The garden of Palazzo Soranzo Cappello
Palazzo Soranzo Cappello, overlooking Rio Marin, is the current headquarters of the Superintendence of Archaeology, the Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan area of Venice and the provinces of Belluno, Padua and Treviso. The ancient building was renovated between the end of the sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries at the behest of the Bragadin family, and later bought by Lorenzo Soranzo, procurator of St. Mark, who from 1625 gave a boost to new works to adorn the dwelling, both as regards the decoration of the façade as well as the addition of architectural and sculptural garden furnishings.
The garden, hidden from the visitor's view by the building façade, is one of the most renowned in Venice. Some descriptions of the garden are found in nineteenth-century literary sources, in particular the novel “Il Fuoco” by Gabriele d'Annunzio, in which the Garden of Soranzo is where Stelio and Foscarina meet, and “The Aspern Papers” by Henry James, whose plot revolving around the tormented search for the papers of the poet Jeffrey Aspern is set in this exact location. The earliest evidence of the current layout of the garden is documented by the 1709 engraving by Vincenzo Coronelli, in which the entrance courtyard is still recognisable, marked by niches with statues, two sculptural groups at the centre of the passageway between the courtyard and the garden and the actual garden itself featuring a central avenue phased by statues on pedestals and, on the two sides, by ample parterre de broderie.
The current layout is the result of a meticulous restoration, carried out following the acquisition of the complex by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. The monumental court has three sides marked by niches with the statues of Julius Caesar and the first eleven Roman emperors, alluding to the magnificence of the House of Soranzo. Between the courtyard and the garden there are two sculptural groups showing the Rape of the Sabines or, according to another interpretation, the Labours of Hercules. Backdrop of the garden is an eight-columned loggia with a triangular gable with allegoric statues on top. The entire area is divided into four lawns, recapturing the illustration by Coronelli. The former garden area located in the north-east, is divided in two by a pergola; one closer to the banks, which is the flower garden, and one on the inside, the fruit garden.