Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa

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The Palazzo Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa is a State museum, located in Venice in the Castello district, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa.

Museo di Palazzo Grimani
Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa
Portale di ingresso da Ruga Giuffa.jpg
Location Venice, Italy Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates 45°26′13″N 12°20′32″E / 45.436956°N 12.342249°E / 45.436956; 12.342249Coordinates: 45°26′13″N 12°20′32″E / 45.436956°N 12.342249°E / 45.436956; 12.342249
Type Art Museum
Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa is located in Italy
Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa
Location of Museo di Palazzo Grimani


The palace can be reached by land from Ruga Giuffa (map). The water entry, very used in ancient times, is located on the San Severo canal. The Palazzo constitutes for the city of Venice a particularly precious novelty for the originality of the architecture, for the decorations and for the history that has characterized his history. It was property of the Grimani family of the Santa Maria Formosa branch until 1865 and, after several changes of ownership, in 1981 it was acquired, in a serious state of deterioration, by the Superintendence for Architectural and Environmental Heritage of the city of Venice and became a state property. Open to the public on December 20th 2008, after a long restoration, it is currently a museum belonging to the Veneto Museum Pole, which can be visited at the times and on the days indicated in:

The building, whose oldest nucleus was erected in the Middle Ages at the confluence of the canals of San Severo and Santa Maria Formosa, was purchased by Antonio Grimani, who became a doge in 1521, and subsequently passed on as a legacy, in the third decade of the 16th century , to the grandsons Vettore Grimani, Procurator de Supra for the Venetian Republic, and Giovanni Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia, who restructured the old factory inspired by architectural models taken from classicism. The two brothers wanted to give "modern" forms to the building and had it decorated with fresco cycles and stucco of great impact. In 1558, at the death of Vettore, Giovanni, who became the sole owner of the building, promoted an extension of the same with the collaboration of many artists including Federico Zuccari, architect of the monumental staircase, and Camillo Mantovano, active in various rooms. The patriarch Giovanni Grimani, a refined collector, set up his collection of antiques, including sculptures, marbles, vases, bronzes and gems, in the rooms of the palace. In 1587 he decided to donate the collection of sculptures and gems to the Serenissima: after his death the first ones were placed in the anti-room of the Marciana Library and today they are the founding nucleus of the National Archaeological Museum of Venice.

The long restoration made by the Superintendence has returned to the view of visitors the beautiful decorations of the palace, including in particular: the Camerino di Callisto, with stuccos by Giovanni da Udine, the Camerino di Apollo, with frescoes by Francesco Salviati and Giovanni da Udine, the Sala del Doge Antonio, decorated with stuccos and polychrome marbles, the Sala a Fogliami by Camillo Mantovano, with the ceiling entirely covered with fruit trees, flowers and animals, and the Tribune that housed more than a hundred pieces of the archaeological collection. Here, it is exposed the Ratto di Ganimede, suspended in the center of the vault decorated by lacunars. Federico Zuccari is probably also responsible for the stucco decoration with the grotesque monster with its wide open mouth visible in the Sala del Camino. Other works exhibited in the museum refer to the collecting interests of the Grimani family. In the Sala di Psiche you can admire the canvas with the Adoration of Psyche, an antique copy of the original by Francesco Salviati, originally placed in the middle of the wooden ceiling dismembered in the mid-nineteenth century.

The second floor of the building houses temporary exhibitions and cultural events.

Main rooms[edit]



The entrance of the palace is a marble portal that introduces the visitor into the large courtyard created subsequently the impressive renovation that took place in the sixties of the sixteenth century. The original medieval building, an L-shape plan, was restructured and redecorated between 1537 and 1540 by brothers  Vettore and Giovanni Grimani, according to a style inspired by the ancient Roman domus and the cultural climate of the Renaissance. In 1558, Giovanni promoted the extension of the building, creating the central square courtyard. The loggias that were created were adorned with classical statues similar to the rooms on the main floor. The loggia in front of the entrance of the museum was entirely frescoed with plant motifs and completed by the wonderful stucco baskets fulled with fruits and vegetables.

