VILLA FOSCARI.La Malcontenta.Andrea Palladio.
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The purpose of my trip today was to visit one of Palladio’s very first villas (1508-1580) the Villa FOSCARI. It is the country residence of the Venetian patricians Nicolo and Luigi Foscari, built in 1558-60 in Mira, by the waters of the Brenta Canal, and designed by Andrea Palladio. Another name is Malcontenta (“Discontented”): an allusion to the wife of one of the Foscari, who was imprisoned by her husband in the rustic hinterland of this villa for being grumpy. Together with the other Palladian villas, Malcontenta is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. And all the splendor began with a man named Foscari. From this family in the XV century came the figure who became in the history of Venice one of the most powerful and “turning point” Doge. His reign was the longest of all the Venetian Doges, 34.5 years. Because of the low-lying landscape, Palladio raised the villa with a mezzanine on a very high plinth. Architecturally, the estate did not retain some Palladian designs, including one of the staircases. The Foscari’s did not wish to surround the manor house with outbuildings (as was done, for example, in Villa Emo). For them the villa was first and foremost a place for gala receptions, and not the center of the economic life of the vast estate. Pavel Muratov characterized the building as follows: “The Ionic portico of the Malcontenta belongs to the purest and happiest creations of Palladio: there is something of a virgin archaicity in its proportions, and if in the porticoes of the Villa Rotonda the architect’s dream of Rome of Augustus or Trajan is alive, the Villa Foscari is all lit with the grim smile of old republican Rome. The southern façade of the Malcontenta is decorated only by the picturesque placement of the windows, and who else would have ventured into these extraordinary and new rhythms of shadowy window spots but the ingenious Vicentinian inventor!” The interior of the villa is decorated with allegorical and mythological frescoes by Battista Franco and Giambattista Zelotti.
The bed is on a wooden elevation, probably because the floors are cold.
By each window there was a small space where there was an armchair and a small table. It was possible to have privacy and look at the surroundings.
And this is a mural of Malcontenta herself. Always the disgruntled wife of one of the villa’s owners. Had she been
kind and obedient, she wouldn’t have been remembered, but she’s in history.
In 1973, the Malcontenta was returned to Foscari and was carefully restored, but the condition of the frescoes is still cause for concern. The inscription on the southern façade recalls that in August 1574 the Foskari received with all possible solemnity the last of the Valois, who had rushed from Warsaw to France to take the vacant throne.
Palladio wrote: “It will be very convenient and beautiful if built on the bank of the river, for at any time it will be possible to take the harvest to the city by barge for a small price, not to mention the fact that in summer it gives a cool and beautiful view, and the grounds, gardens and orchards – the soul and joy of the villa – will be irrigated to its great benefit”, which is typical from Venice to the villa can be reached by gondola.
As soon as Foscari opened the baton, in half a century Brenta became a kind of suburban extension of the Grand Canal, along which the Venetian patricians began to rebuild. For almost four centuries, from the 16th to the 19th century, Brenta quietly remained the residential address of the Venetian elite.
Since it was in close proximity to the capital, the Doge’s Palace could be quickly reached by boat at any time and ruled at will. That’s what the gentlemen of the Foscari, oligarchs of thousands of years’ standing, in particular, had been doing for centuries.
Palazzo Foscari is a striking example of the homes of the Venetian nobility. The reddish facade, characterized by symmetry and openwork, immediately draws attention to the building. At one time this palace served as a place of accommodation for royalty visiting Venice.
Ca’ Foscari or Palazzo Foscari is a striking example of the homes of the Venetian nobility. The reddish façade, characterized by symmetry and openwork, immediately attracts attention to the building.
The house on the site belonged to the Giustiniani (Giustiniani) family, as did the nearby Palazzo Giustiniani, before it was taken over by the Foscari family (by the way, emphasis on the “o”). However, that building, built around the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries, looked quite different. The “house with two towers” (casa or palazzo delle due torri) was its name.
In 1428 this building was bought by the Republic of Venice and presented to the Duke of Mantua of the Gonzaga dynasty. Then in the late 1430s it was given to Francesco Sforza, condottiere and ancestor of the Sforza branch of Milan. In 1447, however, after Sforza broke his alliance with Venice, the authorities took the palazzo back.
Finally, in 1452, the palace ended up in the possession of the Doge of Venice, Francesco Foscari, who bought it at auction. Here, in Ca’ Foscari, he would spend the last days of his life after being deposed. The case is simply unprecedented, since usually the Doge was appointed for life. But the exile of Jacopo Foscari, son of Francesco Foscari, to Crete, where he soon died, as well as pressure from the Council of Ten, forced the Doge to leave his post. After this event he lived only a week and died at the age of 84. Nevertheless, in view of his former merits and at the insistence of the Venetian citizens, he was buried with full honors in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. These dramatic events, albeit in a somewhat “humbled” form, formed the basis for the plot of Byron’s play The Two Foskari.
