Commissioned in 1750, the Palazzo Venier was planned as a testimony to the power and wealth of a great Venetian family, but the fortunes of the Venier family waned and the project was abandoned with only one storey complete. Empty, unfinished, and in a gradual state of decay, the building was considered an eyesore. Yet in the early 20th century the Unfinished Palazzo’s quality of fairytale abandonment, and its potential for transformation, were to attract and inspire three fascinating women at key moments in their lives: Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim. Each chose the Palazzo Venier as the stage on which to build her own world of art and imagination, surrounded by an amazing supporting cast, from d’Annunzio and Nijinsky, via Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton, to Yoko Ono. Luisa turned her home into an aesthete’s fantasy where she hosted parties as extravagant and decadent as Renaissance court operas – spending small fortunes on her own costumes in her quest to become a ‘living work of art’ and muse to the artists of the late belle epoque and early modernist eras. Doris strove to make her mark in London and Venice during the glamorous, hedonistic interwar years, hosting film stars and royalty at glittering parties. In the postwar years, Peggy turned the Palazzo into a model of modernist simplicity that served as a home for her exquisite collection of modern art that today draws tourists and art-lovers from around the world. Mackrell tells each life story vividly in turn, weaving an intricate history of these legendary characters and the Unfinished Palazzo that they all at different times called home.
The Unfinished Palazzo : Life, Love and Art in Venice
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