May 7th 2019, May 30th 2021


Palazzo Grimani, just steps away from Campo Santa Maria Formosa, in the area of Castello, Venice, welcomes its visitors with a severe portal bearing an encouraging dedication: ‘to the city and to friends’.

Through the centuries the Grimani, a prominent Venetian family, spent money and energies to collect art and books, with the consciousness of the importance of collecting as a form of civic and social promotion.

The current exhibition brings back, after more than 400 years, the impressive body of ancient Greek and Roman statues donated to the Venetian Republic by Giovanni Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia in 1587.

Giovanni, born around 1500, followed the ecclesiastic career, and, on the steps of his great uncle, Cardinal Domenico Grimani, assembled a fabulous ‘treasure’ of statues, reliefs, vases, medallions, cameos, gems.

He also worked extensively at transforming the family residence in Venice, a medieval merchants’ home, into a sophisticated ‘Roman’ house, decorated by a dream team of artists imported from Rome itself. Giovanni da Udine, Raphael’ s pupil, Francesco Salviati, Federico Zuccari, Camillo Mantovano and more.

Past the land entrance we find ourselves in a solemn square courtyard, unusual in Venice, inspired to the traditional Roman house. Once ornated by ancient statues, still graced by exquisite marble decorations.

The staircase leading to the first noble floor is one of the most beautiful in Venice, competing only with Sansovino’s Golden Stair inside the Doges’ Palace and the monumental stairway of the Marciana Library.

It was the last nucleus of renovation of the house, entrusted by Giovanni Grimani to a young artist, Federico Zuccari. We enter the luminous ‘portego’, or porch, of the first noble floor, where Giovanni lived.

In the series of rooms that lead to the Hall of the Tribune, we can admire some significant works of art, gathered here for the exhibition, once belonging to the house and now dispersed in other collections.

There will be a big tapestry made by the Medici manufacture– the cartoon of which is by Salviati, who worked in the house. Also, an amazing 16th-century hard-stones’ table that was in the palace until 1829.

The modern visitor can easily imagine the times in which the house opened its doors to important official guests, as we know from Francesco Sansovino’s guidebook, that reports about Henri III Valois, future king of France, and Alfonso II d’ Este, spending an entire day savoring the collections and the palace itself.

Giovanni Grimani welcomed his guests at the entrance of his ‘sancta sanctorum’, the Tribune, or ‘cabinet of antiquities’, a spectacular room sunlit by a lantern up above, whose architecture is nearly intact today.

The Tribune, one of the earliest and most significant exemplars of European museology, was designed to display the antique pieces acquired in Rome, Constantinople, and form the lands the family possessed.

Seven years before his death in 1594, Giovanni entrusted his collection to the Serenissima Republic of Venice. It was established that the most important pieces were to be exhibited in the anti-room of the Marciana Library in St Mark’s Square, as part of the Public Statuary, were we can still admire them today.

As the ceiling of the Library will be under restoration for a couple of years, it was decided to bring back the main body of antique items to their original ‘home’, where they can be seen until May 30th, 2021.

Stars of the collection, not to be missed, the statue of Agrippa, the mask of God Pan, Leda and the Swan, Ganymede and the Eagle. If you wish to see the exhibition with a professional guide, please email us at

Visit Giovanni Grimani’ s ‘wunderkammer’ from home here: and

The exhibition is curated by Polo Museale Veneto and by Venice Heritage, in collaboration with UNESCO.

If you’d like to visit more Renaissance homes in Venice please click here

In Rome, you can visit with us Villa Farnesina