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Palazzo Ducale

Venice, Italy

2007 Q2

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The Palazzo Ducale is the proper name of the Doge’s Palace, this issue’s limited edition print of a sketch by Ladd P. Ehlinger. The Doge’s Palace was both the living quarters of the Doge and his family and the seat of Venetian government. The duke of Venice or the Doge held court here, the Senate of the Republic of Venice met here. Justice was meted out here in the court connected to the Prigioni Nuove (new prisons) across the minor canal (Rio di Palazzo) by the Ponte de Sospirir (Bridge of Sighs), so named for the reported sighs of despair of the prisoners as they made their way to and from justice.

The site of this palace goes back to the origins of Venice itself. The present site was decided in the year 810 by the Doge Agnello Par- tecipazio, as well as the decision to no longer have the palace like a citadel and to rebuild it more like we see it today, as an urban government office that also is a symbol of govern- mental presence. It is sited on the main square, Piazetti S. Marco, next to the cathedral and ac- ross from its campanile, and also fronts on the main lagoon at the Bacino di S. Marco, the terminus of the Canale Grande.

The design of the palace is striking, and almost the reverse of most Gothic and Renaissance period buildings. The construction spanned several centuries with the building acquiring the best of the stylistic hallmarks of each period. The pink walls or heaviest weight is on the top sup- ported by the white stone columns and arches below. This mar velous contrast of the dark voids of the columns and arches to the flat walls topped by oriental cresting that opposes the arches in form, sets the form and tone from a distance. When one moves closer, the decoration and sculptures on the columns and arches enhances these structures, while the pink color of the walls are revealed to be a diamond pattern of rose and white marble bricks.

Upon entering the structure, one is led into a cortile (courtyard) and then into the public and private quarters, which even today are maintained in as sumptuous a condition as centuries ago, even though the building no longer serves its original functions. Today it is a museum open to the public that is worth seeing.

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