The sculpture gallery at Palazzo Grimani (Photo: Dino Chinellato/MiBac)

The Renaissance rediscovery of ancient art and architecture also led to the revival of another Greek and Roman concept — the museum.

That Venice was a leader in the refounding of these institutions was primarily thanks to two patrician Venetian collectors, Domenico Grimani and his nephew Giovanni, who in the 16th century gave the city two pioneering museums.

In 1596, Domenico and Giovanni’s legacies of Greek and Roman antiquities inaugurated the Public Statuary in the vestibule of the Library in Piazza San Marco, designed by the Florentine Jacopo Sansovino. Enriched by further donations over the centuries, the Public Statuary later became the Archeological Museum.

Less well known is that Giovanni Grimani was also the founder of a private museum at Palazzo Grimani off Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a few minutes’ walk from Piazza San Marco. Palazzo Grimani was once one of the most famous residence-museums in Europe. Early visitors, who came as much to marvel at its astonishing marbled, stuccoed, gilded and frescoed interiors as at its numerous treasures, included King Henry III of France in 1573. It became an essential landmark on the Grand Tour between the 17th and 19th centuries.


Roderick Conway Morris
New York Times