14 October 2011

Marieta Dario

Carpaccio, Unknown Woman

Marieta was the only child of one of the most interesting men ever known in Venice. At the age of 26, on 6 February 1499, she made a testament, "
considering that nothing is more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the hour of death, not wanting to die without a testament so that my affairs are left disordered, sound of mind, intellect and body, but close to childbirth  . .

She lived six more years, dying in 1505 from an unrecorded cause.   She was born in about 1473 to the woman Giovanni Dario called "mia Chiara," in their house at S. Apostoli near the Rialto bridge.  In 1478 and 1484-85, Dario had won Venice such concessions from two Ottoman sultans that the city presented him with Ca' Dario, which he so charmingly restored, and 1000 ducats for Marieta's dowry. He was Cretan, and perhaps Chiara was, too, though he was a Venetian citizen, and Marieta was born out of wedlock, but for a few years he was the most valuable person Venice had.

 "to Chiara, mother of my daughter Marieta":
from Giovanni Dario's will of 1 October 1493, made just before he died.

She was married, in 1493, to the boy next door -- Vicenzo Barbaro, the son of Giacomo Barbaro and Nicolosa Bochole.  He may not have been a boy at all: his parents were married in 1448, so he may have been considerably older than she.  All that is known of him is that a particularly violent outburst of temper got him excluded from the Great Council -- all patrician males over the age of 20 were members -- for ten years.  That, and the fact that he is almost unmentioned in her will -- she identifies herself as his wife, but her children are left in the care of her mother Chiara, and Ca' Dario is left to her son at the age of 25 -- and any other that might be born -- with Chiara to be in charge. (Her daughter could inherit at 20.)

Dario loved Chiara dearly, that comes through in his various testaments. He had adopted his sister's sons and brought them to Venice from Crete to share his business ventures: in his testaments he asked that they regard Chiara as their mother.  Only one of them, Francesco Pantaleone, was alive when he made his will, and Dario left Ca' Dario jointly to him and Marieta . When Marieta made her testament she left Francesco half of something, probably the house, but it is not perfectly clear what.  What is is clear that Marieta controlled several pieces of real estate, including an estate near Padua, and had a variety of investments. Dario had given her 1000 ducats at marriage, in addition to the 1000 from Venice, so she had considerable financial autonomy.

When she made her 1499 testament, Marieta had one son, Gasparo, born about 1496.  Giacomo was born about 1501 and Giovanni probably 1502-3, unless he was the child with which she was pregnant when she wrote the testament.  So much personal material involves the words "about," "may," "probably".

Marieta was buried, at her request, in her father's tomb at Sta. Maria della Grazie, on a small island near S. Giorgio Maggiore. Much later, the church was used as an Austrian ammunition depot: the ammunition exploded in 1849, destroying the church and all its tombs.

What happened to Ca' Dario after Marieta died is vague, but she had specified that it be rented out.  The next we know of it, Ca' Dario was used as a residence for the orators -- ambassadors -- of Signor Turco at least three different times starting in 1514.  The office of the governor of one of the state banks was responsible for preparing the house for visitors, and for their expenses.  When a Turkish ambassador arrived, his ship was met at Lido by sixteen patricians dressed in scarlet who escorted him to Ca' Dario.  The ambassadors must have been delighted with the Turkish fountain room Dario had installed.  In 1515, the ambassador was provided 6 ducats a day for expenses, but by 1517 that was reduced to 5 -- rank ingratitude when that year the ambassador had brought with him the head of a commander from Bulgaria where the Turks had won an important battle.

In 1522, when Gasparo was of age, he and his brothers made claim for possession of Ca' Dario and this was granted. The document survives, with the signature of Doge Antonio Grimani. After that, information on Ca' Dario disappears until the early 1800s.

The notary's draft of Marieta's testament (click to enlarge).

My thanks to Emanuela Brusegan Flavel of Venice who transcribed Marieta's testament for me.



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