Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande

Venice, begun c. 1545

Architect:  Jacopo Sansovino





The Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande, which was designed by Jacopo Sansovino, is located along the Grand Canal, the large serpentine waterway that winds through Venice's network of smaller canals.


Corner Family

The Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande was built to replace a family palace that had been destroyed by fire in the 1530s.  The family was especially rich during this era because Catherine Cornaro had received a large settlement in exchange for relinquishing the throne of Cyprus, which she had inherited.


Unusually Large Size

As its name suggests, the palace was very large.  Its enormity was so great that the reference "della Ca' Grande" ("of the Large House") was later appended to the family name.


The palace's overall size and the scale of its main stories can be appreciated by comparing it with the surrounding houses.


The third story was added by Scamozzi (1552-1616), the leading architect in the Veneto after the deaths of Sansovino in 1570 and Palladio in 1580.






The layout of the Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande resembles the typical Venetian arrangement of rooms.


Ground Story. On the ground story, a wide central hall called the androne runs from the waterfront entrance to the courtyard.  Rooms on each side provide storage space on both the ground story and mezzanine.  


Piano nobile. On the piano nobile, much of the space above the androne and dock is devoted to the grand salone, and the rooms on each side provide space for the principal family apartments.


Number of Stories

Although the façade is detailed as three stories, a view of the windows along the sides reveals twice that number.


Influence of Palazzo Caprini

Several features of Bramante's Palazzo Caprini are repeated by the Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande.


Contrast between the Stories

The upper stories are treated differently from the ground story in texture and the arrangement of openings.





Rusticated Masonry

The use of rusticated masonry, whose weight and massive appearance are at odds with Venetian frame construction, is a novel feature for domestic palaces in Venice at this time.


Triple-Arch Portal

Sansovino's distinctive triple-arch portal may reflect the influence of the triple-arch entrances at the Palazzo del Tè in Mantua, which Giulio Romano designed a few years earlier.


Mannerist Features of Windows

The ground-story windows include a number of Mannerist features.


=Large consoles beside mezzanine windows. Sansovino used pairs of oversized consoles as trim at the sides of the mezzanine windows.  (Michelangelo introduced giant consoles into the Renaissance architectural vocabulary at the Vestibule of the Laurentian Library.)


=Crested devices over lintels. The window lintels are ornamented by crests.


=Consoles supporting windows. Consoles support the sills of the ground-story windows, which is similar to the windows Michelangelo designed to fill the arches of the Palazzo Medici.





Three-Part Division

Like traditional Venetian palaces, the Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande is divided into a three-part arrangement.  Although the three parts are quite distinct on the ground story, the differentiation between the central and outer bays on the upper stories is more subtle.


Differences in Window Size

The windows of the outer bays are narrower than those of the center, and the extra space takes the form of small strips of wall located between the column pairs and the windows.


Column Pairs

The distinctions between the inner and outer bays are minimized by the use of pairs of columns, which attract attention to themselves.  Although not evenly spaced, they suggest regularity because each pair is identical.



The Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande, which is less severe in appearance than the Palazzo Caprini, has ornamentation on the spandrels, the keystone, and the pediments.


See more about 16th-Century Northern-Italian Palaces.


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