L’Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia is one of Venice’s foremost institutions of art. Founded in 1750 by the Venetian Senate, it contains some of the city’s finest artistic treasures. Out of it evolved the gallery established by Napoleon in 1807 during the period he held Italy.
The rooms reflect the rich diversity that is Venice herself, one of Europe’s main trading centers for centuries.
There are the Byzantium works, imported from the Middle East some by conquest, others by purchase. Polyptychs by Veneziano from the 14th century are one example. The 15th century Gothic art of Fiore and Vivarini represent two more.
Another room amply shows the rich color that can be seen in the homes and other objects of Venice. The works of the Father of the Venetian Renaissance, Jacopo Bellini, provide outstanding samples. His Madonna and Child shows the advances in perspective drawing and use of color characteristic of the period. Later artists, such as Carpaccio with his Ten Thousand Martyrs, built on this foundation.
Works by the master’s son, Giovanni, in the mid-16th century show how far the art developed even over such a short time. His Madonna and Baby or Madonna and Dead Son may have similar subject matter to others. But the rich coloring of Venice reached new heights here. That same theme is carried on in works by Giorgione, such as his Tempest. The subtle hues of the nursing mother contrast with the bold soldier and the oncoming storm they watch.
Carpaccio’s Miracle of the True Cross at Rialto displays superb early Renaissance style. It also provides a view of the famed bridge which was then the only crossing for the Grand Canal.
Other Venetian masters of the period are well represented, too.
Tintoretto’s four scenes from the Life of San Marco show why he is revered in Venice to this day. His The Creation of the Animals is also essential viewing. The Feast in the House of Levi shows Veronese at the peak of his art. Gentile Bellini’s Procession of the Relic of the Cross provides an excellent insight, through the eyes of the artist, into life in Venice at the end of the 15th century.
But, by far, some of the finest works in the Accademia in Venice are those of Giorgone’s student, Titian. His Pieta for the tomb in Chiesa dei Frari, the Presentation of the Virgin and others all show the hand of the master at work. His self-portrait as an old man rivals the best of Rembrandt.
Later artists provided works that are among the best in the Gallerie.
Tiepolo’s 18th century frescos are known to museum-goers around the world. Sections from one from the Chiesa degli Scalzi hangs here. Several Canaletto’s are in the museum as well. This master of the outdoor Venetian scene was so accurate that his paintings are taken as the equal of photographs.
A visit to one of the largest collections of Venetian masters anywhere will reward visitors many times over.