A route aimed at discovering the wonderful Venetian stately palaces located on the banks of the city's magical canals
(by Didier Descouens, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
The certain date of the palace’s foundation has yet to be discovered to this day. From studies of the style of construction, it would appear to date from the late 15th century. Its patron was naval commander Benedetto Pesaro, well known in Venice for his military successes in the Second Ottoman-Venetian War. The Pesaro family lived in the palace until the 18th century when they moved to the new residence now known as Ca’ Pesaro.
For a time, the palace became home to two musical associations: the Apollinea Society and the Orfei Philharmonic Academy, hence the name Palazzo Pesaro Degli Orfei, by which it was later known.
In the mid-nineteenth century, as recorded in the Austrian land register of 1842, the building was fractionated into numerous apartments owned by various families, resulting in the creation of new vertical and horizontal connections to accommodate about twenty households. It was also intended to house some spaces for commercial use, such as the printing workshops of one of the best-known Venetian photographers of the time, Paolo Salviati.
The palace was then in a state of decay when Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (an eclectic man who was involved in photography, stage and set design, textile creations, and painting), attracted by this architectural beauty, first entered it in 1898. He occupied the large hall located in the attic and established his studio there. Over the years, having acquired the other parts of the building in 1899, 1900, and 1906, Fortuny, patiently but steadily, began the work of restoring the building: he cleared the apartments, readjusted the rooms, dropped partitions and superstructures, bringing back balance and proportion.
After his death, his wife Henriette donated the palace, which still well preserves Mariano’s textiles and collections, to the City of Venice. From then on, the palace was dedicated to disciplines of visual communication, experimentation and innovation in assonance with the spirit and culture of the former owner.
From an architectural point of view, Palazzo Fortuny is distinguished by its three vigorous facades, insisting respectively on Campo San Beneto, Calle Pesaro, and Rio di Ca’ Michiel, and by its extraordinary dimensions. Not without reason, it is considered one of the largest palaces in Venice among those in the Gothic style. It is also often cited as one of the best examples of Venetian Gothic architecture not facing the Grand Canal, thanks to its compactness, architectural coherence, and the harmony of its stylistic design.