Palazzo Mocenigo

Museum of Textiles and Costumes with the itineraries dedicated to Perfume

The Palace

Palazzo Mocenigo is a large building of gothic origin extensively rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century, when it attained its present appearance. From 17th century, the palazzo was the residence of the San Stae branch of the Mocenigo family, one of the most important families of the Venetian patriciate, seven members of which became doges between 1414 and 1778. The external façades looking on to the street (salizàda) and San Stae canal are characterised by their large Serlian windows, a common feature in Venetian architecture during the 17th and 18th centuries

Completely renewed and expanded at
the end of 2013, the itinerary winds its
way through twenty rooms on the first
piano nobile, therefore doubling the
amount of exhibition area compared
to when it opened in 1985.

As a whole, the rooms skilfully evoke the
different aspects of the life and activities
of a Venetian nobleman between the
17th and 18th century, and on display are
mannequins wearing valuable ancient
garments and accessories that belong to the Study Centre connected to the Museum. Made of patterned fabrics embellished with embroidery and lace, they are testimony to the astounding expertise of scores of craftsmen and the refined, luxurious elegance for which the Venetians were famous.

The paintings on display here are either
nearly all portraits of the Mocenigo family
or depict events in which they were
involved. Four of the large portraits of the
walls are of the sovereigns under whom the
Mocenigo family were ambassadors, while
two of the seven doges from the family
are portrayed above the door and the
others in the long frieze below the ceiling –
inspired by the one in the Sala del Maggior
Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace –, together
with numerous illustrious members of the

The paintings in this room all belong to
the museum and are of famous members
of the branch of the Mocenigo family that
lived here. The two paintings by Antonio
Joli (Modena, 1700 – Naples, 1777) are
set in Rome and refer to Piero Mocenigo
(1632-1678), first ambassador to London
and then in the city of the Pope pastels by
Francesco Pavona (Udine, 1695 – Venice,
1777) portray the Doge Alvise IV, his wife
Pisa Corner and a brother (?).

In this room the 18th-century carved,
lacquered furniture belonging to the
palazzo is on display with contemporary
blown glass from Murano and the paintings
on the walls are from the Correr Museum
collections. The valuable silk fabrics
belong to the Study Centre of the History
of Fabrics and Costumes – as do all the
fabrics on display in the museum –, while
all the Chinese porcelains come from
the Treasury of the Scuola Grande di San

On the table, decorated with a handmade
lace tablecloth from Burano, and on the
consoles is 18th-century Murano glass
blown and worked by hand, while the
Venetian made bottles and glasses are in
‘Bohemian’ style

In this small room with its multicoloured
stuccoes and a series of paintings from
the Correr Museum, it is the magnificent
18th dresses that stand out. In women’s
clothing light fabrics, of clear tints, were
preferred; skirts were puffed out at the
waist by paniers; the tight-fitting bodices
presented ample decolletés and cascades
of lace hung from the sleeves. In the early
decades of the century a new model of
dress affirmed itself, in response to a desire for greater freedom of movement: the andrienne, known as the andrié in Venice, with pleated tail that descended from the shoulders, widening out to a broad train.

Men’s clothes, like most of the garments in this room, abandoning the severe models of the 16th and 17th centuries of military inspiration, assumed looser and more refined forms, adopting many of the features present in female fashion, such as copious lacework and embroidery. The gown was the official form of dress for patricians. Made of black fabric with large sleeves, for the Savi, Avogadori and heads of the Quarantia it had red lining while for the ducal Senators and Advisors it was completely red.

The room is dedicated to this classical
male garment with more then fifty samples
on display, from the Cini deposits in the
collections of the Study Centre of Textile
and Costume annexed to the museum.
Knee long, completely buttoned up in the
front and made of a valuable fabric, the
waistcoat became common at the end of
the 17th century. It was worn under the
jacket; the front was usually made of silk
and the back of linen or cotton. In that
period it still had sleeves and was mainly
meant as protection against the cold. It
later changed form: in the 18th century
– the period the models on display here
were made – it was shortened and reached just below the waist, ending with two ‘tails’.

At the end of the century it no longer
had sleeves, but sometimes had a collar

A new section dedicated to fragrances enriches the exhibition on the first floor of the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo at San Stae.
Although not a perfect reconstruction, this room evokes what was an almost alchemical laboratory of the perfume maker or muschiere, who, from the sixteenth century on in Venice was the keeper of the techniques and recipes to make soap, oils, pastes, powders and liquids to perfume things, people, clothes, gloves and rooms. Expensive and much sought-after, perfume required raw materials that were often very rare and exotic, coming either from the plant kingdom, such as the benjamin tree, cinnamon, or from the animal kingdom, such as the zibet and grey amber. This room has an interactive wall panel with a scented map that demonstrates the fascinating, impenetrable routes that Venetians had to cover to obtain these raw materials. Original nineteenth-/twentieth century instruments or reconstructions – such as the loom to extract essential oils from flowers (enfleurage) or the chest full of white cold paste Venetian soap, filtered using an ancient process – give the visitor a glimpse of the partially magical and partially industrial atmosphere of this great tradition. Of particular note is Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s sixteenth-century herbarium that illustrates, amongst other things, the technique of distillation.

Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia + Mavive Venezia, From the collection of: Palazzo Mocenigo
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