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Palazzo Venier dei Leoni was probably begun in the 1750s by architect Lorenzo Boschetti, whose only other known building in Venice is the church of San Barnaba.

It is an unfinished palace. A model exists in the Museo Correr, Venice (1). Its magnificent classical façade would have matched that of Palazzo Corner, opposite, with the triple arch of the ground floor (which is the explanation of the ivy-covered pillars visible today) extended through both the piani nobili above. We do not know precisely why this Venier palace was left unfinished. Money may have run out, or some say that the powerful Corner family living opposite blocked the completion of a building that would have been grander than their own. Another explanation may rest with the unhappy fate of the next door Gothic palace which was demolished in the early 19th century: structural damage to this was blamed in part on the deep foundations of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.

Nor is it known how the palace came to be associated with "leoni," lions. Although it is said that a lion was once kept in the garden, the name is more likely to have arisen from the yawning lion's heads of Istrian stone which decorate the façade at water level (2). The Venier family, who claimed descent from the gens Aurelia of ancient Rome (the Emperor Valerian and Gallienus were from this family), were among the oldest Venetian noble families. Over the centuries they provided eighteen Procurators of St Mark’s and three Doges. Antonio Venier (Doge, 1382-1400) had such a strong sense of justice that he allowed his own son to languish and die in prison for his crimes. Francesco Venier (Doge, 1553-56) was the subject of a superb portrait by Titian (Madrid, Fundaciòn Thyssen-Bornemisza). Sebastiano Venier was a commander of the Venetian fleet at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and later became Doge (1577-78). A lively strutting statue of him, by Antonio dal Zotto (1907), can be seen today in the church of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice.

From 1910 to c. 1924 the house was owned by the flamboyant Marchesa Luisa Casati, hostess to the Ballets Russes, and the subject of numerous portraits by artists as various as Boldini, Troubetzkoy, Man Ray and Augustus John. In 1949, Peggy Guggenheim purchased Palazzo Venier from the heirs of Viscountes Castlerosse and made it her home for the following thirty years. Early in 1951, Peggy Guggenheim opened her home and collection to the public and continued to do so every year until her death in 1979. (3) (4)

In 1980, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection opened for the first time under the management of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, to which Peggy Guggenheim had given her palazzo and collection during her lifetime.
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni's long low façade, made of Istrian stone and set off against the trees in the garden behind that soften its lines, forms a welcome "caesura" in the stately march of Grand Canal palaces from the Accademia to the Salute.








credits: Hangar Design Group