HISTORY OF THE VILLA
“…A small house in the Monselice area that I use for my trips to Montagnana…” : this is how Francesco Pisani, owner of the Villa, would define this abode he had built along the river in Monselice around 1556. It would serve as a resting stop in his travels between the palace he owned in Venice and his lands in Montagnana, where he lived in a court that Palladio built for him between 1553 and 1555, just outside Porta Padova.
The Villa is part of a large group that the Venetian noble families erected as both a place to stay when visiting their lands and a linchpin for agricultural works. Indeed, after the Da Carrara family was defeated by the Serenissima in 1405, the Venetian nobility immediately made an effort to build a connection with the inland, which resulted in the establishment of an economic structure upon the newly acquired territories. This is how the phenomenon of the “Sunday Villa” spread out in the early 15th century, next to the several rustic buildings already part of the Venetian land, and slowly became the nucleus of many villages.
STRUCTURE AND RESTORATION
The building and the garden remained property of the Pisani family until 1797 and were then passed from one to the other until the 1950s, when the municipality acquired it and made it a middle school. In 1983 an accurate restoration campaign began, involving both the architectural structure and the internal decorations. It ended in 2012, after bringing the Villa back to the beauty we can admire today.
In traditional Venetian style, every floor of the Villa is divided into three rooms, the two smaller ones originating from the central bigger one. The stairs to the upper floor are located on the back of the building, towards the garden. The external walls are kept pretty simple. The front face is parted by four Corinthian half pilasters, upon which two Winged Victories inside a gable are holding the Pisani emblem. Researchers identify the sculptor either with Tiziano Minio or Alessandro Vittoria.
The decorative frescoes on the inside contrast with the unadorned outside walls. The ground floor’s pictorial cycle can be accredited to Benedetto Caliari, brother of the better known Paolo Caliari or “Veronese”. The landscapes in the great hall walls are depicted inside painted architectures. Ionic columns laying on balustrades divide the frescoes into sections, the main ones framed by arcades supported by Caryatids.
The low horizon is topped by skies striated by thin clouds and cut sideways by a few slender trees. On the right wall the protagonist is a group of Classical remains, typical of the sixteenth-century style, inhabited by tiny human figures. On the left side we can see a seascape dominated by burning ships right before shipwreck, and a pinnacled building in the background. The motif of high slender spires, that can be found in many other Venetian Villas, represents man’s attempt to elevate himself to be closer to God.
Above the doors are busts adorned with drapes and war trophies, topped with fruit festoons which served as clear sign of the wealth of the Pisani family. The wall towards the garden is decorated with landscape sceneries and fluted columns, that resemble the decorative motives of Villa Barbaro in Maser. On the lintel upon the front door is a representation of the Pisani emblem: a white and blue rampant beast. Above it, two monochromatic Classical figures are sitting in a painted tympanum, one of which is holding a lyre.
The decorations in the bigger room on the first floor are qualitatively superior compared to the ground floor, especially because of the landscapes that accurately depict architectures contemporary to the Villa. The fresco, accredited to Lattanzio Gambara, is divided into sections by Ionic columns topped by an architrave. The two major walls depict arches supported by Caryatids, through which we can admire a large landscape on the right, and a representation of the legend of Apollo and Daphne on the left. Upon the four doors are four female allegories: on the right, Temperance has everything under control by keeping an upside-down vase under her foot, and Reverence is pointing at the sky as a sign of warning; on the left, a female figure is touching her stomach and gazing up, and Prudence is looking behind herself through a mirror.
Entering now the room on the left, we can see the figure of a poorly dressed old woman coming out of a door, a kind of depiction that can be found in many other Venetian Villas. On the walls, we can still clearly see the remains of the ancient partition walls that were removed. The fresco also indicates that originally the room was divided into two; the statues, indeed, are half painted to resemble red marble and a half to resemble bronze. Upon one of the doors is a Suffering Christ, sign that this was probably the master bedroom of the male owner.
Moving on to the room to the right, we can identify the ancient partition here as well, mirrored by the presence of half statues painted half in white marble and a half in bronze. Above the door is located a depiction of the Virgin Mary With Baby Jesus, indicating that this was probably the wife’s bedroom. Among the bronze figures is one that does not belong to the Classical tradition: a wayfarer, typical of other Villas of the area.