Venice’s famed Doge Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is in the middle of a controversy between a local politician, a cultural heritage official, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The issue is whether or not installation requirements for a visiting exhibit caused damage to the floor and walls of the palace.
The exhibition, Manet, Return to Venice, ran for a little over four months – opening April 24 and closing September 1, 2013. It was a collaborative effort between the Orsay and the Doge Palace, and included 80 paintings, drawings and prints of Édouard Manet, a 19th-century French painter who was influenced by the 16th-century artists of the Italian Renaissance. Manet had made three voyages to Italy which included visits to Venice.
Even though several internationally known museums participated in this project, it was the demands made by the Orsay Museum that prompted a former junior foreign minister, Franco Rocchetta, to file a police complaint. According to ANSA — the Italian news agency, Rocchetta said “30 to 35 holes” were made in the walls by builders during the installation of an air-conditioning system. These holes range up to seven centimeters (almost three inches). He also claimed the floor used as a formal reception room during the time of the “doges,” or chief magistrates, was left with a dent in it.
According to Renata Codello, the cultural heritage superintendent for Venice, nothing irregular was found during the monitored organization and installation of the exhibit. Rocchetta, though, said the dent was hidden by a table. The allegations have gotten the attention of two city council members who have requested additional information from the mayor.
Manet’s painting style had long been attributed to the influence of the Spanish painters, Goya and Velázquez, but this exhibit recognized the extensive Italian influence. This was the first time since 1890 that one of his paintings, “Olympia,” was shown outside Paris.
Construction on the present palace began around 1340 and continued through 1420. A courtyard, staircases, and rooms were added over the years until around 1600. In addition to the museum, the palace has several sections. The private apartments were where the doge and his family lived. Government offices were on the upper floors, and various chambers were used by different branches of government. There were also prisons and an armory where weapons were kept.
The palace has been a museum, Museo dell’Opera, since 1923. It has been run since 1996 by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, a foundation that oversees a network of several museums.
Written by: Cynthia Collins