But all this happened later, and in the 1450s, when Foskari only acquired the “House with Two Towers”, he, believing that this house is too poor to be considered the home of the doge’s family, decides to rebuild it completely. The new palace was a sumptuous and stately Gothic structure. First of all, its size is impressive. The mere fact that its courtyard was one of the largest of all the residential buildings in Venice, after the Doge’s Palace, speaks volumes.
The façade of Ca’ Foscari is memorable for its characteristic Venetian Gothic arched galleries. In the upper part of the window arches we can see traditional for the buildings of that time four-leaf arches (similar elements are present on the facades of the Doge’s Palace, Ca’ d’Oro and many other palaces), the capitals of the columns are decorated with images of lion heads and floral ornamentation. Above the windows of the third tier is a wide marble frieze with a helmet in the center, probably as a symbol of the Doge’s military power. On either side of the frieze are a pair of putti holding the coat of arms of the Foscari family with an image of a winged Venetian lion.
The ground floor of the palazzo was used to house auxiliary and storage rooms. The palazzo’s main entrance traditionally faced the Grand Canal. The canals always served the Venetians as the main thoroughfares of transportation, and commerce was the most important activity for the people of Venice. Accordingly, dwellings were built in such a way that they could conveniently load and unload goods delivered by water. This principle applied both to the buildings owned by merchants and to the patrician palazzos of the Grand Canal. Besides its purely practical purpose, the main portal of the building was certainly also its decoration. For this reason it was usually more flamboyantly and ornately decorated than the entrance, which was located on the land side. This is no longer always the case, including in the case of Ca’ Foscari. The first and second floors (the second and third as we understand it) of the palace contained living quarters, as well as offices for conducting business and halls for receiving guests – “piano nobile” in the traditional Italian terminology.
Behind the large central arcade of windows is a spacious hallway decorated in the mid-1930s with a fresco by Mario Sironi. Today it is called Aula Baratto (also called Aula Magna, the Great Hall) in honor of Mario Baratto, professor of Italian literature and an ardent opponent of the Fascist regime.
The fresco by Mario Siironi depicts a number of allegorical figures: among others, the Venetian winged lion and Venice as a woman seated on the throne with the model of Ca’ Foscari in her hands, as well as the personifications of medicine and technology, again represented by women, one leaning on a wheel and one holding a caduceus. Another artist, Mario Deluigi, a close friend of Carlo Scarpa, with whom he once attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and later collaborated periodically on various projects, was also invited to decorate the walls of Palazzo Foscari. Deluguigi, who gravitated toward Cubism in those years, decorated the Ca’ Foscari with a depiction of a philosopher teacher surrounded by students. Later his work was transferred to the Great Hall in addition to a fresco by Sironi in a similar style.
The Palazzo Foscari has long enjoyed elite status, and at one time served as a place of accommodation for royalty visiting Venice. In 1574, for example, King Henry III of France, the last of the Valois dynasty, stayed here for several days. He was struck by Venice from the first minutes of his stay until the last moment. This, however, is by no means surprising. Knowing that such a high-ranking (and politically important for the Republic of Venice) person was coming, the Doge ordered a truly royal reception, sending a gilded thirty-meter galleys for the dear guest, Bucintoro. Sugar dishes were made especially for Henry and Murano craftsmen were brought to the windows of Ca’ Foscari on rafts, who were blowing wondrous things out of glass in front of the king.
However, by the middle of the nineteenth century there was no trace of the palace’s former splendor – it was on the verge of destruction, so it was restored, which, according to John Ruskin, only harmed the palazzo Foscari, although it was necessary. After the restoration, the Austro-Hungarian barracks were housed here.
In general, being quite an ancient structure, the Foscari palace has been subjected to numerous reconstructions. In 1936, under the leadership of the already mentioned architect Carlo Scarpa, restoration work was carried out. In 1956 Scarpa continued the restoration. Then, in particular, a peculiar wooden corridor of the “Baratto Hall” was built, and the hall itself was transformed into an auditorium. Scarpa also gave rise to the lamps and lanterns that are one of the “highlights” of the palazzo in its present form.
Another restoration took place in 1979, when part of the palace’s interiors was damaged by a fire.
Finally, between 2004 and 2006 another renovation of Ca’ Foscari was carried out, which improved the safety and functionality of the building.
Today the magnificent Ca’ Foscari houses a number of departments and institutions of the University of the same name (Università Ca’ Foscari).
Another notable feature of Ca’ Foscari for several centuries is that the palazzo annually becomes one of the epicenters of life in Venice. The palace is located on the bend of the Grand Canal, which is very convenient in terms of visibility. That’s why during the Regata Storica, held every year on the first Sunday in September, there is a floating platform next to it where the jury observes the progress of the regatta. This is also where the awards ceremony is held.