Monumental staircase[edit]

Monumental staircase

Between 1563 and 1565 the barrel vault of the staircase leading to the portego or passing salon of the main floor was sumptuously decorated by Federico Zuccari, a young artist of Roman culture, with allegorical frescoes referring to the virtues of his client Giovanni, completed by grotesques and stucco reliefs with mythological creatures. The stuccos reproduce some antique cameos from the Giovanni Grimani collection. Overall, the grand staircase could compete for magnificence with the Scala d'Oro of Palazzo Ducale and with that of the Marciana Library.

Camaron d'Oro[edit]

This room owes its name to the tapestries embellished with gold yarns that once covered the walls. Today we can admire some pieces from the collection of antiques by Giovanni Grimani, donated in 1587 to the Public Statuary of the Serenissima (now the National Archaeological Museum). The plaster statue of the Laocoon Group is a rare eighteenth-century plaster of the very famous sculpture of the first century B.C.that great interest aroused in Cardinal Domenico Grimani[1]. The group, found in Rome in 1506 at the Baths of Titus, is kept in the Vatican Museums.

Foliage room[edit]

The ceiling of the room called of the foliages, or of the pergolo, was made in the sixties of the sixteenth century by Camillo Mantovano. It owes its name to the decoration of the ceiling, a spectacular decoration that celebrates the luxuriant nature of plants and flowers, a thick forest inhabited by numerous animals, frequently in predatory attitudes and rich in symbolic meanings. In the lunettes surmounted by grotesques, complex figurations in the form of rebus allude, perhaps, to the long and troubled process for heresy suffered by the patriarch Giovanni Grimani.


Tribuna - Rape of Ganymed

The Tribuna was also known as Antiquarium and originally housed more than one hundred and thirty ancient sculptures, among the finest of the collection. This extraordinary space, once closed on three sides, illuminated only from above and inspired by the Pantheon, was the true fulcrum and the final destination of the itinerary along the rooms that precede it. The variety of sources of inspiration suggests a direct involvement of Giovanni Grimani himself in the design. The sculpture with the Abduction of Ganymede, hanging in the center of the room, is a Roman replica of a late Hellenistic model and has been relocated to its original position after the restoration of the building.

Neoclassical room[edit]

This room was renovated to be used as a bedroom for the wedding, celebrated in 1791, between the Roman princess Virginia Chigi and Giovanni Carlo Grimani. For this purpose a dressing room was created in the rooms behind the chimney wall. The decoration of the ceiling, executed by the Veronese Giovanni Faccioli, reproduces some pieces of ancient mural paintings (Aldobrandini Wedding and others from the Domus aurea). La Nuda is exhibited in this room. The work was part of the fresco cycle that Giorgione executed on the facade of the Fontego dei Tedeschi in 1508.

Dining room[edit]

Camillo Mantovano, ceiling of the Dining room (part.)

The striking ceiling of this room, decorated with festoons with fowl, vegetables and fish, alternated with floral bands, was created by Camillo Mantovano and a collaborator around 1567. The compositional scheme, with the space divided into segments through rays that converge to center, proposes in a modern key a model used in a room of the Domus aurea. The seventeenth-century painting in the center of the ceiling, Saint John baptizing the crowd derives from the homonymous painting by Nicolas Poussin of the Louvre. According to the nineteenth-century guides, it would replace a painting attributed to Giorgione and depicting the Four Elements.

