As a gentle contrast look at the wall tomb of a bishop on the right of the Pesaro picture. The old priest lies on his bier resting his head on his hand and gazing for ever at the choir screen and stalls. It is one of the simplest and most satisfactory tombs in this church.
But it is in the right transept, about the Sacristy door, that the best tombs cluster, and here also, in the end chapel, is another picture, by an early Muranese painter of whom we have seen far too little, Bartolommeo Vivarini, who is credited with having produced the first oil picture ever seen in Venice. His Frari altar-piece undoubtedly had influence on the Bellini in the Sacristy, but it is less beautiful, although possibly a deeper sincerity informs it. Other musicianly angels are here, and this time they make their melody to S. Mark. In the next chapel are some pretty and cool grey and blue tombs.
Chief of the tombs in this corner is the fine monument to Jacopo Marcello, the admiral. This lovely thing is one of the most Florentine sculptures in Venice; above is a delicate fresco record of the hero’s triumphs. Near by is the monument of Pacifico Bon, the architect of the Frari, with a Florentine relief of the Baptism of Christ in terra-cotta, a little too high to be seen well. The wooden equestrian figure of Paolo Savello, an early work, is very attractive. In his red cap he rides with a fine assurance and is the best horseman in Venice after the great Colleoni.
In the choir, where Titian’s “Assumption” once was placed, are two more dead Doges. On the right is Francesco Foscari, who reigned from 1423-1457, and is one of the two Foscari (his son being the other) of Byron’s drama. Francesco Foscari, whom we know so well by reason of his position in the relief on the Piazzetta facade of the Doges’ Palace, and again on the Porta della Carta, was unique among the Doges both in the beginning and end of his reign. He was the first to be introduced to the populace in the new phrase “This is your Doge,” instead of “This is your Doge, an it please you,” and the first to quit the ducal throne not by death but deposition. But in many of the intervening thirty-four years he reigned with brilliance and liberality and encouraged the arts. His fall was due to the political folly of his son Jacopo and the unpopularity of a struggle with Milan. He died in the famous Foscari palace on the Grand Canal and, in spite of his recent degradation, was given a Doge’s funeral.
The other Doge here, who has the more ambitious tomb, is Niccolo Tron (1471-1473) who was before all a successful merchant. Foscari, it will be noticed, is clean shaven; Tron bearded; and to this beard belongs a story, for on losing a dearly loved son he refused ever after to have it cut and carried it to the grave as a sign of his grief.
The Sacristy is, of course, chiefly the casket that contains the Bellini jewel, but it has other possessions, including the “Stations of the Cross” by Tiepolo, which the sacristan is far more eager to display: a brilliant but fatiguing series. Here, too, are a “Crucifixion” and “Deposition” by Canova. A nice ciborium by the door and a quaint wooden block remain in my memory.