Napoleon briefly ruled Venice, starting in 1797, and not all Venetians were against him. Venice, until that time, had been an oligarchy, and many were tired of it. As admirers of the French Revolution, they saw in Napoleon the opportunity to establish a more modern, democratic government.
As it turned out, Napoleon wasn’t as much interested in governing Venice as in looting its art and artifacts. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, he took the copper horses on St. Mark’s to Paris. And he took quite a few other things too. On the positive side, he did introduce a few reforms, such as eliminating the ghettos. Though the history of ghettos is somewhat vague, a popular version of its provenance says that it was created by Venetians to segregate their Jewish population.
Napoleon never did get to Venice, but he did build himself a palace, just in case. It occupies the western edge of Piazza San Marco, between the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, the two long arcades of buildings which extend the length of the piazza on the north and south.
The last Doge of Venice abdicated when Napoleon took over and I’m surprised that Napoleon didn’t decided to just move into the Doge’s Palace. The reason, says the website of the Museo Correr, which now occupies Napoleon’s palace, is that: “the most important aspect of the Napoleonic Wing, which seems to set itself in deliberate contraposition to the old Doge’s Palace, is that this residence of kings and emperors was the expression of a desire to open up a new chapter in the history of Venice.”
A ticket to the Doge’s Palace got us into the Correr, which is also owned by the city of Venice. So after the palace, Patricia and I took ourselves to the Correr. Even though Napoleon never occupied it, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (the Austrians occupied Venice after Napoleon’s downfall) wife of Franz Joseph I, was a long-term occupant twice: in 1856/57 and in 1862/63. Elisabeth’s claim to fame is as the mother of Crown Prince Rudolph, who was involved in a murder/suicide with his mistress in what became known as the Mayerling incident (after the hunting lodge where it took place). There are several books and films about it, the most famous of which is probably the one with Omar Shariff as Rudolph and Ava Gardener as Elisabeth.
The rooms are kept as they were in Elisabeth’s day.
The informal dining room:
Along with the royal apartments, the Correr houses a collection of Venetian art and cultural artifacts. Like these 18th century elm-wood bookcases and amazing 18th century Murano glass chandelier.
My favorites: women’s shoes, undated, designed to protect the wearer against muddy streets. Sorry about the fuzzy photo – I haven’t caught on to the art of shooting through glass.
As you can tell from my photo of empty rooms, the Correr was not as crowded as other tourist venues in Venice, so it made for a pleasant wander. Only a couple of other people in our group took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Correr, and it was everyone else’s loss. Taken together, the museums on Piazza San Marco — the medieval St. Mark’s Basilica and museum, the Renaissance Doge’s Palace, and the 18th century Correr Museum with its collection of Venetian artifacts — make for a well-rounded tour of Venice’s culture and history.