John Ruskin: The Stones of Venice - "Venetian Index" - L

 



84 Libreria Vecchia

A graceful building of the central Renaissance, designed by Sansovino, 1536, and much admired by all architects of the school. It was continued by Scamozzi, down the whole side of St. Mark's Place, adding another storey above it, which modern critics blame as destroying the "eurithmia;" never considering that had the two low stories of the Library been continued along the entire length of the Piazza, they would have looked so low that the entire dignity of the square would have been lost. As it is, the Library is left in its originally good proportions, and the larger mass of the Procuratie Nuove forms a more majestic, though less graceful, side for the great square.
But the real faults of the building are not in its number of stories, but in the design of the parts. It is one of the grossest examples of the base Renaissance habit of turning keystones into brackets, throwing them out in bold projection (not less than a foot and a half) beyond the mouldings of the arch; a practice utterly barbarous, inasmuch as it evidently tends to dislocate the entire arch, if any real weight were laid on the extremity of the keystone; and it is also a very characteristic example of the vulgar and painful mode of filling spandrils by naked figures in alto-relievo, leaning against the arch on each side, and appearing as if they were continually in danger of slipping off. Many of these figures have, however, some merit in themselves; and the whole building is graceful and effective of its kind. The continuation of the Procuratie Nuove, at the western extremity of St. mark's Place (together with various apartments in the great line of the Procuratie Nuove), forms the "Royal Palace," the residence of the Emperor when at Venice. This building is entirely modern, built in 1810, in imitation of the Procuratie Nuove, and on the site of Sansovino's Church of San Geminiano.
In this range of buildings, including the Royal Palace, the Procuratie Nuove, the old Library, and the "Zecca" which is connected with them (the latter being an ugly building of very modern date, not worth notice architecturally), there are many most valuable pictures, among which I would especially direct attention, first to those in the Zecca, namely, a beautiful and strange Madonna, by Benedetto Diana; two noble Bonifazios; and two groups by Tintoret, of the Provveditori della Zecca, by no means to be missed, whatever may be sacrificed to see them, on account of the quietness and veracity of their unaffected portraiture, and the absolute freedom from all vanity either in the painter of in his subjects.
Next, in the "Antisala" of the old Library, observe the "Sapienza" of Titian, in the centre of the ceiling; a most interesting work in the light brilliancy of its colour, and the resemblance to Paul Veronese. The, in the great hall of the old Library, examine the two large Tintorets, "St. Mark saving a Saracen from Drowning," and the "Stealing his Body from Constantinople." both rude, but great (note in the latter the dashing of the rain on the pavement, and running of the water about the feet of the figures): then, in the narrow spaces between the windows, there are some magnificent single figures by Tintoret, among the finest things of the kind in Italy, or in Europe. Finally, in the gallery of pictures in the Palazzo Reale, among other good works of various kinds, are two of the most interesting Bonifazios in Venice, the "Children of Israel in their Journeyings," in one of which, if I recollect right, the quails are coming in flights across a sunset sky, forming one of the earliest instances I know of a thoroughly natural and Turneresque effect being felt and rendered by the old masters. The picture struck me chiefly from this circumstance; but, the notebook in which I had described it and its companion having been lost on my way home, I cannot now give a more special account of them, except that they are long, full of crowded figures, and peculiarly light in colour and handling as compared with Bonifazio's work in general.

 

85 Lio, Church of St.

Of no importance, but said to contain a spoiled titian.

 

86 Lio, Salizzada di St., windows in

One of the earliest and simplest occurrence of the second order window in a double group is from a most important fragment of a defaced house in Salizzada San Lio, close to the Mercerie. It is associated with a fine pointed brick arch, indisputedly of contemporary work, towards the close of the 13th century.

 

87 Loredan, Palazzo

on the Grand Canal near the Rialto,
Another palace of this name, on the Campo St. Stefano, is of no importance.
Next to Ca'Farsetti, though not inconspicuous, and often passed with neglect, will, I believe, be felt at last, by all who examine it carefully, to be the most beautiful palace in the whole extent of the Grand Canal. It has been restored often, once in the Gothic, once in Renaissance times, - some writers say even rebuilt, but, if so, rebuilt in its old form. The Gothic additions harmonise exquisitely with its Byzantine work, and it is easy, as we examine its lovely central arcade, to forget the Renaissance additions which encumber it above. It is known as Casa Loredan.

 

88 Luca, Church of St.

Its campanile is of very interesting and quaint early Gothic, and it is said to contain a Paul Veronese, "St. Luke and the Virgin."
In the little Campiello St. Luca, close by, is a very precious Gothic door, rich in brickwork of the thirteenth century; and in the foundations of the houses on the same side of the square, but at the other end of it, are traceable some shafts and arches closely resembling the work of the Cathedral of Murano, an evidently having once belonged to some most interesting building.

 
Jan-Christoph Rößler