The Museum of 18th-century Venice is a gleaming (if somewhat chilly) showcase for the art of the Republic's twilight years. For most visitors, the paintings on display here will appear less impressive than the palazzo itself, an imposing Grand Canal affair designed by Baldassare Longhena for the Bon family in 1667. Bon ambitions exceeded Bon means, and the unfinished palace was sold on to the Rezzonico family - rich Genoese bankers who bought their way into Venice's nobility. The Rezzonicos' bid for stardom was crowned in 1758 by two events: the election of Carlo Rezzonico as Pope Clement XIII, and the marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico into one of Venice's oldest noble families, the Savorgnan.
Giambattista Tiepolo was called upon to celebrate the marriage on the ceiling of the Sala del Trono; he replied with a composition so playful it's easy to forget that this is all about purchasing rank and power. Giovanni Battista Crosato's over-the-top ceiling frescoes in the ballroom have aged less well but, together with the Murano chandeliers and intricately carved furniture by Andrea Brustolon, they provide an accurate record of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
There are historical canvases by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and Antonio Diziani, plus other gems. Detached frescoes of pulcinellas by Giandomenico Tiepolo capture the leisured melancholy of the moneyed classes as La Serenissima went into terminal decline. Originally painted for the Tiepolo family villa they were moved here in 1936 and recently restored. There are some good genre paintings by Pietro Longhi, and a series of pastel portraits by Rosalba Carriera, a female 'prodigy' who was kept busy by English travellers eager to bring back a souvenir of their Grand Tour. On the third floor is the Egidio Martini gallery, a collection of mainly Venetian works, and a reconstruction of an 18th-century pharmacy, with fine majolica vases.
A staircase at the far end of the entrance hall leads to the 'Mezzanino Browning', where the poet Robert Browning died in 1889. This contains the Mestrovich Collection of Veneto paintings, donated to the city by Ferruccio Mestrovich as a sign of gratitude for the hospitality afforded to his family after they had been expelled from Dalmatia in 1945.
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