Ca' Dario: Notes on its History

  • We do not know precisely when Giovanni Dario was given the small gothic house on the Grand Canal at the Rio della Fornace. Nor do we know when it was restored.

  • Wladimir Dorigo, Venezia Origini, 3: 419, gives a construction date of 1487.

    This must be the date of reconstruction.

  • John McAndrew. Venetian Architecture of the Early Renaissance, 215, and Ennio Concina. A History of Venetian Architecture,131, say it was remodelled by Pietro Lombardo.

  • Dario's second testamento, in 1492, refers to "la mio caxa de San Vio sul Canal Grando, dove nui habitemo."

    His testament of October 149e left the house to Marieta and
    his nephew Francesco. Dario died in 1494.

  • It is a small house, considering that he lived there with "Chiara mia de caxa," their daughter Marieta, two nephews -- Francesco and Andrea, and several Turkish slaves.
  • The melting, leaning effect—this can be seen in other 14th and early 15th century buildings—comes not just from age and settling, but also from the very wide wall-base that starts below water-level and narrows as the walls ascend to the second piano nobile.

  • Dario's changes included covering the gothic brick facade with colored marble, and the addition, at the back of the L of the piano nobile, of a marble-lined room with Turkish seating and a Turkish fountain. The rear of the house still retains the original gothic facade.

  • Marieta's 1499 will left the house to her sons, after her death, when they came to age 25. She died in 1505. She had three surviving sons in all -- Gasparo (ca. 1496-1514?), Giacomo (1501?-1542; m. 1532 Lucrezia f. Zuane Paruta), and Zuane (1502?-1582; m. 1533 Nicolosa Malipiero). [These wives and dates are not completely certain.] The sons claimed and received the house in 1522.
  • Marieta was married in 1493 to Vicenzo Barbaro, son of Giacomo Barbaro and Nicolosa q. Nicolò dalla Bochole(m. 1448) of the house next door. It can be seen in the watercolor below as it looked before it was tarted up (compare watercolor below with photographs below) to be more competitive with Ca' Dario.

  • Before the sons came of age, Sanudo, in Diarii, XX:543, 540, for August 1515; XXII: 455, for August 1516; and XXIII:361 for December 1515, tells us that Ca' Dario was used as a residence for the orator of Signor Turco. Marieta had specified in her will that the house be rented out. The office of the governor of one of the state banks was responsible for preparing the house for visitors and for their expenses. When the Turkish ambassador arrived, his ship was met at Lido by sixteen patricians dressed in scarlet who escorted him to Ca'Dario. In 1515, the ambassador was given 6 ducats a day for expenses, but by 1517 that had been reduced to 5 ducats — rank ingratitude when that year the ambassador brought with him the head of a commander from Sophia, in Bulgaria, where the Turks had won an important battle.

  • When Francesco Sansovino published Venetia Città Nobilissima in 1581, he did not consider Ca' Dario worth mentioning.

  • It seems to have come into the possession of an "enigmatico" Armenian diamond merchant and marchese in the early 1800s, who died there in poverty after his business failed. This was considered the first of the "mysterious" deaths that have so infected accounts of the house.

  • The inscription VRBIS.GENIO.IOANNES.DARIVS was mentioned by the Moschini's Venetian guidebook in 1815 and in Cicogna' Inscrizioni in 1820.

  • Before John Ruskin painted it in 1849, the small rectangular windows on either side of the central door of the androne were nearly doubled in size and given arches.

  • The house was then bought in 1837 for 480 pounds sterling by Rawdon Brown who made the first restorations. His death was supposed to have been suicide at an early age caused (again) by financial ruin, but he died in his late seventies, honored by a grand Venetian funeral for his exhaustive paleographic work in Venetian archives. He spent so much on restoration he was forced to sell Ca' Dario in 1842: the buyer was a Hungarian count.

  • After him was an Irish Lieutenant Marshall who died in 1860, leaving the house to his daughters, both princesses.

  • The next owner was the Contessa de La Baume-Pluvinel who carried out a number of the major restorations,. She was pleased to surround herself with French and Venetian writers, one of whom—Henri de Régnier—is commemorated by an inscription on the garden wall: In questa casa antica dei Dario, Henri de Regnier—poeta di Francia—venezianamente visse e scrisse—anni 1899-1901. The Contessa is responsible for the "lombardo" staircase , the Carpaccio-chimneys, the majolica stoves, and the fine carvings (vaguely reminiscent of the Scuola S. Rocco) in the dining room on the second piano nobile, looking down to the garden, as well as a great deal of stabilization and replacement of marble from the façade.

  • After the contessa, Ca' Dario belonged to a marchese, and then to a count who was knifed to death by his lover. After that murder, the next owner (a record producer) was killed by his drug dealer. He was followed by an Italian financier who committed suicide after financial improprieties became public. During his ownership, concerned about "fenomeni strani e inspiegabili o azioni malefiche" in the house, (it is said) the financier asked the Patriarch of Venice to do an exorcism. He was referred to another cleric.

  • In the winter of 2005 it was announced that an agreement had been reached between the Guggenheim Foundation and the present owner Elisabetta Gardini Ferruzzi who has had the palazzo up for sale for some time. The Guggenheim will not actually buy the palazzo but will instead a franchise on it at very favourable terms. In return, the name of the Gardini family will be associated with any shows that are held in the new location.


old photo 1

Two photographs from a Paris flea market

old photo 2

Giovanni Dario

23 May 2008