History isn’t often so generous as to leave us with such a perfect, well-preserved building from the past, within its original landscape.
Villa Barbaro in Maser is a true architectural masterpiece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designed and built between 1554 and 1560 by Andrea Palladio who also entrusted two of the greatest artists of his time with the decorations: Paolo Caliari known as Veronese for the frescoes, and Alessandro Vittoria for the stucco decorations.
Another extraordinary detail about Villa Barbaro is that it was commissioned by humanist Daniele Barbaro and his brother Marcantonio, an ambassador of the Republic of Venice, who wished to use it not only as an agricultural production center and a country house, but also as a meeting place for their friends who were academics, artists, philosophers, and mathematicians.
Palladio’s project is strongly influenced by the personality of his clients, especially Marcantonio Barbaro, who personally designed the nymphaeum behind the villa, adorned by Alessandro Vittoria’s stucco sculptures.
After several generations within the Barbaro family, in 1850 the villa was purchased by the Giacomelli family, who then sold it to Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata in 1934; Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata donated the villa to his daughter Marina, who made it her place of residence and began to restore it.
When Marina Volpi acquired the villa, its interiors were significantly different from those we see today, altered and encumbered by 19th century-style decorations that burdened every room and partially hid Paolo Veronese’s frescoes; Marina Volpi entrusted her friend, architect Tomaso Buzzi, with a radical restoration and modernization of Villa Barbaro.
With the help of renowned restorer Ottorino Nonfarmale, the cross vault frescoed by Veronese was taken back to its original 16th century colors and has since been made accessible to visitors by the owners.
The two wings facing the nymphaeum are inhabited by Marina Volpi and her husband Enrico Luling Buschetti.
On the ground floor of the two colonnades, Buzzi set up the reception rooms, the private areas and a guesthouse. He designed highly imaginative furnishings and fabrics, inspired by the frescoes themselves, and fulfilled Marina Volpi’s wishes of decorating each area of the house with different kinds of objects. As for the garden, the architect removed most 19th century elements and restored the ancient 16th century order, designing custom outdoor furniture, aviaries and even terracotta vases marked with the owner’s initials. Illustrious guests populated the villa and memorable dinner parties were held under Veronese’s frescoes, with majestic centerpieces in Murano glass, Bassano ceramics or antique pieces, magnificent silverware, and porcelain sets.
Marina Volpi was a keen traveler and over the years she enthusiastically collected and brought home all kinds of objects, including exotic ones. She was also friends with Paolo Venini who, in addition to manufacturing several of the villa’s lamps for Buzzi, gifted her with some of the best creations from his kiln. Marina was considered to be among the most elegant women of her time and her wardrobes still hold some of her garments and accessories by the greatest couturiers of the time, such as Hermes, Roberta di Camerino and Sorelle Giunta in Milan.
In the post-war period, the villa was modernized with new lamps designed by Caccia Dominioni and Gardella for Azucena in Milan, thanks to the family’s friendship with architect Corrado Corradi Dell’Acqua. Marina Volpi commissioned Piero Fornasetti to craft peculiar items for her, inspired by an ancient, Palladian spirit.
With the purpose of making it possible for the villa to continue enchanting the whole world with its uniqueness, current owner Vittorio Dalle Ore has entrusted Cambi Auctioneers with the sale of a part of the furnishings; all proceeds will go towards the restoration and enhancement of the magnificent mansion.
The exhibit featuring the furnishings, artistic objects and items from Marina Volpi’s wardrobe will be open to visitors in Milan, at Cambi Auctioneers’ premises in Via San Marco 22, from Friday September 30th 2022 through Tuesday October 4th 2022 between 10 AM and 7 PM.
The auction will take place in the same location on October 5th 2022.