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  • Writer's pictureNicola Carotenuto, MA

A Brief History of Museo Correr in Venice

What is Museo Correr?

Museo Correr is a museum in Venice that houses an outstanding collection of Neoclassical sculpture, Old Master paintings and artefacts illustrating the history of Venice.

Derbrauni, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Museo Correr History

The Correr Museum holds one of the most significant collections of art and artefacts in the city. It’s located here within the Procuratie, the complex of buildings that once housed the apartments and offices of the procurators of Saint Mark, government officials tasked with administering properties and pious bequests. During the 19th century, this part of the complex served as the royal palace of both the French and Austrian courts before being presented to the city of Venice in 1920.

The museum takes its name from the erudite Venetian abbot and passionate art collector, Teodoro Correr. Upon his death in 1830, Correr donated the impressive works of art that he had amassed throughout his long life, as well as the palazzo where he had treasured them (northwest of here in Santa Croce), and funds for the upkeep and expansion of his varied collection. Alongside his bequest came a strict set of instructions. He intended the palazzo to be a place of scholarly study as well as a museum. By the second half of the 19th century, the Museo Correr had become an important stop for any scholar visiting the city.

In accordance with his will, Correr’s collection expanded over the years, forcing multiple changes of premises. Finally, in the 1920s, the museum found a permanent home here in the Procuratie. At last there was space to flaunt its outstanding collection of Neoclassical sculpture, Old Master paintings and artefacts charting the history of the city. The building’s interior decoration is fitting for such a grand collection, adorned by Venetian painter Giuseppe Borsato with his own take on the Imperial Style of Europe at the time.

The painting collection has three nuclei: Venetian paintings, Flemish painters, and painters from Ferrara. To the earlier Venetian section belong works by Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano, a wonderful statue of the Doge Antonio Venier by Jacobello delle Masegne, and a sumptuous cassone, a wooden chest designed as a marriage gift, representing the adventures of Alatiel, from Giovanni Boccaccio’s collection of interlinked stories, the Decameron. The canon of Venetian painters is well represented, with the Bellinis, Alvise Vivarini, and Vittore Carpaccio. The Ferrara section boasts works by Cosmè Tura, while the Flemish portion includes the Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, and a series of paintings inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. The collection also includes works by Antonello da Messina (including his celebrated Pietà, possibly the most famous of the entire museum), Greek-Venetian Madonnas, and an exquisite set of wooden libraries.

As well as paintings, the museum displays an impressive collection of artefacts linked to the history of Venice: illuminated manuscripts, coins, prints and maps depicting Venice and its navy in fascinating ways, a rich armoury, and an interesting series of objects representative of the city’s traditions in arts and crafts. The outstanding item here is the wood engraving of Jacopo de’ Barbari from 1500, which was used to print one of the most accurate views of Early Modern Venice. The exquisite detail does full justice to the Renaissance city.

The building also houses nine rooms of the original Royal Apartments, which retain their original layout, where Princess Elisabeth (or ‘Sissi’) of Austria-Hungary lived in the mid-19th century. The Neoclassical rooms house impressive 18th-century statues by Antonio Canova, such as the stunning Daedalus and Icarus, surrounded by magnificent Neoclassical mouldings. It does Venice credit that even when the building stopped being royal and became dedicated to the city’s collections, it was no less rich and impressive.

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