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  • Writer's pictureNicola Carotenuto, MA

A Brief History of Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice

What is Casa dei Tre Oci?

Casa dei Tre Oci, also known as Casa di Maria, is an early-20th-century neo-Gothic palace designed by artist Mario de Maria as a homage to his late daughter Silvia, which now holds art exhibitions and seminars.


Casa dei Tre Oci

Andrzej Otrębski, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Casa dei Tre Oci History

Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Venice underwent important changes. It was at this time that the very first industrial sites in the city were built, including the Junghans watchmaking complex and the Molino Stucky (the immense red-brick flour mill that’s now a hotel). Both still stand here on the Giudecca, originally an area of large palaces and gardens. It was also the heyday of the Gothic Revival and Beaux-Arts styles, especially on the Lido, a narrow island in the Venetian lagoon. The Casa dei Tre Oci (or House of Three Eyes) is a superb example of a structure that tries to combine the curved shapes of the Beaux-Arts with the classic scale of the Venetian palazzo. The result is a very ‘Venetian’ façade, reinterpreted in the style of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.


The palace was designed in the 1910s by Bolognese painter Mario de Maria and intended as a house and studio for himself. He was an eclectic and talented artist, who was profoundly fascinated by Venice. The building was meant as a homage to Venice and to his deceased daughter Silvia. The three oci (or ‘eyes’) in the house’s name came to the painter in a dream and they allude to three bereaved family members: Mario himself, his wife Emilia Voight and their son Astolfo. The line of three windows is topped by a flamboyant double-arched window dedicated to his daughter’s memory. The façade presents three orders of ornaments, beginning with three doors inspired by traditional Venetian Renaissance portals. Then there’s the shape of the three windows, or three eyes, which draws on the windows of the Doge’s Palace. The third order is composed of two elegant rectangular windows each separated by a small column, clearly reminiscent of the south façade balcony of the Doge’s Palace, sculpted by the delle Masegne brothers. The rest of the façade is decorated with light orange geometric patterns framed in red.


The interior is that of a typical Venetian palace: it has a single room ending with a fine view of the double-arched window, flanked by smaller rooms, and a wooden ceiling. This venue has always been associated with artists and intellectuals. It hosted the architect Renzo Piano, known for his hi-tech public places, Dario Fo, author and Nobel laureate in 1997, and 20th-century artists Giorgio Morandi and Lucio Fontana. It was also part of the set of the 1970 film Anonimo Veneziano (or ‘The Anonymous Venetian’) by Enrico Maria Salerno. Its glorious windows offer one of the most impressive views in Venice out over St Mark’s basin.


The palace was passed down through the family until it was acquired by the Fondazione di Venezia in 2000 and reopened to the public twelve years later following a period of careful restoration. Today, the unusual building houses a variety of artistic exhibitions, workshops, and seminars in its luxurious, grand rooms.


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