BON, Bartolomeo
(active 1421-1464 in Venice)

Ca' d'Oro: Façade

Canal Grande, Venice

In the first half of the 15th century many notable palaces were built in Venice. The great houses of the Venetian merchant nobility were already a well-established building typology; they fulfilled two distinct but complementary functions within a single building - the warehouse (fondaco) for the goods in which the merchant-noble traded, and, above it, the spacious apartment in which he and his family lived. The fondaco was provided with direct access to the water for the delivery of goods. Already by 1400 much of the length of the Grand Canal was lined with such houses.

Although it was to be more elaborately decorated than any of these earlier houses, the palace of Marin Contarini - which was to become known as the Ca' d'Oro, the House of Gold - fulfilled precisely the same traditional functions as these dozens of older palace-warhouses. It has a spacious ground floor hall for the reception and storage of goods, flanked by smaller, secure store-rooms, and by Contarini's own offices. Directly above, there are two very large apartments on the first and second floors, which are connected to the traditional Venetian internal courtyard by means of an equally traditional open staircase.

The palace took its name from the bright, multicoloured and gilded red and blue decoration, which has unfortunately been lost, which exalted the rich decoration of the façade. This, divided horizontally and closed with coupled spiral columns at the sides and by a coping along the eaves, is completely clad with prestigious coloured marble. The light and shadow effect of the arcades along the superimposed open galleries, and the powerful sculptural features of the openwork quatrefoil on the left side is contrasted with the flat surfaces and the elaborate graphic decoration on the right-hand side.

The façade facing over the canal was created by Bartolomeo Bon and his workshop, with the traditionally Venetian-Byzantine use of five arches, while the upper floors have wide open galleries typical of the era and clearly inspired by the Palazzo Ducale, created by Matteo Raverti. Raverti was probably responsible for the open staircase, the courtyard arcade, the large window facing the court and the door giving on to the street.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.