Santa Maria Della Visitazione (Church of the Pietà)

Venice, Italy

Background

The Church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, also known as the Church of the Pietà, was designed by the architect Giorgio Massari and built between 1745 and 1760. Notable for its baroque architecture and interiors, Santa Maria della Visitazione is perhaps best known for a series of prominent paintings by the Venetian artist Giambattista Tiepolo. The institution is affiliated with the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage and conservatory that, beginning in the fifteenth century, provided care for foundlings, housing at one point some 900 abandoned children. Santa Maria della Visitazione functioned as a conservatory for the orphanage, which became famous for its musical program and, later, for its ties to the composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi, who composed many of his major works while teaching at the conservatory.

How We Helped

In 1971 WMF began conserving the Church of the Pietà, initiating condition surveys, implementing structural improvements, and addressing the church’s three Tiepolo works (Triumph of Faith, Three Theological Virtues, and David and the Angel). WMF retiled the church’s roof, undertook an extensive cleaning of the structure, and mitigated water infiltration problems apparent through visible damage to the walls. WMF also completed conservation work on the inlaid marble floor near the church’s high altar, refurbished its choir lofts, and cleaned its wrought-iron screens. Finally, WMF installed a lighting system that highlights the building’s interior finishes and decorative elements, including the Tiepolo paintings that give so much character to the space. WMF’s work also included the restoration of the church’s impressive Nacchini organ.

Why It Matters

The Church of the Pietà on the Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice is a masterpiece of eighteenth-century architecture with an interior to match its impressive and prominent location. It is a jewel not only because of its Tiepolo ceiling but as a representation of a moment in Venetian history when charitable action, art, music, and education fused together to create a sacred space that honored religion and the arts that glorified it. WMF’s commitment to the conservation of the Church of the Pietà was unflagging and resulted in the return of this masterpiece to the public for worship and appreciation of the artistic and musical achievements so well noted in its history.

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