Ca' Pesaro

Ca' Pesaro

CESARE LAURENTI. The Rialto Fish Market.


The materials on show

The objective of this exhibition is two-fold: on the one hand, to offer the public the unusual opportunity to see important sources that are presented in the very way they arrive at the museum, in all their fragility and with lacuna. These are materials that need to be studied and analysed and require a complex cleaning and strengthening process if they are to be preserved appropriately.
On the other hand, by means of these models, sketches, and original photographs, this exhibition wants to illustrate the birth of the building (1907/08) that, at that time, was the subject of a heated debate regarding both the architectural project and the role of the two authors.
Amongst the documents in the collection is an unpublished manuscript by Laurenti’s niece, Ninetta, in which she reconstructs the complex affair with great passion.

The history

In the XIX century the Venetian administration was faced with the problem of identifying a central area for the fish market that, up until then, had been spread out in diverse picturesque positions along the canals. Various projects were drawn up but never carried out until 1881, when the construction of a high iron roof was approved, characterised by its technological structure and placed long the Grand Canal, in the Rialto market area. Impractical (too high to allow repairs made necessary by bad weather) and aesthetically questionable as regards the style in the city at that time, the roof did not solve the problem.
Laurenti was the first to design the new building, inspired by the clearly visible loggia on the left of Carpaccio’s great painting of the Miracle of the Relic of the Holy Cross (1494), now in the Academy Galleries. This idea did not lack in illustrious supporters, from Camillo Boito to Pompeo Molmenti, but its implementation was to encounter various obstacles.
Above all, as can be seen in the projects on display on the lateral walls of this room, Laurenti wanted to develop the building perpendicularly to the Grand Canal and would have had to encompass in this single volume the so-called Stallon area, i.e. the ancient slaughterhouse, part of which was constructed on the remains of the thirteenth-century Querini house, partially demolished following the discovery of their involvement in Baiamonte Tiepolo’s plot against the doge (1310).
Laurenti was therefore asked to modify the project so that the remains of this historical building could be preserved. The result was two buildings and the stairs were to be situated in the one facing the Grand Canal.
Secondly, Laurenti, the designer of the Fish market, needed the assistance of a technician, an architect. He chose Domenico Rupolo who was then, amongst other things, working on the restoration of the Ducal Palace. However, the two men soon began disagreeing about who was responsible for what, partially also the fault of the ambiguously phrased document commissioning the work, and it was only with great difficulty that this was partially resolved as can be seen by the persistent presence of the signature of either one or the other on the sculptures on the capitals.
Thirdly, those working in the sector – the retail and wholesale fishmongers, those selling crustaceans and fishmongers with their own shops and warehouses – made themselves heard throughout the entire planning process.