Palazzo Corner della Grande and San Pantalon

The palazzo Corner della Grande (also called Ca’Grande or Ca’Corner Grande) lies across from the Guggenheim terrace.  The Corner family was very wealthy. Not only were they important traders, they also dabbled in politics and the church.

Corner family members were among the oldest families in Venice. Zorzi Corner was the brother of queen Caterina of Cyrpus. Zorzi convinced her to turn her kingdom over to Venice following the death of her husband James II. That is how Venice gained this important island. After Zorzi’s death, he leaves an immense capital. La Serenissima was of course very appreciative He was given large plots of lands in Cyprus that cultivated sugar, cotton and what.

Palazzo Corner della Grande       Facade and side

Palazzo Corner della Grande Jacopo Sansovino
photos: Wolfgang Moroder and side: Intiaz Rahin

Zorzi Corner purchased the palace at San Maurizio, an old gothic palace, where he later ordered the construction of the Corner Grande. Zorzi purchased it from the Malombra for twenty-thousand gold coins. In addition, Zorzi also purchased eleven smaller homes at the Canal Grande, and a shipyard and a plot of land next to the old palace. In his will, Zorzi wrote that this palace along with the purchased homes and plots should remain within the family. Under no circumstance was it allowed to sell or divide it. Zorzi divided his possessions among four of his sons, Francesco, Zuanne, Hieronimo and Giacomo. In his will, Zorzi wrote that this palace along with the purchased homes and plots should remain within the family. But the fraterena fell apart.

Five years after Zorzi’s death, on 16 August 1532 a massive fire erupted in the old palace. It was a spectacular inferno. Sanudo describes this fire in his [48-part] diaries down to the most minute detail. One of Zuanne’s brothers delivered sugar and cotton from Cyprus. However, the sugar in the bales was still moist and was put to dry on the attic. Like other family members, Zuanne suffered from gout. He went to bed with warmed up wood to ease the pain. But the process to warm up the wood had created so much heat that the beams in the attic began to smoulder. Sparks from the beams caused a fire in the sugar bales. The family had dinner late and thus struggled to wake up. They attempted to recover some important documents from the mezzanine floors next to the androne. But with the locks of the doors being opened, gathered crowds were given the option to pillage these rooms. A lot of sugar and cotton in the androne was able to be preserved. Sanudo also tells us that the marble columns of the facade came thundering down, killing three curious spectators. Sanudo described it as: ‘Deus dedit, Deus abstulit’, or, God gave and God took’.

Right after the fire, Giacomo and Francesco filed a petition with the Doge to explain their situation. It expressly mentioned that the city’s interests were best served if a palace would be built at this amazing location at the Canal Grande. Both brothers requested for a hefty contribution to build the new palace.

Canaletto ‘View Grand Canal towards Punta della Dogana from Campo San Vio’
Canaletto ‘View Grand canal towards Punta della Dogana from Campo San Vio’ Brera

Canaletto ‘View Grand Canal towards Punta della Dogana from Campo San Vio’
Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid and Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano

Canaletto ‘Palazzo Corner della Grande” (detail)

One coy remark was that the family had a whopping eight daughters. They thus hinted towards a massive dowry of sixty-one-thousand gold coins needing to be paid in the future. And that is exactly the amount requested by the brothers. Of course, they also explicitly referred to the fact how Cyprus fell into the hands of La Serenissima thanks to Zorzi Corner. The petition did not fall on deaf ears. The Council of Ten offered the brothers thirty-thousand coins: half of what they asked for. The provision in Zorzi’s will to keep the plot undivided within the family was ignored with permission of the senate. The entire plot at the side of the large channel was divided in two equal pieces. The left part was never built on.

Palazzo Corner della Grande: entrance
photo: Z Thomas

High rounded windows

The facade: Sansovino used rustication for the aediculas around the ground floor windows. There are three entrances for trade goods like grain, sugar and cotton from Cyprus. It also uses double orders or paired columns. Paired columns allow the wall surface to be better hidden and it emphasises the columns as a constructive and thus supporting element, at least visually, because the columns lack a real support function. Just like with the palazzo Dolfin Manin, Sansovino uses high rounded windows, which was very popular in Venice during the renaissance.

Palazzo Corner della Grande: High rounded windows

All bays on the first and second floor are equally wide, which goes against the usual trichotomy of the facade. Which two elements show that in fact there is a traditional trichotomy in the facade?
1. The used bays are equal, but the three middle-most windows at the portego or salone in the bays are wider than the windows in the bays of the side-wings. This nifty trick – keeping the same bays but having slightly wider windows in the centre gives the palazzo a classic shape, while also respecting Venetian tradition
2. The balcony at the centre part is contiguous as opposed to the side parts, where each window is given an individual balcony.

Palazzo Corner della Grande: ground  first floor
photo: Wolfgang Moroder

The facade was both traditional and modern. The Rome by Bramante and Raphael were also of big influence. Features of the facade:

The facade was both traditional and modern. The Rome by Bramante and Raphael were also of big influence. Features of the facade:
1. Completely correct use of the orders. First Doric, then Ionic, and finally Corinthian.
2. The paired columns are above a basement that is fully composed of rustication.
3. The individual balconies at the side windows.
4. The elegant corner solution (just to the right of the facade: ‘round the corner’) that is inspired by Raphaël’s House by Bramante.
5. The antique coat of arms in the spandrels, the lion heads as capstone are all very classic  elements that people loved.
6. Entire facade of Istrian stone that, like marble, has a classic look.

