BARDI, Girolamo

BARDI, Girolamo Dichiaratione di tutte le istorie, che si contengono nei quadri posti nouamente nelle Sale dello Scrutinio, & del Gran Consiglio, del Palagio Ducale della Serenissima Republica di Vinegia

Venice, Felice Valgrisio, 1587


FIRST EDITION 8vo. ff. [viii] 64. Italic letter, some Roman. Woodcut printer’s device of hands grasping a caduceus to t-p, woodcut initials. Very light foxing to first few leaves. A very good, clean copy in C17 Italian vellum, ms title to spine, edges speckled red.

First edition of Girolamo Bardi’s important guide to the paintings in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice; the work is very rare, only one copy (Cambridge UL) is recorded in Adams. Little is known of Bardi’s life, save that he came from a prominent Florentine family, which produced a number of authors and scholars. The present work is dedicated to Giovanni I Cornaro (1551-1629; Doge from 1625).

In 1577, a huge fire damaged the Sala dello Scrutinio and the Great Council Chamber in the Palazzo Ducale, causing serious structural damage and destroying numerous important paintings. Architectural reconstruction work was completed by 1579-1580, and a committee was formed to commission new works of art and devise the iconographic programme which they should follow. Bardi was a member of this committee; the present work reveals not only his ‘insider knowledge’ of the practical implementation of the restoration project, but also his deep appreciation of art and the care with which the new decorative schema was devised. Many of the paintings from this mass commissioning were inevitably workmanlike, never wholly adequate replacements for the lost works by artists such as Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello, Alvise Vivarini, Carpaccio, Bellini, Pordenone and Titian. But there were also inspired and innovative choices, such as the new works by Tintorretto, Bassano and Paolo Veronese. (The restoration programme lasted many years, and some famous works, such as Tintorretto’s Paradise, were produced long after Bardi’s preliminary report.)

In the present work, Bardi describes the circumstances of the fire, and the reorganisation of the two rooms worst affected, the Sala dello Scrutinio and the Great Council Chamber. His detailed description of the new pictures, recording celebrated Venetian victories, essentially provides a potted version of the key events of Venetian history, as conceived by the rulers of the late sixteenth century. In addition to the historical paintings, Bardi also describes the portraits of the Doges, a permanent record of whose likeness was a consequence of office. The art historical interest of the account is increased by the fact that Bardi explains the physical layout of the rooms, with details of where each painting was hung in relation to its fellows, allowing us to reconstruct the precise appearance and disposition of the galleries at this period.

Not in BM STC Italian; Adams B 195; Edit-on line 35765; Cicogna 4669; Schlosser-Magnino 369; not in Fowler.
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