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Villa Foscari, «La Malcontenta», Venice, Veneto, Italy

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Villa Foscari, «La Malcontenta»

in Mira, Venice, Veneto, Italy

The aim of the project is to connect the villa to its owners, families, important quests, and people who have had an influence on it. Please, join the project and add profiles.

Villa Foscari is a patrician villa near Venice, northern Italy, designed by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. It is also known as La Malcontenta ("The Discontented"), a nickname which - according to a legend - it received when the spouse of one of the Foscaris was locked up in the house because she allegedly didn't live up to her conjugal duty.


The unlucky Jacopo Foscari's grandson's and doge Francesco Foscari's great grandson's family built the famous Villa Foscari in Venice in 1558 - 1560. The villa is located in Mira, near Venice, designed and built by the architect Andrea Palladio. Villa Foscari was commissioned by the brothers Nicolo (1513-1560) and Alvise Foscari (1521-1600).

The villa is located beside the Brenta canal and is raised on a pedestal, which is characteristic of Palladio's villas; this pedestal is more massive than most of Palladio's villas (the base is 11 feet high, more than twice the height Palladio normally used) because it was not possible to construct a subterranean basement on the site. Foscari 'La Malcontenta', by architect Andrea Palladio, ordered by Nicolo and Alvise (Luigi) Foscari. The villa is also known as La Malcontenta (bad conduct), a nickname which it received when the spouse of one of the Foscaris was locked up in the house because she allegedly didn't live up to her conjugal duty.

The villa lacks the agricultural buildings which were an integral part of some of the other Palladian villas. It was used for official receptions, such as that given for Henry III of France in 1574.

Villa Foscari's thermal windows inspired the ones used on the facade of Villa Toeplitz (Varese) in Varese.


The interior of the villa is richly decorated with frescoes by Battista Franco and Giambattista Zelotti. Mythological scenes from Ovid alternate with allegories of the Arts and Virtues. As at other Palladian villas, the paintings reflect villa life in, for example, Astraea showing Jove the pleasures of the Earth. The frescoes have dulled over time, signs of the increasing threat that air pollution poses to works of art. Apollonian meets the Dionysian as the classical lines of the villa La Malcontenta rise up among the willows of the river Brenta.
The picture above:

Recent history

The British travel writer Robert Byron visited the villa in 1933 and afterwards wrote that bon vivant Albert Clinton Landsberg had, nine years earlier, found the villa "at the point of ruin, doorless and windowless, a granary of indeterminate farm-produce. He has made it a habitable dwelling. The proportion of the great hall and state rooms are a mathematical paean." The villa had indeed been vacated in the early 19th century, the surrounding stables and other buildings had fallen apart and were demolished by Austrian troops during the 1848 uprisings. At the end of the 19th century however, banker Baron Frédéric Emile d'Erlanger, based in Paris and London, had found the house in the above described condition, then leased the villa from the Foscari family, and undertook some renovation work. Bertie Landsberg had purchased the villa in 1926, together with his friends Paul Rodocanachi and Catherine, Baroness d'Erlanger, the daughter-in-law of the former tenant. The new owners renovated the house and gardens and invited members of the high-society to lavish salons during summer seasons: choreographer Sergei Diaghilev, dancers Boris Kochno and Serge Lifar, composer Igor Stravinsky, writer Paul Morand, Coco Chanel, architect Le Corbusier, Sir Winston Churchill, among others. Bertie Landsberg, issue of an originally Jewish banking family, as the Erlangers, fled the Italian Fascists in 1939 and only returned to the villa in 1947. Kate d'Erlanger moved to Beverly Hills. In 1965 the English architect Claud Phillimore, 4th Baron Phillimore (1911–1994) inherited the villa from Landsberg. He began restoration, but sold the house in 1973 to count Antonio ("Tonci") Foscari (b. 1938), a descendant of the former owners and professor for architecture and preservation. He and his wife, Barbara del Vicario, undertook a painstaking process of restoring it to its original grandeur. In 2012, Foscari wrote of the villa's renaissance. The Foscari’s have continued the suave, free-spirited hospitality. Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Frank Gehry, and Joseph Brodsky have been among their guests. Says Antonio Foscari: “There is a bond among those who have loved this house.”

Since 1996 the building has been conserved as part of the World Heritage Site "City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto". Today, the villa is open to the public for visits on a limited basis.

Beautiful site about the history and the recent owners