I recently decided to find out more about the Painting Academy that Casanova mentions in one of his reports to the State Inquisitors. Yes, after being spied on by the State, and after being arrested and jailed, he later returned to Venice and took a job as a spy. Go figure.
One of the places he mentioned is the Painting Academy. His directions are vague; he said with was near the Ridotto and “Fish Alley,” which is not on any map. The Ridotto he refers to was the main gambling establishment in Venice on Calle Vallaresso (in fact, the backside street was called Calle del Ridotto). It was in a palace owned by Marco Dandolo and is now the Hotel Monaco. I assumed that the Painting Academy was also somewhere on this street.
So I turned to a couple trusty sources of Venetian history–Adriano and his friend Stefano. Adriano is in Rome (remember reading about my pine nut friend?), while Stefano lives in Venice. They forwarded me information on the true site, making a key connection for me that I hadn’t previously found. It turns out that the Painting Academy or Accademia di pitture was actually housed in the Fontegheto della Farina, a flour warehouse that had been there for a couple centuries. The Accademia opened in 1756. It’s not actually on the same street as the Ridotto, which is probably why I hadn’t been able to find it before. From the Ridotto (Hotel Monaco today) on Calle Vallaresso, walk up a few paces to the water’s edge. The opposite building is Harry’s Bar. Keep walking past Harry’s along the water’s edge on the Fondamenta del Fontegheto and right before the next bridge, the building on your left is the old flour warehouse.
Canaletto painted this building in 1730:
Here’s a photo that Stefano took:
And why was Casanova asked to spy at this location? Apparently couples went there to ogle the artist models, who were often disrobed. Hot date night. While he wrote that couples went out of “curiosity,” I’m sure there were other motives as well. Like learning to paint.