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Peggy Guggenheim's Venice Estate

Posted: Aug 30 2016

The Grand Canal laps and licks at the stilts beneath the white Istrian stone of Peggy Guggenheim’s magnificent unfinished Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, begun in the 1750s by architect Lorenzo Boschetti and abandoned mysteriously before completion on the Venetian palace’s long low classical façade.



Ms. Guggenheim purchased the villa (owned at one time by the peacockish Italian muse Marchesa Luisa Casati, as well as notorious mistress and great auntie of Cara and Poppy Delevigne the Viscountess Castlerosse) in 1949, making it her hall, hoard, and home for the next thirty years.



The heiress arrived in Italy the year before, having made an impossible escape from Paris merely two days before Nazis marched into the La Ville Lumiere, learning upon her landing that the citizens’ historically high spirits were now war-wrecked.



A cool and considerable collector in her own right, Peggy was thee prestige patroness of 20th century abstract expressionists and surrealists, including her lover Jackson Polllock, ex-husband Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.



Eccentric and eclectic, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni is a stunning showcase for her stash, a commemoration of deep conviction – pieces by Man Ray, Rothko, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Cornell, Magritte, Braque – with intimate interiors designed by major modernists like Alexander Calder, who sculpted the silver bedstead that supported Peggy’s mattress.



More than an infinite influencer, beyond an art arbiter and addict, Peggy was a passionate proponent of key contemporary Italian works from the charismatic but co-opted futurists who had fallen out of favor with fascism. Early in 1951, she welcomed the curious public into her estate, continuing the invitation until her death in 1979.



Guggenheim is buried in her sculpture garden, where her headstone, snug next to structures by Giacometti and Brancusci, simply reads “Here Rests Peggy Guggenheim” alongside her beloved babies, 14 dogs. Among them: Cappucino. Madam Butterfly, White Angel. Gyspy.




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