What to See at Museo dell’Opera
Venice, popularly known as the ‘Floating City’, is soaked in rich history and culture. From the legendary Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Basilica to gondolas in the city, there’s a host of experiences one must try when in the city. Another major experience not to miss out on in the city is a visit to the iconic Doge’s Palace – the former residence of the Doge of Venice. If you’re planning a visit, read on about the Doge’s Palace Museum, also known as the Museo dell’Opera.
Doge’s Palace Museum At A Glance
The Doge's Palace has been restructured and modified several times over its long existence. Due to excessive decay, a major renovation plan was launched in 1876, involving the two facades, the capitals in the ground-floor arcade, and the upper loggia. During this renovation, 42 Venetian sculptures, which were in an extremely dilapidated state, were replaced by copies. The originals, many of which were masterpieces of Venetian sculpture of the 14th and 15th century were placed in the Museo dell'Opera. The museum’s present version underwent thorough restoration work and now exhibits the sculptures on their original columns in six different rooms. Apart from the sculptures, the museum also features fragments of statues and significant architectural and decorative elements in stone, which were a part of the Palace's original facade.
What to See at Museo dell’Opera
The Museo dell'Opera has six rooms, each housing a different number of capitals. Here's a detailed look at each room and what you can expect to see there.
The first room in the Museo dell'Opera showcases six capitals together, along with their columns, from the 14th-century arcade of the Doge's Palace, on the lagoon-front. Given their original location, the capitals housed in Room 1 form part of the earliest built decorative sculptures for the palace. The capitals from the lagoon-front represent an encyclopedic manifestation of the universe, the world, and the various creatures that call it home. Specifically, the capitals showcase historical characters, faces of different races, plants and animals.
Room II houses three capitals with columns from the arcade on the Piazzetta side, from the 14th-century version of the sculptures. The mesmerizing carvings of the capitals featured in this room are rich in their moral and allegorical importance, beautifully put together themes connected with work, their astrological correspondence, and the products of the earth. The 16th-century fillings of one of the arches of the arcade towards the Ponte della Paglia are featured on the entrance wall.
The third room at the Museo dell'Opera has three capitals with columns. The first two capitals are from the 14th century while the third capital is from the 15th century. The highlight of this room is without a doubt the large and renowned corner capital with the Creation of Adam, the Zodiac and the Planets. This capital happens to be the support of the cornice and the feet of Adam and Eve in the sculptural group at the corner of the Doge's Palace.
The fourth room of the Museo dell'Opera is a little different from the rest. Apart from the two shafts of columns from the arcade, room IV also showcases a massive wall in large rough blocks of living rock. The wall dates from a past version of what's used in the Doge's Palace currently and provides plausible evidence, even if it's not clear in all respects, about the character and location of the ancient building. Visit this room to understand the Doge's Palace of the past.
The second last room in the Museo dell'Opera is home to three shafts of columns taken from the arcade. The left wall features a column and a foliated capital of the upper loggia on the Piazzetta side. Observe stonework from the tracery of the upper loggia with the capitals, ogival arches and quatrefoils. In the spandrels, you can see the lion heads that run all the way along the Gothic sides of the palace. Room V is one of the most important parts of the Museo dell'Opera.
The final room is also the biggest, with 26 capitals from the arches of the loggias on the first floor of the palace. Given the extensive number of capitals on display, the room can be split into homogeneous groups where a certain set of capitals showcase humans emerging from leaves, figures of children and musicians while other capitals highlight protective patinas and polychromy. The walls of room VI feature various stone fragments arranged in different shapes, pinnacles and arches of the coping and much more!