1594 – 2019

The collection of classical sculptures reassembled in its original setting after four centuries


May 7th, 2019 – May 30th, 2021


Daniele Ferrara, director of the Polo museale del Veneto, and Toto Bergamo Rossi, director of Venetian Heritage, are the curators of DOMUS GRIMANI 1594 – 2019, the exceptional exhibition celebrating the return to Palazzo Grimani of the collection of classical statuary that once belonged to the Patriarch of Aquileia, Giovanni Grimani. Housed in the family palazzo in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa until the end of the sixteenth century—when the Patriarch donated it to the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia on his death—this collection now returns home after more than four centuries.

The exhibition opens to the public on May7th, 2019 during the preview of the Venice Art Biennale and will remain open until May 30th, 2021. Produced by Civita Tre Venezie, the exhibition – under the patronage of the Veneto Region and in collaboration with UNESCO – has been made possible through the support of Venetian Heritage, an anonymous donor, the New York based Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and Gagosian. Additional support has been provided by the Michelangelo Foundation and Lady Monika del Campo Bacardi.

A book published by Marsilio accompanies the project, focusing on the history of the Grimani collection and revealing its unique beauty thanks to a significant photoshoot produced specifically to document the exhibition.


The centerpiece of DOMUS GRIMANI 1594 – 2019 is the reconstruction of one of the most significant exemplars of European museology, the Tribuna of Patriarch Giovanni, its architecture surviving nearly intact to this day. As they approach the Tribuna through a sequence of rooms, visitors will also be able to admire furnishings and artworks recreating the atmosphere of a sixteenth-century aristocratic Venetian residence. Thanks to this arrangement, inspired by the aesthetic of the house-museum, Palazzo Grimani becomes once more a vital part in the cultural offerings of the city.


The Tribuna, an actual “chamber of antiquities”, is the inner sanctum where Giovanni received his most illustrious guests. It was originally accessible through a single doorway, but some small modifications have been made over the centuries—such as the installation of a large window and a second doorway leading to the Neoclassical room, which was used as a bedroom in the late eighteenth century. Visitors to the exhibition will see the Tribuna as it was in Giovanni’s day, thanks to the installation of two temporary architectural niches.

The collection of statuary left Palazzo Grimani in 1594 after Giovanni passed away. The Patriarch had chosen to donate his priceless collection to the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, therefore the statues were transferred to the entrance hall of the reading room in the Biblioteca Marciana, which was later renamed Statuario della Repubblica. The entrance hall will be undergoing extensive restoration over the next two years, as a result of which all the statues had to be removed. Hence the opportunity to organize DOMUS GRIMANI 1594 – 2019, bringing the Grimani Collection back to its original setting.


Giovanni Grimani was a refined collector nurtured by the great love his family had always cultivated for art and beauty. Palazzo Grimani itself is a rare gem for its architectural configuration, which echoes the domus of ancient Rome and the Renaissance models of the Papal city. A cultural destination frequented by scholars, writers, artists, monarchs, and other notables who visited Venice, it owes its current configuration to extensive remodeling work undertaken by Vittore Grimani and his brother Giovanni in the sixteenth century. They also introduced decorations in Tuscan-Roman mannerist style, with frescoes and stuccowork by Francesco Salviati, Federico Zuccari, and Giovanni da Udine, an apprentice to Raphael.   

The youngest child of Girolamo Grimani, who was the son of the doge Antonio, Giovanni was named Patriarch of Aquileia in 1545. It was at that time that he decided to expand his palazzo and create the Tribuna. Together with the series of rooms leading to it and other rooms in the palazzo, it provided the setting for his invaluable collection of antiquities.

In addition to restoring the Tribuna to its original splendor, the exhibition design also addresses the rooms leading up to it, where visitors will be able to admire vintage furnishings, tapestries, paintings, and other art objects evoking a period and a lifestyle that were unique.

