Porta della Carta, Venice

Venice did all in its power to maintain its founding principles: justice, peace, prudence, and others, as we will see later. Nothing illustrates these virtues better than the Porta della Carta, an entrance to the ducal palace squeezed in between the Basilica of San Marco and the Palace itself.

The gate is one of the highlights of Venetian architecture, though it has to be said it did not appeal to John Ruskin. He wrote of the ‘insipid confusion’ of the Porta della Carta, the ‘corruption of all architecture’.  I will leave you to decide whether you do or do not disagree with him! The gate was commissioned by Doge Francesco Foscari (1423-1457) who appears above the doorway kneeling before the lion of St Mark. Work began in 1438 by Bartolomeo Bon and his father Giovanni. The name 'carta', paper, refers to scribes who worked at this location.

Important features

Up above the gate is the statues of Justice, shown above. She holds the well-balanced scales in one hand and a sword in the other, reminiscent of the statue that crowns the Old Bailey in London: similar images ae found around the world, inspired by Justitia, the Roman godess of justice. Here she sits on the throne of Solomon, complete with the two lions. An appropriate symbol here: through these gates past those awaiting trial for their crimes. If the trial did not go well, they would be heading over the bridge of sighs. It was also seen as representing Venice itself: 'Una Venetia in forma Giustizia'.
  The principles of the republic had to be balanced with its religious faith. Below Justice is a bust of St Mark, holding his gospel in one hand and blessing those who passed under him with the other. His shrine, of course, is very close by.

The most familiar image shows  Doge Francesco Foscari, holding the Venetian flag and kneeling before the lion of St Mark. This is not the Bartolomeo Bon original, which was badly damaged when Napoleon arrived in 1797, but a nineteenth century copy.
On each side of the doge and lion sculpture and the doorway are four statues of virtues, Charity, Prudence, Hope and Fortitude, all regarded as attributes of Venice.  Some historians tell us that these are by Antonio Bregno, not Bartolomeo Bon.



Hope (Speranza)

Above the capital of the adjacent column of the ducal palace is another fine carving, definitely attributed to Bartolomeo Bon. The palace was seen as a parallel to the palace of Solomon. Here is shown the judgment of Solomon, in which the wise king sorts out the claim of the two women to the living child. 'And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment'.

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