In his guide to Venice in 1581, Francesco Sansovino declared that four patrician palaces in the city surpassed all the others in size, grandeur, expense and Vitruvian discipline. These were his father’s two palaces for the Dolfin and Corner families, Sanmicheli’s Palazzo Grimani and Codussi’s Palazzo Loredan, all of which, he claimed, had cost more than l86 THE ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY OF VENICE 200,000 ducats figs 82, 106-8 . 53 Yet we should not forget that the families who commissioned these magnificent buildings represented a tiny minority of the population of the city. The nobility itself was more numerous than at almost any other period, representing about 6 per cent of the total number of inhabitants in the mid-sixteenth century, but already by this stage great wealth was becoming concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer noble families, while the other patricians were becoming steadily poorer. Together with the Corner family, the Grimani were perhaps the most active private patrons of art and architecture in sixteenth-century Venice. 54 Both families not only enjoyed great wealth, but also maintained close ties with Rome through their possession of high ecclesiastical offices. Thus both were eager to embrace the new ‘Roman’ style of Sanmicheli and Sansovino. On the whole the Grimani seem to have been readier to accept radically new artistic developments from central Italy than the older-established Corner family, who were more deeply rooted in Venetian traditions. But it was Sansovino’s design for the Palazzo Corner – so sensitively attuned as it was to Venetian tastes and expectations – that was to prove more influential in Venice in the long run.
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