration between public and private spheres, involving both the Polo Museale del Veneto and Venetian Heritage, which has funded the exhibition project, thanks to the contribution of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in collaboration with Gagosian and by an anonymous donor, with the participation of Civita Tre Venezie.
In September 2020, the exhibition was enriched thanks to the acquisition of the portrait of Patriarch Giovanni Grimani – the art collector who commissioned the decoration of the Palace – attributed to Domenico Tintoretto and dated to the early seventeenth century. The painting was purchased by Venetian Heritage, who had it restored thanks to a generous donation by architect Emilio Ambasz, and has donated it to the Museo Statale di Palazzo Grimani, where it is currently exhibited.