Life as Opera d'Arte: Anton Maria Zanetti and His Collection

29 September 2018–7 January 2019

Exhibition Overview


Unknown, Portrait of Anton Maria Zanetti senior (1680-1757), Italian engraver, 18th Century.

Anton Maria Zanetti (1679-1767) was a central figure in the eighteenth-century history of Venetian collecting and in the world’s endorsement of Venetian art. An art patron and influential intermediary on behalf of nobles and sovereigns, commissioning and purchasing works by Venice’s most famous artists, Zanetti was perhaps the most influential character in the Venetian art scene of the time. Known as “il Vecchio”, or “di Girolamo”, to distinguish him from his namesake younger cousin who was a famous librarian at the Marciana Library in Venice, Zanetti was not only a passionate collector but also a talented draughtsman and skilled engraver. After his father’s death in 1711, he was forced to provide for the rest of the family as an insurance agent, but despite difficulties, this did not prevent him from following his own inclinations. A friend to artists such as Canaletto, Rosalba Carriera, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci and Giambattista Tiepolo, Zanetti was in close contact with the most important European collectors. He himself assembled an extraordinary collection of antique gems, drawings and prints that was dispersed after his death. He also promoted splendid publishing initiatives, most notably two volumes on ancient sculpture, now conserved in the vestibule of the Marciana Library and one of the most beautiful and luxurious illustrated publications of the entire eighteenth century. An inexhaustible collection of letters, now spread among libraries and private collectors, documents his dense network of relationships and friendships and offers a rare insight into the cultural life of the period. To commemorate this extraordinary figure, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia is dedicating him an exhibition that highlights his activities as an artist and patron. Testimonies from his life in the form of books, letters, engravings and drawings, none of which are usually exhibited for conservation reasons, will be shown together with art from his collection, including works by Tiepolo, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Palma il Giovane and others, now preserved in the city’s museums, among these the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, the Giorgio Cini Foundation, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and Venice’s civic museums, as well as in several private collections.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

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