In her vast renewal programme for the Musei Civici Veneziani, Gabriella Belli has rightly included Palazzo Mocenigo at San Stae, which for years has housed a Museum of Costume. The goal has been to find a new image, to give new life to a place which has over the years been collecting dust. She spoke about this to me and with her well-known power of seduction and persuasion, easily convinced me to accept the task.
I immediately began to explore the building and study its every detail. I had the entire first piano nobile at my disposal. The last descendant of the Mocenigo family, Contessa Costanza, had adapted it to her lifestyle, considerably altering the original style. Other changes were then made to shape this space to the requirements of the costume museum. The old museum layout was limited to just eight rooms. Our project includes a further nine, on top of the colonnade, and draws on unseen material from the costumes holdings and from the collection of antique textiles of the Fondazione Cini and Correr, curated with competence and absolute passion by the director, Chiara Squarcina. And on top of this, we offer a new section dedicated to perfume, resulting from the patronage of the Vidal family.
But before all this could be done, it was indispensable that the large container for the displays change look. We needed to find a new stylistic unity, and this was greatly assisted by the creation of a special fabric, for which I invented the unique design and combined in various chromatic combinations for each room. This fabric has been produced by Rubelli. The furnishings were chosen from the existing ones in the various rooms on the basis of a qualitative evaluation, and others were recovered from the palazzo’s attics. All have been submitted to the care of restorers and upholsterers. Naturally, these have been complemented with new and precious material from the reserves of the Museo Correr and from the Museo del Vetro at Murano. We have been able to count on the generosity of the Guardian Grande of the Scuola di San Rocco which has loaned us a series of beautiful works of art.
The costumes, a selection of 18th-century garments with a particular stress on Venice, are displayed in the totally renewed rooms, together with a number of fragments of antique textiles, a collection of precious Renaissance glass, the evocation of an alchemical laboratory through the display of instruments used to distill perfumes, and a collection of rare flasks of various periods from Murano’s Museo del Vetro and from the Drom Collection in Munich.
Nor is this all. We had to ensure a stylistic and aesthetic coherence for the succession of rooms. We needed to avoid the pedantic approach of a philological reconstruction, making use of irony to find a philosophy in this ambitious operation. Rediscovering the enchanted atmosphere of the old, splendid but also slightly melancholic Venetian palazzo, metaphysical in the almost obsessive presence of mannequins dressed in old-fashioned garments like ghosts in dim candlelight, imbued with charming scents.
I like to imagine that on entering this completely transformed residence, every visitor can be fascinated and comfortable in these rediscovered rooms, and receive the reassuring impression that these rooms have always been like this.
Pier Luigi Pizzi (Architect of the new layout of Palazzo Mocenigo)