Barbati Gallery is located in Palazzo Lezze, a Venetian Gothic architecture from the Renaissance times in the heart of Venice on Campo Santo Stefano-the site of the solendid Church Santo Stefano (completed in1325) that houses works by Tintoretto, Diziani, Lombardo, among others, only minutes away from Gallerie dell’ Accademia, the Guggenheim Collection and the Pinault Collection. A cosmopolitan destination in the history for commercial trade and cultural exchange connecting East and West, North and South, Venice has made special contributions to arts and art history. The unique Venetian Gothic architectural typology originated in 14th century with the confluence of Roman, Byzantine, Moorish, Islamic and early Gothic styles to simultaneously achieve lightness, elegance and grandiosity. Two distinctive characteristics are the ornate, pointed ogee arches and the tripartite structural articulation that resembles a classical column with the base on the bottom, the shaft in the middle, and the capital on the top. Both find examples in Palazzo Lezze on Campo Santo Stefano.
On the sun-kissed façade, overlooking the public square are two balustraded balconies on the middle (piano primo) and top levels. The middle balcony is elaborated with seven ogee arches that are lined with trefoil cusp moldings, supported by eight slim columns and topped by a finial above each tip -a typical example of John Ruskin’s 6th order of the late Gothic. The capitals of the columns are in concave forms of foliage ornamentation carved in high relief as in the Byzantine style, creating sharp, dramatic shadows. The arches not only ornament the balcony but also support the weight of the top floor. The two balconies’ columns and arches are in perfect correspondence: column over column, arch over arch. Deep in the entryway on the ground floor, nesting in a small quiet courtvard is a well embellished with a carved stone wellhead (vera da pozzo) depicting a joint coat of arms as the celebration of a wedding between the Lezze family and the Michel family-both established in the 1400s. The wellhead is in the standard form from the 14th – 16th centuries: a quadrangular top and a tapered cylindrical body carved with suspended arches.
(left) Canaletto (1697-1768), Venice: Campo Santo Stefano (looking south trom S. Stetano), c. 1/35-40, pen and ink over tree and ruled pencil and pinpointing on paper, 2/x38cm. (right) Santo Stefano (1325), interior.