JOHN DAVIES MEREWEATHER
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PALAZZI CONTARINI DEGLI SCRIGNI  AND  CONTARINI CORF┘

 


Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni
and Palazzo Contarini Corf¨
The fašades towards the Grand Canal with Rio di San Trovaso to the right
Photograph by Carlo Ponti c.1880, from the Arfwedson/Greaves archives

The handwritten notes may be contemporary. They indicate that the entrance to the left (degli Scrigni) is Mereweather's and that the entrance to the right (Corf¨) is that of the Greaves family.  For thoughts on Mereweather's apartment see below.

Palazzo Contarini Corf¨ was built in the 15h century. Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni, although of a completely different style, was built in 1609 as an enlargement of the original palace. The whole complex is often referred to as Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni-Corf¨ or simply Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni.

Rio di San Trovaso is sometimes referred to as Rio delle Maravegie.


Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni and Palazzo Contarini Corf¨
Photograph kindly provided by Gunilla Bj÷rkvall, July 1994
 

View of the Grand Canal towards Rialto
The Contarini palaces can be seen to the left
Photograph by Gunilla Bj÷rkvall taken from the Accademia bridge in July 1994
 

View of the Grand Canal with the Accademia bridge
The Contarini palaces can be seen behind the bridge to the left
Photograph by Paolo Salviati, c. 1880
 

The Grand Canal
 
Watercolour by an unknown artist, probably late 19th century, depicting Palazzi Contarini degli Scrigni and Corf¨ along with Palazzo Loredan degli Ambasciatori (which conceals Rio di San Trovaso)
 

 

Rio di San Trovaso

View towards the Grand Canal with Palazzo Contarini Corf¨ to the right

Watercolour 1893 by Ellen Jolin, Swedish painter and writer, 1854-1939

For more information on Ellen Jolin, click here.
 

 

Rio di San Trovaso

The same view as the image above but in May 2004
 
Photograph kindly provided by Stefano Soffiato, of www.venessia.com

The main parts of the two pictures are shown below side by side for better comparison.
 





Rio di San Trovaso with Palazzo Contarini Corf¨ to the right


Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo) describes Canon Lonsdale Ragg's apartment in 1909. The entrance (probably Dorsoduro 1057) lay in Calle Contarini Corf¨, an alley perpendicular to Rio di San Trovaso. Moreover, "the Wardens'  [i.e. the Raggs'] castle in Palazzo Corf¨ began on the fifth storey with four enormous halls and a chapel containing a lavatory, egregiously plank- and shaving-littered, obstructed by made and unmade packing-cases. Monstrous old couches, bureaux, pianos, book-shelves, crated and uncrated, sprawled and straddled across marble floors. The first hall was mucked with rejected crockery, kitchen stuff, and furniture. A winding stair in a turret led, past a kitchen (similarly disordered), to a top storey of nine garrets (one large, four tiny, all low) lying along extended corridors.  ...  Crabbe wandered about, wondering why in the world the Wardens never occupied this apartment instead of borrowing other people's or living in hotels, as Erastian Venice tittle-tattle said was his constant habit. It was light, airy, well-sunned: from its windows were simply lovely views, of Canalazzo to beyond the Salute on the one hand, and (on the other) over the marvellous tiled roofs and chalice-like chimneys and verdant terraces and gardens and solemn byzantine bell-towers of the greater part of the city, across the blue lagoon to the snow-clad battlements of the Alps seventy miles away. It was an eyrie aloft, where one might have made oneself most smug and secret and have done no end of decent work. But the rooms hadn't been prepared for habitation for years and years." (Desire, p. 212)

Ragg's apartment, then, would have been situated in the Corf¨ part of the complex, and may have had a direct connexion with, or even extended into, the degli Scrigni part. Mereweather may have occupied the same apartment and held services there; if so, it could well have been more practical for the congregation to use the degli Scrigni entrance on the Grand Canal rather than enter from the back alley. Besides, since the apartment had not been lived in for many years, one may suspect that the "monstrous old couches" and other pieces of furniture were in fact the remainder of Mereweather's belongings which his heirs had found too expensive to convey out of Venice.


According to Jan-Christoph R÷ssler, I palazzi veneziani, Venice 2010, p. 289, the palace complex remained in the hands of the Contarini family until the mid 19th century. In 1856 it was sold to the Countess Matilde Strachan Berchtold (1813-1899). She would have been the daughter of Sir Richard Strachan, 6th Baronet of Thornton, and have married Count Anton Maria Berchtold in Prague in 1833. The next owner of the Contarini palaces in San Trovaso was, from 1886, George Peabody Russell (1835-1909); he was the nephew of the American entrepreneur and philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869). Now the palaces are the property of the Rocca family. There is a website with many fine pictures: http://www.palazzorocca.it .

Information regarding George Peabody Russell, especially his time in Venice, would be highly appreciated.