Lonely Planet review for Gallerie dell'Accademia
Don't be fooled by Palladio's serene expansions for the former Santa Maria della Carità convent: these galleries contain more murderous intrigue, forbidden romance, shameless politicking and near-riots than the most outrageous Venetian parties. To guide you through the ocular onslaught, visits are loosely organised by style, theme and painter from the 14th to the 18th centuries, though recent restorations have temporarily shuffled round some of the masterpieces.
Early collection highlights include Paolo Veneziano's c 1350 Coronation of Mary (room 1), which shows Jesus bestowing the crown on his mother with a gentle pat on the head. For sheer, shimmering gore, there's no topping Carpaccio's Crucifixion and Glorification of the Ten Thousand Martyrs of Mount Ararat (room 2) – Harry's Bar was correct naming its raw-beef dish after this painter. In rooms 3 to 5, Andrea Mantegna's 1466 haughtily handsome St George and Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child amid neon-red cherubs highlight Venice's twin artistic tendencies: high drama and glowing colour.
Visits advance rapidly through the Renaissance, including Tintoretto's Creation of the Animals, a fantastical bestiary that suggests that God put forth his best efforts inventing Venetian seafood (no arguments here). Recent restoration brings new light to one of Titian's last efforts, possibly finished posthumously by Palma il Giovane: a 1576 Pietà with smears of paint Titian applied with bare hands.
Artistic triumph over censorship dominates room 10. Paolo Veronese's controversial Feast in the House of Levi was originally called Last Supper until church Inquisition leaders condemned Veronese for showing dogs, drunkards, dwarfs and even Reformation-minded Germans cavorting amid the apostles. Veronese refused to change a thing about his painting besides the title, and Venice stood by this act of artistic defiance against Rome.
Baroque portrait galleries scarcely contain larger-than-life Venetian personalities: Giorgione's decidedly un-Botoxed Old Woman, Lorenzo Lotto's 1525 soul-searching Portrait of a Young Scholar; Rosalba Carriera's brutally honest self-portrait (c 1730); Pietro Longhi's stern chaperone in The Dance Lesson; and Giambattista Piazzetta's saucy socialite in his 1740 Fortune-Teller.
Gentile Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio pack room 20 with multicultural crowds of Venetian merchants embedded in their versions of Miracles of the True Cross. The newly restored Sala dell'Albergo is fronted by Antonio Vivarini's giant 1446 triptych and Titian's 1534–39 Presentation of the Virgin, with the young Madonna trudging up an intimidating staircase as onlookers point to her example.