Sunday, 10 May 2009
What to see: The former Royal Palace, Venice
When incorporating Venice into the Kingdom of Italy on 1 May 1806 Napoléon I, Emperor of the French and King of Italy thought he needed a suitable residence in that city. For various reasons the Doge’s Palace was rejected and the imperial eyes fell on the 16th century Procuratie Nuove along the southern end of St Mark’s Square. In the middle of the western end stood the small church of San Geminiano, which had to make way when the Emperor-King in January 1807 announced his intention to link the Procuratie Vecchie on the northern side of the square and the Procuratie Nuove on the southern side by creating the new royal palace, today known as the Ala Napoleonico (the Napoleonic Wing).
This plan had been worked out by the architect Giovanni Antonio Antolini (1756-1841), who had been commissioned by Napoléon’s adopted son Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy and Prince of Venice. Antolini was dismissed in 1810 and the work was continued by Giuseppe Soli (1745-1823) and Lorenzo Santi (1783-1866).
The palace came to consist of the new Napoleonic Wing and the Procuratie Nuove as well as the Biblioteca Marciana and part of the old Mint. It was however not yet completed when Napoléon fell from power and Venice once again came under Habsburg rule. Because of the Habsburgs’ wish for remodelling and changes the works continued until the 1840s. In 1919 the King of Italy gave the State the use of the palace, which came to house the Correr Museum and the National Archaeological Museum.
Napoléon himself was never much popular in Venice, where the harsh treatment of the first French occupation in 1797 was vividly remembered and where the choice of Milan as capital of the Kingdom of Italy was resented. He visited Venice only once, in November-December 1807, bringing with him Prince Eugène, the King and Queen of Bavaria, three of his siblings, his brother-in-law Joachim Murat and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Bavaria.
The first picture shows the façade of the Napoleonic Wing with the Procuratie Nuove to the left. Having become almost black with the years the façade is now being cleaned, which explains the scaffolding. Second is the monumental staircase, which took the place of the San Geminiano church. The third photo shows Antonia Canova’s “Venere Italica” in the Dining Hall (Sala da Pranzo). Another dining room is in the fourth photo, followed by a glimpse into the Ballroom (Salone da Ballo), which is now used for temporary exhibitions. The sixth picture shows the Napoleonic Gallery (Galleria napoleonica) and finally the ceiling of the Throne Room (Sala del Trono).