About the gallery
The Accademia is Venice’s great art gallery, containing a superb selection of paintings by masters who came from, or to, the city during its years of wealth and importance. The paintings here date from the period between the fourteenth and the eighteenth century, from altarpieces to family portraits. Some of the most famous works include Giorgione’s mysterious Tempest, Carpaccio’s St. Ursula cycle and Veronese’s Christ in the House of Levi, as well as works by Piero della Francesca, Titian, Tintoretto, three different Bellinis (Jacopo, Giovanni and Gentile), Guardi and Canaletto.For tourists with an interest in art, the Accademia is an unmissable attraction.
Rooms are numbered and the gallery is laid out so that you will follow a route around from start to finish. The order is more or less chronological. If it seems warren-like, this is because three different religious buildings were patched together to house art from Venice’s suppressed churches and religious foundations. Room 1 was once the refectory of the Scuola Grande della Carità, and has a rather disconcerting ceiling covered with hundreds of gilded angel-faces.
Towards the beginning are lovely early Renaissance collections, packed with colourful masterpieces by artists including Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio and Piero della Francesca. The quantity of marvellous art squeezed into these rooms is remarkable; and the standard is almost uniformly high. The most overpowering room of all, though, is probably the large Room 10, which is dominated by Paolo Veronese’s Christ in the House of Levi. This large painting is rich with the colourful and decadent details of a vast Venetian feast – it was originally a Last Supper but when the Inquisition objected, Veronese simply changed the name. In the same gallery are other works by Veronese and also paintings by Tintoretto – dramatic tales of St. Mark – and Titian’s haunting Pietà, his last work (finished by Palma il Giovane).
Further on through the gallery the visitor passes more paintings by Tintoretto, and then an assortment of generally less inspiring exhibits from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. There are romantic landscapes – even Venice, apparently, needed to be made more romantic by the addition of crumbling classical arches and altars – and some earnest portraits, including pastels by Rosalba Carriera. There aren’t many works by Canaletto in Venice (he was too popular with overseas visitors) but the Accademia does have a very small collection, as well as some hazier scenes by Francesco Guardi.
Every visitor will find their own favourites in the Accademia. Among the most striking works, partly because its theme stands out among all this religious imagery, is Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Gentleman in his Study, where a pale and sensitive nobleman muses, surrounded by symbols of lost love (a letter, a shredded rose). Another of our personal highlights is the background of Cima da Conegliano’s Madonna of the Orange Tree, where a fortified hilltown perches above cliffs.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time for the gallery, as two of the Accademia’s finest collections are near the end of the tour. Room 20 contains a sequence of religious paintings, The Miracles of the True Cross. These large paintings commemorate local miracles, and these detailed and colourful recreations are doorways back into Venice’s past. The detail is so alive that you may find yourself visiting the settings and trying to match buildings and bridges with those recorded centuries ago. The old Rialto Bridge, made of wood, features in Vittore Carpaccio’s illustration of a miraculous healing, along with colourful feast-day crowds and milling gondolas (one passenger travels with a fluffy white dog). Gentile Bellini’s paintings here are both lovely depictions of Venice – in The Miracle of the True Cross at the Bridge of San Lorenzo , a swimming priest, by virtue of his holiness, manages to salvage the relic dropped in the canal during a procession. The same artist’s view of a Procession in St. Mark’s Square is one of the most famous views of that piazza, full of minute detail.
After this, hidden around an unsignposted corner, is a treasure chamber. Carpaccio’s Legend of St Ursula, a series of exquisite storytelling paintings, is another of the gallery’s great treasures. Colourful and magical, these paintings glow on the walls, recounting the fanciful story of the holy maiden, her betrothal and her pilrimage with 11,000 virgin attendants. Naturally, all these legendary events take place in a world of Carpaccio’s Venetian imagination. Ambassadors travel between England and Brittany, which are ornamented with little Venetian bridges, temples of Renaissance marble splendour and even a pet monkey. The paintings are epic yet sweet, with lovely details like the scene of Ursula in bed. surrounded by her belongings; her crown at the foot of the bed, her slippers and her little dog.
The Accademia is open every day of the week, but on Mondays it only opens in the mornings (8:15am-2pm), and it is closed on 1st January, 1st May and 25th December. Tuesday – Sunday the opening times are 8:15am-7pm. Last admission is 45 minutes before closing time. The gallery limits the number of people allowed in at any one time, so if you are visiting at a busy time of year, consider booking ahead at the cost of an additional euro per ticket. This can be done online or by telephone (+39 041 5200345). There is a lot to see, so you should allow at least an hour to visit the gallery, or even plan a return visit if you are very keen (it’s hard to take this much in at one go). It is possible to see additional works from the gallery’s collection in the Quadreria at certain times of the week and by pre-booked tour. As always in Italian museums, be prepared for some disappointments. There will almost certainly be paintings missing in restauro (under restoration), on loan, or in rooms which have been temporarily closed.
Admission to the gallery is among the more expensive in Venice, though it is well worth the price for art-lovers. There is free entry for EU citizens aged under 18, and half-price entry for those aged 18-25. You can also buy a combined ticket with the Ca’ d’Oro and Museo Orientale.
Occasionally there are special entrance deals – for example, during Italian heritage events – currently including the first Sunday of every month – admission is free, and on the 8th March (International Women’s Day) there has sometimes been and offer of free entrance for women. There is a museum shop.
The museum is right by the Accademia vaporetto stop (lines 1 and 2) and the Accademia bridge over the Grand Canal.
Useful external links