A glimpse of the past
Palazzo Vendramin is located on the Fondamenta de Ca’ Vendramin in the sestiere, or district of Cannaregio, between the Rio di Santa Fosca and Rio del Trapolin canals. Standing imposingly on a long, narrow site, the Palazzo is a combination of several properties and reflects the many changes and additions made since its 15th century origins.
The Santa Fosca area in which it is situated underwent its greatest period of expansion during the first 20 years of the 1500’s and a faithful image of the gardens and low buildings present in the area at the time can be seen in the famous woodcut map of Venice by Jacopo de’ Barbari, the original blocks of which are to be found today in Venice’s Correr Museum in St. Mark’s Square.
The Vendramin family owned the entire area up to the Rio di Noale canal which skirts the Palazzo and, while it’s not certain where they originated, sources agree that they were merchants involved in the trade of oil, cheese and salted meat. However, their most successful venture – which would, over time, bring them fame and fortune, was in the production and sale of soap.
In 1381 the family was noted in the Libro d’Oro, a formal directory of the Venetian nobility, thanks to their generous contribution to the Venetian Republic during the Chioggia war, which would guarantee them access to important and prestigious public and government offices.
In 1476, Andrea Vendramin was elected as Doge, the Ruler of the Venetian Republic, but would die two years later having already held the post of Procurator of San Marco in 1467 and Commissioner for Venice under the ‘Lega’ that saw the Venetian Republic allied with the Republic of Florence and the Duke of Milan.
Another particularly distinguished Vendramin was the illustrious 16th century collector and patron of the arts, Gabriele Vendramin, who exhibited his wonderful collection within the adjacent palazzo. Indeed it is he who features – alongside his brother Andrea and Andrea’s seven sons – in Titian’s famous portrait ‘The Vendramin Family’ which hangs today in The National Gallery, London.
In terms of the building itself, Napoleonic maps dated 1808 show Palazzo Vendramin in two parts: the first described as being rented out by the owner Domenico Vendramin and the second as a section of a building over two floors and a soap factory.
On earlier maps we can see that in 1666 the property at the end of the fondamenta was made up of a soap factory, which the Vendramin family had owned for several generations, with warehouses on the ground floor and a residence on the second, while the palazzo next door was lived in by Andrea Vendramin, the great grandson of Gabriele.
We can therefore assume that Palazzo Vendramin was, along with its neighbouring palazzo, home to this large and important Venetian family and, after a period which saw it used as offices by the Municipality of Venice, is today finding ‘new life’ and returning to its original residential use.