Project Description

Three painted-wood entrance hall benches, 18th century
Palazzo Contarini at San Beneto, Venice

Project
Restoration of three monumental painted-wood benches

Location
Palazzo Contarini at San Beneto, Venice

Project Director
The Inspectorate of the historical, artistic and
ethno-anthropological heritage and
of the centre for museums of the city of Venice and
the municipalities around the lagoon

Contractor
Giovanna Menegazzi e
Roberto Bergamaschi s.n.c., Venice

Funding
Davines S.p.A.
Venetian Heritage

The project is included in the framework of the UNESCO – International Private Committees Joint Programme for the Safeguarding of Venice

Start date
August 2014

End date
May 2015

Cost
82.610,00 €

The Contarini family holds the record for having produced a total of eight doges for the Most Serene Republic of Venice. Over the centuries, they divided into eighteen distinct branches. The progenitor of the Contarini family of San Beneto was a man named Beneto, who lived in the early 1400s. His grandson, Domenico, became one of the most celebrated generals of the Venetian Republic, and it is likely thanks to his grandchildren that the palace was reconstructed in its current form. In 1527, he obtained fleurs-de-lis from King Francis I of France, which the Contarini descendants of this branch later incorporated into their coat of arms. In 1658, Domenico Contarini was elected as the one hundred and fourth Doge of the Republic of Venice. The residence continued to enrich itself with significant works of art, maintaining its sixteenth-century structure almost unchanged. In 1748, the palace was completely redecorated by the finest artists of the time to celebrate the wedding between Giulio Contarini and Eleonora Morosini. The main floor is perhaps the most intact example of a Venetian residence from the mid-eighteenth century. Everything is in the style of Louis XV, from the fabulous Venetian floors to the doors with their original “ferramenta” (hardware), to the stuccos by Carpoforo Mazzetti Tencalla, to the frescoes by Fontebasso, Diziani, and Brusaferro. The execution of the three monumental benches in the entrance hall, which are unique in their size and pictorial quality, depicting trompe l’oeil architectural elements and the coats of arms of the Contarini of San Beneto and the Morosini of Santo Stefano, can be attributed to the craftsmen of the aforementioned painters. The oil-painted decoration on wood panels was undoubtedly carried out during the palace’s modernization in 1748. The benches were originally placed in the building’s entrance hall and were later moved under the courtyard loggia, unfortunately exposed to the weather.
The benches were in a very poor state of preservation, with widespread lifting of the paint, various restorations, and heavy, inconsistent repainting. The restoration has returned these extraordinary eighteenth-century furnishings to their former glory.

Ca’ Contarini in San Beneto was recently acquired by the Municipality of Venice, which intends to allocate it to the Venetian Civic Museums Foundation as the future headquarters of the Museum of the Venetian House. Venetian Heritage Foundation would like to coordinate fundraising efforts for the restoration of the splendid interiors.

The work was carried out under the direction of the Special Superintendent for Historical, Artistic, and Ethno-anthropological Heritage and for the Museums of the City of Venice and the municipalities of the Lagoon. The intervention was performed by the Bergamaschi & Menegazzi company as part of the joint UNESCO-International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice program and was generously funded by Davines S.p.A. and Venetian Heritage.

The intervention is dedicated to the restorer Giovanna Menegazzi and was generously funded by Davines S.p.A. as part of the “I sustain beauty” campaign, in collaboration with Venetian Heritage.