The Doge’s rooms were always located in this wing of the Palace, between the Rio della Canonica – the water entrance to the building -, the present-day Golden Staircase and the apse of the Basilica of Saint Mark, which was the Ducal Chapel.
The entire area was destroyed in a fire in 1483 and then rebuilt in the Renaissance style. The restructuring of the so-called Doge’s Apartment goes back to this period and includes the rooms, now part of the itinerary in the museum, which stand out with their engraved wooden ceilings, monumental marble chimneys with lavish, delicate carved decoration, painting friezes and stuccoes.
Until the 17th century, the rooms that were used for the Doge’s private life were mostly located in the mezzanines above and below the main floor. The core of the apartment formed a prestigious , though not particularly large, residence. It was therefore not at all uncommon that prior to his election the Doge had had a much larger house with more lavish services than the one foreseen by the Republic, almost as if the intention was to emphasise that although he was the symbol of the State, he was, first and foremost, its first servant. In the private apartments the furnishings were brought from the Doge’s own house and which, at his death, would be promptly removed by his heirs, to make way for the property of the incomer Doge.
Today the visitable rooms have technological panels and systems that allow a more dynamic use for exhibitions whilst highlighting their original decorations. This meant it was possible to create an itinerary that could basically concentrate on the historical and iconographical development of the figure of the doge and the main symbolic portrayals of the city, with a series of works from the vast collections of the Civic Museums of Venice: paintings, sculptures, illuminated codices, coins, medals – some of which were restored for the occasion and on display for the very first time. This is an itinerary that helps visitors to understand the extent and wealth of the iconographic apparatus of the other large institutional rooms in the Palace, where these symbols are to be found in a variety of forms.