The Ca’d’Oro (“Golden House”) is one of the most famous palaces along the Grand Canal in Venice. The late Gothic style palace is actually called Palazzo Santa Sofia. It owes its nickname to the gilded decorations that used brighten the exterior. Not much of that colour remains, but the name has stuck. Nowadays it is the seat of the Galleria G. Franchetti.
Ca d’Oro Venice
The wealthy Marino Contarini commissioned the construction of the Ca’ d’Oro. Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon were the architects. The Contarini were extremely influential in Venice at the time and between the 11th and 17th century no fewer than eight different Doges were members of the family.
Construction of the palace lasted from 1421 to 1436.
The facade, just like other palaces built in the same period, is characterized by a number of oriental elements (e.g. the pinnacles). It is decorated with sculptures, filigree metalwork and pieces of marble. Originally, some elements of the palace were painted vermilion and ultramarine. The arches on the ground floor, which were inspired by the Palazzo Ducale, were the work of Matteo Raverti.
In 1840, a Russian prince presented the palace as a gift to the famous dancer Maria Taglioni. Maria was better at dancing than she was at restoring and she had some changes made to the Ca d’Oro that were considered less tasteful.
In 1894, Baron Giorgio Franchetti bought the building. He immediately had the changes made by the dancer undone. He also had the well made by Bartolomeo Bon reinstalled in the courtyard.
In 1905 he bequeathed the building, including an impressive collection of works of art, to the Italian State. Today the Ca’ d’Oro has been converted into a museum.