The Foliage Room, so named for the frescoed ceiling representing a luxuriant forest, features one of two exceptional late-Renaissance marble tables—with an inlaid ancient marble and lapis lazuli top, crafted in Rome in the late sixteenth century—that had been part of the furniture of the palazzo until 1829. At that time, Michele Grimani, last heir of the Santa Maria Formosa branch of the family, sold it to Henry Greville, 3rd Earl of Warwick, for his castle in England. In 2015, the table was put up for auction at Sotheby’s and currently belongs to a private collector.

Thanks to a fruitful collaboration with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, other sixteenth-century furnishings currently stored at the Museo Correr will also be specially restored for this exhibition and exhibited. First and foremost is a tapestry made in Medicean Florence, based on a drawing by Francesco Salviati and quite probably commissioned by the Grimani, on show for the first time after a careful restoration.

Among the other important works of art enriching the set up, a painting of Sampson by Pomponio Amalteo, a panel with a copy of Michelangelo’s Leda and the Swan and a fragment of an altarpiece depicting Doge Antonio Grimani made by the tapestry weaver Johan Rost for St. Mark’s Basilica in 1554. Other significant works come from the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti at the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, such as the bronze andirons made by Girolamo Campagna and the large 16th-century wooden table on which stand a number of small bronzes by Tiziano Aspetti, Giovanni Grimani’s sculptor-restorer, who had his studio in the palazzo, and by Jacopo Sansovino.


DOMUS GRIMANI 1594 – 2019, aiming at bringing back to life a specific moment in Venice’s history, involves the use of state of the art technology to highlight a vital and vivid past which can still surprise and charm.

In fact, audio guides will accompany visitors around the rooms and to underline this special occasion two very important voices have been involved: the Italian version will feature Isabella Rossellini, while the English will feature Jude Law, an honorary member of Venetian Heritage.

Palazzo Grimani will also be revitalized through a site-specific project realized in collaboration with ETT, one of the leading companies in the production of technological solutions for art and culture. Thanks to VR viewers available for visitors, the rooms will reveal hidden details it will be possible to see inside the Tribuna many other statues – among them the Galatians that used to lay on the floor – as well as the sculptures which used to adorn the courtyard until the XIX century.

Moreover, an intervention by Factum Arte which is one of the most renowned creators of multimedia contents in the art  world; thanks to their know-how, a high-definition reproduction of the painting representing the Dispute between Minerva and Neptune (by Giuseppe Porta called Salviati) has been created and placed where the original painting was, on the ceiling of the Tribuna’s antechamber.

Finally, a new lighting project for the Tribuna realized by iGuzzini: the Italian brand, a leader in the field of lighting for cultural spaces, has developed a permanent project which will allow visitors to fully appreciate the room, combining curatorial and engineering skills focused on the artistic experience as well as environmental sustainability.


The project, which perfectly combines the conservation and promotion of Italian artistic heritage and exemplifies a model collaboration among public and private cultural institutions, both national and international. Thanks to this synergy, the second floor of the Palazzo Grimani will feature another special exhibition, PITTURA/PANORAMA: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952-1992 from May to November 2019. Organized by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation and Venetian Heritage, in association with Gagosian, the exhibition is curated by John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Covering a forty-year span of the artist’s career, this will be the first presentation of Frankenthaler’s work in Venice since it was included in the American Pavilion for the 1966 Venice Art Biennale.

The presentation of these two exhibitions in the Palazzo Grimani represents its commitment to the bond between the ancient and the contemporary and to promoting a unique building that many have yet to discover.



Polo museale del Veneto is a branch of the Italian Ministry of Culture, managing and coordinating twenty public museums and institutions in the Veneto region. The collections under the supervision of Polo museale del Veneto are extremely rich and diverse, ranging from prehistoric relics (Paleovenetians, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans) to 18th century villas, as well as paintings on wood, canvas and frescoes, sculptures, crafts, and contemporary art. Besides the management, enhancement, and preservation of the legacy entrusted to it, Polo museale del Veneto is the regional coordinator of the National Museums System, the institution recently created to promote the network of public and private museums and cultural sites.



Venetian Heritage, an international non-profit organization with offices in Venice and New York, supports cultural projects through conservation, exhibitions, publications, conferences, academic study and research. It aims to increase awareness of the immense legacy of Venetian art in Italy and in those areas that were once part of the Republic of Venice.


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