Room of the Doge Antonio, vestibul and chapel[edit]

These three rooms belong to the last building phase of the palace, which ended in 1568. In the chapel, used by the patriarch Giovanni Grimani for the private celebration of the mass, there is a 16th century altarpiece attributed to Giovanni Contarini, a pupil of Titian, placed instead of the marble altar, removed in the nineteenth century. On the ceiling of the chapel and vestibule, short Latin inscriptions still recall the vicissitudes of the patriarch. From the vestibule window you can see the spiral staircase, probably a Palladian creation. In the next room, a plaque above the fireplace recalls and enhances the role of Antonio Grimani, to whom the room was dedicated. He was Giovanni's grandfather and Doge of the Serenissima from 1521 to 1523. To emphasize the importance of these three rooms, the walls and floors are entirely decorated with marble panels, according to the ancient roman taste. Many of them, extracted during the Roman period in places of Turkey, Greece and Africa, are rare and precious. In the niches, above the doors and above the fireplace, were ancient vases, busts and classical sculptural groups. The exhibition features a bronze bust of Antonio Grimani and an oil painting on canvas with the effigy of the illustrious ancestor.

Chamber of Callisto[edit]

Giovanni da Udine, ceiling of Callisto's Chamber (part)

This chamber dedicated to the nymph Callisto and to the history of her metamorphosis refers to the famous Ovidian text. The story unfolds on the ceiling in five squares with a gold background, starting from the first - on the wall opposite the windows -, where the sleeping nymph is loved by Jupiter, up to the epilogue - in the middle of the ceiling-, in which Callisto and his son Arcas are turned into constellations. The ancient stucco technique was rediscovered in Rome by Giovanni da Udine. In this room, the artist who worked with Raphael offers an essay of his great ability recreating animals, still lifes and twelve putti, symbolizing the months of the year, accompanied by four referable zodiacal signs to the seasons. Some round mirrors set in the stucco embellish the composition recalling the stars of the firmament.

Chamber of Psyche[edit]

This room was divided into two rooms only in the nineteenth century. In the original layout, datable to the thirties of the sixteenth century, the ceiling was decorated with five paintings dedicated to the fable of Cupid and Psyche, narrated by Apuleius. The octagonal painting on the wall, probable copy of the original made by Francesco Salviati in 1539, was the center of the composition and depicts Psyche, venerated as a goddess for her beauty.

Room of the fireplace[edit]

The large corner room, belonging to the oldest part of the building, was renovated in the sixties of the sixteenth century. It is dominated by the splendid fireplace surmounted by colored marble and large stucco decorations, where niches and shelves housed other archaeological pieces from the Grimani collection. The elegance of the faces portrayed in profile, the quality of the garlands and the fruits and the amazing monster with the gaping mouth, visible in the center, suggest the genius and inventive extravagance of Federico Zuccari. On the walls are still visible fragments of a fresco decoration that recalls the colonnade of the courtyard.


  • Lotto A. Il collezionismo artistico dei Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa nel Cinquecento, in «Venezia Arti», n.17/18, 2003-2004, pp. 22–31.
  • De Paoli M. Opera fatta diligentissimamente. Restauri di sculture classiche a Venezia tra Quattro e Cinquecento, Roma, L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2004.
  • Aikema B. (a cura di) Il collezionismo a Venezia e nel Veneto ai tempi della Serenissima, Venezia, Marsilio, 2005.
  • Brusegan M. La grande guida dei monumenti di Venezia - Newton & Compton Ed., Roma 2005; ISBN 88-541-0475-2.
  • Lotto A. Un libro di conti (1523-1531) di Marco Grimani, procuratore di San Marco e patriarca di Aquileia, «Atti dell'Istituto Veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti. Classe di scienze morali, lettere ed arti», 165/I-II, Venezia, 2007.
  • Bristot A.(a cura di), Palazzo Grimani a Santa Maria Formosa. Storia, arte, restauri, Verona, Scripta, 2008; ISBN 97-88-96162-02-6 Parameter error in {{isbn}}: Invalid ISBN..
  • Furlan C., Tosini P., I cardinali della Serenissima. Arte e committenza tra Venezia e Roma (1523 - 1605) Milano, Silvana editoriale, 2014.
Land Facade.[2]


  1. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1906). Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori. Firenze. pp. 488–489, VII. 
  2. ^ Photo by Paolo Monti, 1970 (Fondo Paolo Monti, BEIC).

Coordinates: 45°26′13″N 12°20′32″E / 45.436956°N 12.342249°E / 45.436956; 12.342249