The Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice
The Venetian School of painting can be broadly summed up with two words: light and color. While many of the Renaissance artists in Rome and Florence were obsessed with “form” as expressed in the distinct lines of drawing and sketches, the somewhat isolated masters of the Venetian School poured their considerable skills into the layering and blendings of oil paints to suffuse their works with a sense of internal light or atmosphere. While the Florentines went wild with the use of linear perspective to show depth, the Venetians often evoked it with subtle gradations of light. Some of this style was based on Venice’s trading economy, which brought rare pigments from the East, as well as the new technique of oil painting (as opposed to tempera painting) from the Netherlands. By embracing these innovations, painters like the Bellinis, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese defined a style of painting unique to their watery home. Today, the best place in the world to come face to face with the greatest works of the Venetian School is in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.
Visiting the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice: What to See
The Works of the Bellinis
The Venetian School of painting was founded by one prolific family, the Bellinis. Jacopo, the father, and his two sons, Gentile, and Giovanni were the first to experiment with the rudiments of light and color use that would come to define Venetian painters throughout the Renaissance.
These are, incidentally, the same Bellinis for whom the prosecco and peach cocktail is named – the inventor of the drink said that its pink-orange color reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by Giovanni Bellini. The Accademia has a particularly strong collection of Giovanni’s works with highlights including two different versions of the Sacred Conversation as well as the impressive milieu of the San Giobbe Altarpiece. Gentile, most known for his depictions of Renaissance Venice, is featured with his Procession of the True Cross in Piazza San Marco.
The Works of Titian
Titian, aka Tiziano, was perhaps the most acclaimed painter from the Venetia school. After training under Giovanni Bellini he went on to become the chosen painter to two emperors. Though a master of both religious and secular subjects, Titian is perhaps best known for his portraits, which seem to grasp what we would call some of the deeper psychological aspects of his subjects. As an example, check out the look of tenderness that passes between his Virgin and Child. Another Highlight is the last work he painted before he died, the Pieta. Although dark and almost dingy-looking, it brilliantly showcases his lifelong interest in using colors to set the emotional tone of his work.
The Works of Veronese
Veronese never met a scene that was too grandiose for him to paint. Known for his lavish, often illusionistic style, he picked up where Titian left off with the use of deep, layered colors to evoke both religious and secular scenes. The Gallerie dell’Accademia has his exuberant, overflowing masterpieces, the Battle of Lepanto and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine. It also holds one of his more controversial works, a version of the Last Supper bursting with animals, drunk revelers, and even a few Germans. Because of its non-traditional depiction of the last meal of Christ it ran afoul of the Inquisition and had to be renamed the Feast in the House of Levi.
The Works of Tintoretto
Tintoretto is perhaps the most polarizing artist of the Venetian school. During his lifetime his kinetic, spontaneous style garnered equal amounts of praise and criticism. His works often stand out for their prestezza, a method of painting (which he invented) that eschews fine details for impressionistic depictions of people and objects. This technique lends a theatrical, and even dreamlike quality to many of his works in the Accademia like the Creation of the Animals and the Stealing of St. Mark’s Body.
A Drawing By Leonardo Da Vinci
Given the Venetian School’s emphasis on color, it’s ironic that the Gallerie dell’Accademia should be the home of one of the most famous drawings in the world – Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. This sketch, which has come to symbolize the Renaissance in popular culture, is actually base on Da Vinci’s reading of the ancient Roman philosopher, Vitruvius who believed that the “ideal” human body should contain certain proportions, like a palm being four fingers across and a foot being four palms across. Taken as a whole, the drawing and belief system it is based on represent the idea that each individual is a microcosm of the natural harmony of the universe.
Tips for Seeing the Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Gallerie dell’Accademia is open on Mondays from 8:15am to 2:00pm and from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15am to 7:15pm. It’s closed on December 25th and January 1st and the ticket office shuts one hour before closing time.
Tickets cost €15.00 for all non-European visitors regardless of age. If you book in advance through their website there is a €1.50 booking fee.
You cannot enter the museum with bags larger than 20x30x15 cm. Security is also touchy about umbrellas, selfie sticks, and any other large or long objects that could potentially damage paintings. If you bring anything that is deemed too large for entrance, you can leave it at the coat check.
The Best Time to Visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Accademia is not one of the most popular attractions in Venice, although you can still expect it to be crowded during the high season (Roughly May through October). Still, you will never have to wait in long lines to get in. During the low season, it is relatively uncrowded and one of the more pleasant attractions in Venice for those who don’t like crowds.
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