At sunset the landscape is sharpened and brought nearer. The deep blue of the real sea, beyond the lagoon, grows deeper; the great fields of mud (if it is low tide) gleam and glisten. And so it will ever be.
THE DOGES’ PALACE. I: THE INTERIOR
Uningratiating splendour—Doges and Heaven—Venetian pride—The most beautiful picture of all—A non-scriptural Tintoretto—The Sala del Collegio—The Sala del Senato—More Doges and Heaven—The Council of Ten—Anonymous charges—Tintoretto’s “Last Judgment”—An immense room—Tintoretto’s “Paradiso”—Sebastiano Ziani and his exploits—Pope Alexander III and Barbarossa—Old blind Dandolo—The Crusades—Zara—The Fall of Constantinople—Marino Faliero and his fall—The first Doge in the room—The last Doge in the room—The Sala dello Scrutinio—Palma’s “Last Judgment”—A short way with mistresses—The rest of the Doges—Two battle pictures—The Doges’ suites—The Archaeological Museum—The Bridge of Sighs—The dungeons.
I have to confess to weariness in the Ducal apartments. The rooms are splendid, no doubt, and the pictures are monuments of energy; but it is the windows that frame the most delectable scenes. In Venice, where the sun usually shines, one’s normal wish is to be out, except when, as in S. Mark’s there is the wonder of dimness too. For Venice is not like other historic cities; Venice, for all her treasures of art, is first and foremost the bride of the Adriatic, and the call of the sea is strong. Art’s opportunity is the dull days and rainy.
With the best will to do so, I cannot be much impressed by the glory and power of the Doges. They wear a look, to me, very little removed from Town Councillors: carried out to the highest power, no doubt, but incorrigibly municipal none the less; and the journey through these halls of their deliberations is tedious and unenchanting. That I am wrong I am only too well aware. Does not Venetian history, with its triumphs and pageantry of world-power, prove it? And would Titian and Paul Veronese and Tintoretto have done all this for a Mayor and Corporation? These are awkward questions. None the less, there it is, and the Doges’ Palace, within, would impart no thrill to me were it not for Tintoretto’s “Bacchus and Ariadne.”
Having paid for our tickets (for only on Sundays and holidays is the Palace free) we take the Scala d’Oro, designed by Sansovino, originally intended only for the feet of the grandees of the Golden Book. The first room is an ante-room where catalogues are sold; but these are not needed, for every room, or nearly every room, has hand-charts of the paintings, and every room has a custodian eager to impart information. Next is the Hall of the Four Doors, with its famous and typical Titian—Doge Grimani, fully armed and accompanied by warriors, ecstatically acknowledging religion, as symbolized by a woman, a cross, and countless cherubim. Behind her is S. Mark with an expression of some sternness, and beside him his lion, roaring.