1111Open-air Gallery: The new maniera at Fondaco dei Tedeschi
What did foreigners think of Venice? Philippe de Commynes, legate of Charles VIII to the Republic of Venice, wrote it was the "most splendid city I have ever seen". Commynes may have formulated his opinion after having seen the sumptuous palaces on the Grand Canal and their wonderful colours, the still-Gothic style of the urban décor, and the structure of the city itself. Friezes contoured doors and windows, highlighted the eaves on every building, marked each floor, framed coat of arms and emblems. A visual commentary on the Commynes' words can be the cycle of altarpieces by Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio for the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, now at the Gallerie dell'Accademia. In the following century, the decoration of facades reached the peak of spectacular with Giorgione, Titian, Pordenone, Veronese, and Tintoretto. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi, by the Rialto Bridge, is a prominent example. We know that the commercial hub of the Germans, a residence other than a commercial marketplace, was destroyed by fire on the night between 27 and 28 January 1505. By 1508, the new building was already in operation and painter Zorzi da Castelfranco was entrusted with decorating the main facade. It was the triumph of modern maniera, a colourful, natural vision and an open-air gallery of mythological and allegorical content.
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