The Grimani family built their Renaissance palazzo to house an extraordinary Graeco-Roman collection, which was destined to become the basis of the archaeological museum now housed in the Museo Correr . Unusually for Venice, the palace has a Roman-style courtyard, which shed a flattering light on the archaeological curiosities. These days, the empty halls host temporary exhibitions, though their bedazzling frescoed interiors are reason enough to visit.
There is debate about who designed the building. However, it's certain that Giovanni Grimani (1501–93) himself played a large role in a design that consciously recalls the glories of ancient Rome. Grimani also hired a dream team of fresco painters specialising in fanciful grotesques and Pompeii-style mythological scenes. Francesco Salviati applied the glowing, Raphael-style colours he'd used in Rome's Palazzo Farnese, while Roman painter Giovanni da Udine, considered among the brightest pupils of Raphael and Giorgione, devoted three rooms to the stories of Ovid.
The Sala ai Fogliami (Foliage Room) is the most memorable, though. Painted by Mantovano, ceiling and walls are awash with remarkably convincing plant and bird life. They even include New World species that had only recently been discovered by Europeans, including two that would come to be staples of Venetian life: tobacco and corn.