As many of you know, the exhibitions of the Marciana Library are housed in two rooms: the Antisala, or Antechamber, and the Sala, or Hall,which was the former seat of the Public Library (or St. Mark's Library). Both rooms are the work of Jacopo Sansovino, who built the library between 1537 and 1553. The paintings were added later. The Library was opened to the public in 1560. The Antisala was planned as the seat for the humanistic school of St. Mark's. In 1587 Giovanni Grimani, the Patriarch of Aquileia, decided to donate his collection of Greek and Roman statues to the Library. As a consequence, the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi transformed the Antisala into the seat of the Statuary Museum. There were more than 150 ancient pieces (since 1922 almost all of them have been housed in the Archaeological Museum).
On the ceiling, in the centre, is Wisdom, a canvas by Titian, painted around 1560. The architectural trompe-l'oeil perspective of the ceiling is the work of the brothers Cristoforo and Stefano Rosa and was done at the same time as
The main Sala formerly held the books donated by Cardinal Bessarion to the Republic of Venice. The books were placed on tables or plutei, in two rows. The books acquired later were placed along the walls. In 1812 Napoleon
decided to include both the Sala and the Antisala in the residence of the King of Italy, which occupied the Procuratie Nuove and the Napoleonic Wing. Thus the Library was moved to the Ducal Palace, where it stayed until
1904. Then it was moved into the Palazzo della Zecca (the Mint), to which was added the original seat - i.e., the Sansovino Sale - in 1920.
The floor of the Sala came from the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, another Sansovino building; it was laid in the Sala of the Library in 1815, on the occasion of the visit of Francis I of Austria.
On the walls: two Philosophers by Veronese on either side of the entrance door. On the left wall as you enter: two Philosophers attributed to Schiavone; four Philosophers by Tintoretto; on the end wall, two Philosophers by Tintoretto. On the wall overlooking the Piazzetta: Faith (school of Veronese),Prometheus, the inventor of arts and sciences, by Giuseppe Porta, known as Salviati (the head was painted over by Pietro Vecchia); the prophet Jeremiah by Salviati; a Philosopher by Battista Franco; a Philosopher by Lambert Sustris; Charity (school of Veronese). Apart from the philosophers, the works on this wall do not belong to the original cycle.
On the ceiling: 21 tondos, framed by a decoration of grottesche on a gold background, the work of Battista Franco. Starting from the entrance: three paintings by Giuseppe De Mio, three by Giuseppe Porta, known as Salviati, three by Battista Franco, two by Giulio Licinio (the third was substituted by one by Strozzi in 1635), two by Battista Zelotti (the third was substituted by one by Padovanino), three by Paolo Veronese, three by Andrea Schiavone. According to Ridolfi, it was Titian who chose the painters for the ceiling. When the job was completed, Titian and Sansovino, having heard the opinion of the painters themselves, informed the Procuratori of St. Mark's that Veronese was the one who had "worked best" ("meglio diportato"). The Procuratori gave him a gold chain as a mark of honour.