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According to Wurman’s Access Guide, “No. 5845 is where Marco Polo was probably born” (144).

This building’s façade has examples of the carved decorations Ruskin discusses in his close analyses of the development of Venetian gothic architecture. In the second volume of the The Stones of Venice, he includes outline drawings of the wall decoration of Venetian secular buildings, particularly palazzi. There Ruskin points out that “The cross was apparently an invariable ornament, placed either in the centre of the archivolt of the doorway, or in the centre of the first story above the windows; on each side of it the circular and oblong ornaments were used in various alternation. In too many instances the wall marbles have been torn away from the earliest Byzantine palaces, so that the crosses are left on their archivolts only. The best examples of the cross set above the windows are found in houses of the transitional period: one in the Campo Sta M. Formosa; another, in which a cross is placed between every window, is still well preserved in the Campo Sta Maria Mater Domini; another, on the Grand Canal, in the parish of the Apostoli, has two crosses, one on each side of the first story, and a bas-relief of Christ enthroned in the centre; and finally, that from which the larger cross in the Plate was taken is the house once belonging to Marco Polo, at San Giovanni Grisostomo” (10.166). It’s not clear if this is the building to which Ruskin refers here.

Left:The entrance arch decorated with bas relief carving. Right: A detail of the arch showing the bas relief carvings of flowers and animals.

Left: Note the iron tie-bar intended to strengthen the building. Right: The kind of cross Ruskin discusses.

More of Ruskin's Venice

Photographs 2020. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Ruskin, John. The Works. Ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. “The Library Edition.” 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-1912.

Wurman, Richard Saul [and Patricia Schultz]. Florence Venice Milan Access. New York: HarperCollins, n.d.

Last Modified 28 March 2020