The palazzo Corner della Grande is much different from the first palazzo, Dolfin Manin, by Sansovino. The Dolfin Manin is kept simple, where the Corner has all kinds of typical elements like:
The segmented pediments on the ground floor that are pushed together at the ends.

The clever corner solution with paired columns, while the palazzi Vendramin-Calergi by Codussi and the Grimani by Sanmicheli have a facade that looks more like a picture. The facade of the palazzo Corner is well integrated into the rest of the building. John Singer Sargent displayed this corner solution in one of his works in 1907.

The layout is remarkable as well. The courtyard connects to the facade: the three entrances for goods are mimicked in the courtyard. In the architrave, Sansovino used recessed ovals like he wanted to do for the facade. In addition, the oval-shaped mezzanine windows of the facade make another appearance in the courtyard. So the facade isn’t just ‘curved around the corner’, but it makes another appearance in the courtyard.

Titian (studio) ‘Girolamo and cardinal Marco Corner’ c. 1520-1525

Titian (studio) ‘Girolamo and cardinal Marco Corner
National Gallery of Art, Washington

During the final restoration, a secret staircase was discovered for female visitors that came to see the high clergymen in the family like Marco Corner.

The Rio Foscari 

Rio Foscari Venice
photo: Didier Descouens

We walk north and as we cross the Rio Foscari via the Campo di S. Margherita, we arrive at the Campo di San Pantalon that has the church by the same name.

Campo di San Pantalon       Facade San Pantalon

Campo di San Pantalon
photos: Didier Descouens and facade: Zairon

San Pantalon

San Pantalon nave Venice
photo: Zairon
Antonio Fumiani ‘Martyrdom and the apotheosis of St. Pantalon”

Antonio Fumiani ‘Martyrdom and the apotheosis of St. Pantalon”

“San Pantalon is particularly well known for its immense ceiling painting, depicting The Martyrdom and Apotheosis of St Pantalon. It was painted on canvas by Gian Antonio Fumiani between 1680 and 1704, when he fell to his death from the scaffolding.” Cited from Wikipedia

John Ruskin, in his typical disdain of all post-Quattrocento works, described the ceiling fresco as a:
sorrowful lesson…All the mischief that Paul Veronese did may be seen in the halting and hollow magnificences of them;—all the absurdities, either of painting or piety, under afflatus of vile ambition Roof puffed up and broken through, as it were, with breath of the fiend from below, instead of pierced by heaven’s light from above; the rags and ruins of Venetian skill, honour, and worship, exploded all together sky-high. Miracles of frantic mistake, of flaunting and thunderous hypocrisy,—universal lie, shouted through speaking-trumpets…(It is) the most curious example in Europe of the vulgar dramatic effects of painting.” Ruskin, John (1905). The works of John Ruskin, Volume 24 (E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn editors ed.). London: George Allen. p. 358 and Wikipedia

Ruskin 'Self-portrait'
A. Vivarini  G. d’Alemagna ‘Coronation of the Virgin' detail

Coronation of the Virgin (detail)      In situ
A. Vivarini and G. d’Alemagna ‘Coronation of the Virgin’ 1444

The San Pantalon has an old chapel with well-preserved original artworks. After the sexton has opened the chapel for us (afternoons only), you can see inside the Cappella del Sacro Chiudo (nail) a work by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna from 1444, ‘Coronation of the Virgin’ next to a beautiful gothic sculpture. This kind of art in its original context has a much different impact than the triptychs we have seen in the Accademia.

Paolo Veneziano ‘Mary of the Poppy’

Across from ‘the Coronation’ we see three panels from the mid-14th century. Paolo Veneziano painted ‘Annunciation and the nativity of Jesus’ (left). In the middle: The ‘Mary of the Poppy’ and right ‘Presentation at the temple and Dormition of the Virgin’. These themes are the opening and closing piece of ‘The Coronation.’

Paolo Veneziano 'Mary of the Poppy'
photo three panels: Sailko
Paolo Veronese, ‘San Pantalon healing a Boy’

Paolo Veronese, ‘San Pantalon healing a Boy’

The second chapel to the right has another painting by Paolo Veronese, ‘San Pantalon healing a Boy’ from 1587. This painting is Veronese’s last work, he died to a lung illness not too long after.

It was commissioned by Bartolomeo Borghi, the priest of this church. Borghi appears on the painting as well. He is holding the dying boy who was tragically bit by a poisonous snake. The angel comes flying towards them holding a palm branch, the sign of sanctity: a status the newly converted San Pantalon will still achieve. At the top right of the image we have a classic depiction of Asclepius: the heathen Greek healer. Scientific medicine is not able to heal the boy, but Divine power knows no bounds. The boy is healed. While the painting was recently restored, the lighting isn’t optimal so we can’t fully appreciate this touching scene.

The End of Venice