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The sixteenth-century Fontego dei Tedeschi | Venipedia®


The Council of Ten in February 1505 entrusted the task of reconstruction to Giorgio Spavento, proto of the Basilica of San Marco and to Francesco Garzoni, Provveditor al Sal, the specific administrative supervision of the works. Since August of the same year, the collaboration of Antonio Abbondi known as Lo Scarpagnino is certain, who also supervised the finishing works, such as the design of the door towards the church of San Bartolomeo.

The citation in the Senate decree of 19 June 1505, relating to the projects for the warehouse, of a model developed by the architect of the German merchants, Hieronymus, the actual realization of his project and the role of the latter as designer still remain not fully clarified.

The renovated Fontego, with a regular square plan, consists of a large central courtyard with a portico of twenty arches on the ground floor on which three floors of open loggias rest, from a wide bank, from warehouses and shops outside, the latter however reserved for Venetian traders.

The building is thus described by Francesco Sansovino in his famous guide "Venetia città nobilissima et singolare" (Venetia, a very noble and singular city):

Gira questo edificio intorno 512 piedi, con la sua faccia piena di lumie e di fori sull'acqua. Di fuori lo circondano 22 botteghe, pur del corpo di questo palazzo, dalle quali si trahe grossa entrata. Le faccie da tutte le parti son dipinti da primi huomini d'Italia ... Dentro nel fontico gira un cortile quadrato co' sottoportici attorno in volto, posti l'uno sopra all'altro à quali si sale per due scale grandi, et all'intorno sul piano vi sono camere et stanze commode al numero di 200, fra le quali era altre volte molto notabile la camera del Foccari, dove con ordine pur troppo maraviglioso si contenevano tante suppellettili et massaritie che harebbono addobbato ogni gran casa.

It spins this building around 512 feet, with its face full of lights and holes on the water. Outside it is surrounded by 22 shops, even of the body of this building, from which a large entrance is drawn. The faces on all sides are painted by the first men of Italy ... Inside the fontico turns a square courtyard with porches around the face, placed one above the other to which you go up by two large stairs, and all Around the floor there are rooms and comfortable rooms to the number of 200, among which the room of Foccari was at other times very notable, where with a too marvelous order they contained so many furnishings and massaritie that have adorned every large house.

Sansovino's estimate of 200 rooms seems exaggerated, in reality the habitable rooms were a total of about eighty divided between the three floors, with two large corner rooms on the first floor towards the Grand Canal, corresponding to the large balconies still existing.

In 1586 the German merchants, to avoid new dangers of fire, asked that the stairs of the second and third floors of the building be made of stone, at the time they were still made of wood. On the occasion they did not hesitate to praise the extreme munificence and generosity of the Republic for having endowed them with such a splendid palace.

At the beginning of August 1508 the building was completed. The completion of the external decoration was entrusted to Giorgione and Tiziano. Giorgione frescoed the façade overlooking the Grand Canal, Titian worked on the façade of the Fondaco towards the Mercerie and the Rialto Bridge.

The frescoes were soon damaged by atmospheric agents, the humid climate and the brackish lagoon, and by the eighteenth century they were practically illegible. Testimony of this remains through the etchings by Anton Maria Zanetti (1760).

In 1937 the remains of Giorgione's Nude (Gallerie dell'Accademia) and Titian's Compagno della Calza were recovered, while in 1967 the remains of Titian's so-called Giuditta and some large fragments of Titian's decoration were removed (Galleria Franchetti alla Ca ' of Gold). These pale remains are all that remain of the decoration of the Fontego which had so impressed contemporaries precisely because of its extraordinary coloristic quality.


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