Napoleon s’amuse—Paul Veronese—The Layard collection—The Palazzo Papadopoli—The Rialto Bridge—The keystone—Carpaccio—The “Uncle” of Venice—Modern painting—English artists in Venice—The Civic Museum—Pictures and curiosities—Carnival costumes—Carpaccio and Ruskin—Historical scenes—A pleasant garden.
The big palace on the other side of the Rio Foscari, next the shabby brown, deserted house which might be made so desirable with its view down the Canal, is the Balbi, and it has the distinction that Napoleon stood in one of its windows to see a Grand Canal regatta, the races in which ended at this point. Next it is the Angaran, and then a nice little place with lions guarding the terrace gate, at the corner of the Rio della Frescada, one of the prettiest of the side canals. Next we come to another large and solid but very dull house, the Civran (afterwards Grimani); then the forsaken Dandolo, and we are at the steamboat station of S. Toma, where the passengers for the Frari and S. Rocco land.
Hereabouts the houses are very uninteresting. Two more and a traghetto and the Rio S. Toma; then the Palazzo Giustiniani, a rich Venetian red, with a glimpse of a courtyard; then the ugliest building in the canal, also red, like the back of a block of flats; and after passing the pretty little Gothic Tiepolo palace with blue posts with yellow bands, and the larger Palazzo Tiepolo adjoining it, we are at the fine fifteenth-century Pisani Moretta, with a double row of rich Gothic windows. Here once hung Veronese’s “Family of Darius,” now No. 294 in our National Gallery, and, according to Ruskin, “the most precious” of the painter’s works. The story goes that Veronese being driven to make use of the Pisani villa at Este as a temporary home, painted the picture while there and left it behind him with a message that he hoped it would pay for his board and lodging. The Pisani family sold it to the National Gallery in 1857.
The next palace is the hideous Barbarigo della Terrazza, with a better facade on the Rio S. Polo: now a mosaic company’s head-quarters, but once famous for its splendours, which included seventeen Titians, now in Russia; and then the Rio S. Polo and the red Capello Palace where the late Sir Henry Layard made his home and gathered about him those pictures which now, like the Darius, belong to our National Gallery. Next it is the Vendramin, with yellow posts and porphyry enrichment, and then the desolate dirty Querini, and the Bernardo, once a splendid palace but now offices, with its Gothic arches filled with glass. The Rio della Madonnetta here intervenes; then two Dona palaces, the first dating from the twelfth century. A traghetto is here and a pretty calle, and soon we come to one of the palaces which are shown to visitors, the Papadopoli, once the Coccina-Tiepolo, with blue posts and in the spring a Judas-tree red in the garden.
My advice to those who visit such palaces as are shown to the public is not to go alone. The rigours of ceremonial can be tempered to a party, and the efficient and discreet French major-domo is less formidable to several visitors than to one. The principal attraction of the Papadopoli Palace is two carnival pictures by Tiepolo; but the visitor is also shown room after room, sumptuous and unliveable in, with signed photographs of crowned heads on ormolu tables.