Option 1: Doge's Palace and the Basilica of St.Mark's.
The Doges' Palace, which Ruskin called "the central building of the World", was the official residence of the Dukes of Venice, and the seat of the Venetian governing institutions, from the 9th C until the fall of the Republic in 1797. The airy, graceful structure of the Palace celebrates the unique political stability of Venice, governed according to a complex system of checks and balances that restricted the power of individuals, and prevented the factional rivalries. You'll be overwhelmed by the multitude of paintings that cover the walls, broadcasting the image of Venice as the Most Serene Republic, an ideal State whose enduring independence was taken as a sign of divine favor.
The Church of Saint Mark was built in 829, and rebuilt in 1063, to enshrine the body of the Evangelist and was the Doges' Chapel, and the Church of the State for almost a millennium. Its walls are encrusted with almost 90.000 square feet of magnificent mosaics, rare marbles and carvings.
Option 2: The Evolution of Venetian Painting: the Accademia Galleries.
The Accademia Galleries host the most complete collection of Venetian paintings in existence. Five centuries of Venetian Art are represented, from the first named masters of the 14th C, when the traditional Venetian allegiance to Byzantium gradually gave way to Gothic influences, to the last burst of artistic genius in the 18th C. A chronological journey though the evolution of art which will help you to appreciate the outstanding examples of the large narrative canvasses of Carpaccio, the many serenely tender and justly celebrated Giovanni Bellini's Madonnas, the enigmatic paintings of a genius like Giorgione.
You will be impressed by the three unequalled masters – Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, who dominated and shaped the tradition of Venetian painting in the High and Late Renaissance, establishing unique aesthetic values and technical procedures – and eventually by the glorious painting of 18th C, which accompanied the Republic of Venice to its end.
Option 3: Titian and Tintoretto: the Frari's Church and the Scuola di San Rocco.
Churches and seats of ancient laymen confraternities in Venice (known as Scuole) can offer an incredible variety of art masterpieces. The amazing Franciscan Church of the Frari, with its dignified air of Apostolic austerity, contains sculptures of all styles as well as the most celebrated of all Titian paintings, “The Assumption of the Virgin Mary”, and works of Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veneziano. The nearby Scuola Grande di San Rocco displays an incredible and overwhelming cycle of canvasses painted by Tintoretto, a truly illustrated Bible which has no comparison.
Option 4: Life in 18th Century: Ca' Rezzonico.
Henry James memorably described this palace as "thrusting itself upon the water with a peculiar florid assurance, a certain upward toss of its cornice which gives it the air of a rearing sea-horse". Ca' Rezzonico is one of the most imposing palaces on the Grand Canal and offers a unique opportunity to visit an authentic 1700 private house, with huge frescoed ceilings, painted by Giambattista Tiepolo: the greatest artist of the last century of the Venetian Republic. The palace contains original outstanding 18th C furniture, ceramics, tapestries and the richest collection of 1700 Venetian paintings in the City, including some views by Canaletto.
Option 5: Veronese and Tiepolo: the Church of San Sebastiano and the Scuola dei Carmini.
This tour focuses on the two kings of Venetian color: Veronese and Tiepolo. Paolo Veronese was the most sumptuous and ravishingly decorative painter of High Renaissance, fond of striking illusionism, shimmering colors and curious perspectives. The church of San Sebastiano was very important for the artist's career, who was buried in it, nearby the main altar. He spent many years decorating the church, and left the most well preserved fresco cycle in Venice, creating a thematically unified interior that blurs the bounds of art and reality.
Not far from San Sebastiano we find the Scuola dei Carmini, the seat of an ancient lay-confraternity, built in the 17th C by the baroque architect Longhena. The interior was decorated by Gian Battista Tiepolo, the painter who can be considered the crowning glory of 18th C Venetian painting. There we will admire the incredible ceiling created by this artist.
Option 6: Carpaccio's Stories and Early Renaissance Architecture.
The Schiavoni (Slavs) were Dalmatian merchants who formed an active trading colony in Venice and in 1451 built their own confraternity close to the Riva degli Schiavoni, where they moored their vessels. Their tiny scuola contains one of the most irresistibly appealing sequences of pictures to be found in Venice, executed by Carpaccio, the most popular story-telling painter of the 15thC, who used to depict an imaginative early Renaissance Venice, where scenes combine fantasy and reality, and architectures present a style which materialize in the small, exquisitely-crafted Church dei Miracoli, built at the end of the 1400s to contain a miracle-working image of the Virgin Mary.
Clad in sheets of softly-colored marbles, it seems both quintessentially Venetian and not quite real. It was described as second only to San Marco shortly after it was built, and has remained one of the most loved and admired of all Venetian buildings ever since.
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