Ca’ d’Oro: a museum with a view


Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Laura Teso

Before visiting the Ca’ d’Oro (golden House – ca’ stands for casa) I only knew that it had an astonishing Gothic façade (once even more gorgeous thanks to gilt decorations – that’s why it is called Ca’ d’Oro – now disappeared) and a remarkable flooring. I honestly ignored what treasures this palace held and what a wonderful view on the Grand Canal it offered.

I often noticed that expectations play a huge role in my satisfaction and therefore judgement… in many occasions: books, movies, persons, museums. My Ca’ d’Oro visit was one of these. I expected nothing much and I ended up enthusiast. Sadly photos were forbidden inside the gallery.

Ca’ d’Oro was built by order of merchant Marino Contarini in the 1420’s. In 1894 it was bought by baron Giorgio Franchetti to host there his art collection and make it accessible to the public. The famous floor was realized during the restoration works promoted by Franchetti (he himself designed the pattern), with materials used by ancient Romans and decorations inspired to those of three churches: Murano, Torcello and above all St. Mark. Ugo Ojetti, writer and art critic, said about baron Franchetti:

“He wanted you to visit his Ca’ d’Oro with him, only with him, bringing you everywhere, from the battlements to the portego, he kneeled down to show you with his hands how the mosaics must be placed, with unequal tiles like in San Marco and he explained you the mosaic technique from Rome to Ravenna, from Thessaloniki to Palermo”.

Ca' d'Oro pic at'_d'Oro_001.JPG
Ca’ d’Oro pic at

Ca’ d’Oro – my experience

After paying, I walked out the door on the left of the ticket office and there it was: the famous floor, the little courtyard, and a loggia open towards the Grand Canal. At every floor I enjoyed the superb view and the slightly different shape of the windows. So now I put the three photos in line for you to compare. Aren’t they beautiful? There’s also the photo of the top floor view: You can see San Marco’s campanile and, on the red courtain (Rialto market loggia), the writing “El cuor no se vende” (The heart is not for sale). Added on September 2017:  By the way, the writing is no more there. I loved it! 🙁

In the first area you can see works (sculptures, bronzes and wonderful wooden polyptychs) coming from churches and convents closed during the Napoleonic and Austrian occupation of Venice. The masterpiece is right there, in a small dedicated area that the baron made build like a small chapel: The Saint Sebastian by Mantegna. Noteworthy re also Romano’s Busto di Fanciullo (bust of a child), Sansovino’s Madonna with child and Tullio Lombardo’s Double portrait .

In the medals and sculptures section, the highlight is The Belvedere Apollo (1498), depicting a famous sculpture discovered a few years earlier in Rome and therefore very popular (= widely copied) back then. Among the paintings notice Vittore Carpaccio’s trittico: Annunciation, Visitation and Death of the Virgin.

French schoolchildren

A thing that hit me was the large number of French visitors. Basically everyone but me and the museum attendants was French. I don’t know why. Maybe Ca’ d’Oro suites French taste. It was pleasant to see also many young students paying attention to the teacher, taking notes and admiring the Venetian view from the window. I’m not sure Italian young students are that calm.

At the second floor you can admire the Venus at the mirror by Titian, Venus sleeping by Bordon, two Venetian landscapes by Guardi, one Van Eyck (Crucifixion) and one Van Dyck (Portrait of Marcello Durazzo).

In Ca’ d’Oro there is also a ceramics section, mainly consists of everyday objects’ fragments. There is also a piece with the writing: “FRITOLE” meaning “frittelle” (fritters), testifying the existence of this sweat treat (typical of Carnival) in 1500.

The frescoes

In the second floor portego you can admire frescoes taken from Venice buildings (mind that the removal allowed their preservation):

  • Pordenone’s frescoes for St. Stephen Monastery cloister (scenes from the Old and New Testaments)
  • Virtues and other subjects by Domenico Campagnola
  • Titian’s frescos for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (once headquarter of the German merchants). The most famous part is the monumental feminine figure depicting Justice.

One of the display cabinets exposes the preparatory sculpture of Nile and Rio de la Plata for the Rivers Fountain in Rome by Bernini. The other 2 rivers are Ganges and Danube.

The last rooms display Dutch and Flemish paintings (still lifes, landscapes, interior scenes and religious subjects).

The killer always returns to the scene of the crime

Before leaving I decided to visit the courtyard again an rest for a while. It was so peaceful!

Ca’ d’Oro
Cannaregio 3932 – Venezia

Opening hours
Monday: 8.15am – 2pm
Tuesday – Sunday: 8.15 am – 7.15 pm
Closed on: 1 January, 1 May, 25 December

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