Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Laura Teso
Ca Pesaro is a beautiful Venetian Palace with a Baroque façade overlooking the Grand Canal and home to the International Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice. It is located in the Santa Croce district.
The Palace was designed by the great architect Baldassarre Longhena for the Pesaro family and built between 1652 and 1710. The last owner, a duchess, left the palace to the town of Venice, recommending to create a gallery for modern art. The exhibited works come mostly from the Venice Biennale or donations. Of the ancient decoration remain only some beautiful ceilings.
I was about to publish this post the other day but then I read an upsetting news related to Ca Pesaro: it seems that the mayor of Venice wants to sell the Judith by Klimt and the Rabbi by Chagall, that are part of the Ca Pesaro Modern Art collection! It was a shock! Is he kidding? For me, as I said in the post, the visit was worth mainly because of Klimt’s painting. So it would be a shame and a great loss for Venice.
I hope this won’t happen. You can read an article dedicated to this topic here: Telegraph article. The pretext then is simply absurd: Klimt and Chagall have nothing to do with Venice. Well, according to that, the Museum in the whole world should begin a process of restitution of the art-works. Besides, I was so happy to have a Klimt painting so close to home. My nephew was thrilled too. He is on his way to visit me now and I’m not sure what reaction he will have. I’ll let you know! (Update: he was utterly upset and incredulous).
Ca Pesaro – my experience
First I must say with great joy that I went to visit Ca Pesaro with my beloved eighteen-year-old nephew, whose name is Filippo, who appreciated the exhibition and attentively observed all the works, with more attention than I did.
The tour starts by going up the staircase (accessibility for disabled persons is guaranteed, I asked, there is a lift) but, at the base of the stairs, there are already the first works, for example a remarkable Cardinal by Giacomo Manzù. Here’s what the artist wrote about his Cardinals series series:
“The first time I saw some Cardinals I was in San Pietro (Rome) in 1934: they impressed me for their rigid masses, immobile, yet vibrant with compressed spirituality. I saw them as so many statues, a series of aligned cubes and pulse to create a sculpture in my version of that ineffable reality, it was irresistible.”
At the top of the staircase, the first room greeted us with an impressive work by Rodin. Yes, Rodin! It is a chalk for “The Burghers or Calais” (the original is precisely in Calais) and commemorates a real event: six citizens offered their lives to the enemy in exchange for the city salvation.
Also interesting is the work “Larass” by Adolfo Wildt, a melancholic and disturbing testone (big head).
I loved the painting “November” by Telemaco Signorini, as well as the polyptych (not well lit) “Symphony of the Moon” by Plinio Nomellini.
Continuing, we liked the canvas “Sewing the Sail” by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida for the light effects.
From the hall, which features this painting, if you turn right you immediately see Klimt’s Judith. And then stop, it is over for everyone else. The other works in the room are beautiful, all of them: “End of a Summer’s Day: Eclogue” by Mario De Maria, “Leda” by Gaetano Previati, “Medusa” by Franz Stuck, “The White Mask” by Khnopff. But Klimt is unique. People came into the room and seeing the work they all gasped! I loved those colors, that sensual face, the jeweled hands and the fierce claws. After all, as Klimt said:
All art is erotic.
Next room: The first work we saw was a copy of “The Thinker” by Rodin. The Thinker statue was to be placed at the top of a Monumental door (unrealized) called Hell’s Gate, which had to be adorned with 186 different statues. The Thinker represents Dante.
In the same room there is a “Rabbi” by Chagall: the simple lines and the dominant black and white emphasize the spirituality of the subject. I love Chagall, but I prefer his more romantic and colourful paintings.
Art is like love
I am deeply convinced that art is like love. We see a work and we fall in love with it, or hate it, or it can let us indifferent. Often you can get to appreciate some works that at first didn’t hit you, maybe after reading their story, or after understanding the meaning that the artist attributes to them. However, for the most part, I am a victim of a colpo di fulmine. It literally means bolt of lightning, and it means love at first sight, as you were hit by a lightning.
The deep reasons are to be found in my personal taste, my personality, my way of seeing things. There are paintings that transmit to me something ineffable as soon as I see them. I do not know what it is or why that happens. So, maybe you will find other works that you will like best in Ca’ Pesaro, but I enjoyed (other than those already mentioned):
“The Nativity of Mary” by Arturo Martini. I liked the monochrome, and colour tone, the way it is carved, the fact that a sculpture look like a picture, the game of shadows and depth. I also liked the other works in the room by Martini: so clean, almost hieratic.
In the following rooms you can admire Redon, De Chirico, Morandi, Nolde, but will you hate me if I say that I preferred the sensual “Autumn” by Frederick Carl Frieseke?
Other works that impressed me were “The Race” by Alexander Deineka and “The Sprinter” by Martini, both reinterpreting in their own way the sports theme, much loved by totalitarian regimes in the 1930s and 1940s.
And now there’s one work that I did not like aesthetically (de gustibus) but I rather enjoyed its antifascist message: “A Ghost crossing Europe” by Armando Pizzinato.
Wonderful the next room, with works by Klee, Miro, Kandinskil, Calder, Tàpies, Ernst and Tanguy. It was the favourite of my nephew. To see a Calder mobile is always a joy!
I loved the sculpture “Hector and Andromache” by Mirko Basaldella. We found very peculiar and fascinating the “blurred” painting “Wind and Sun” by Zoran Music, an artist escaped from the Dachau concentration camp.
The last room houses more recent works (by Pistoletto, Merz, Kounnellis, Calzolari and Zorio) and there is no explanatory panel. The work that I liked the most was “Direction” by Giovanni Anselmo: A stone in the shape of elongated triangle with a small magnetic needle. It seems an arrow pointing towards an imaginary elsewhere.
On the second floor (of course, before proceeding, we made a detour to admire Klimt again) we saw the exhibition (now ended) about Cy Twombly and my nephew was mad for his “Roses”. I liked it too, but I preferred the panorama: the view of the Grand Canal from the windows was stunning!
- Unmissable Klimt, Rodin and other great works
- Beautiful view on the Grand Canal
- It is a very good value for money if you buy the Museum Pass
- Limited opening hours
- The explanatory sheets are too verbose about the historic period but they say almost anything about the single art works
- The last room had no explanatory sheet at all to understand the works
To sum up I personally wouldn’t miss this Museum even just because of Klimt (and that’s the reason of my post title which refers to the famous sentence pronunced by Henry IV of France“Paris is well worth a mass”). So it depends on your tastes to decide whether to visit it or not. On the third floor you can visit, included in the ticket, the Museum of Oriental Art, but that’s another story. I’ll write about it in another post.
Santa Croce 2076, 30135 Venezia
From April 1st to October 31st 10 am – 6 pm (ticket office 10 am – 5 pm)
From November 1st to March 31st 10 am – 5 pm (ticket office 10 am – 4 pm)
Closed on Mondays, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st