For a hundred years, the Casino Zane, built between 1695 and 1697 in the San Stin district not far from the Basilica dei Frari, housed the entertainments of the Zane family, who lived in the nearby Palazzo Zane. The main palace (now a training school, the Scuola Livio Sanudo) was separated from the Palazzetto by a splendid formal garden. A building next to the Palazzetto housed the library; it no longer exists.
In 1682 the workshop of Baldassare Longhena – the most distinguished Venetian architect of the Baroque period, who designed Ca’ Pesaro and Ca’ Rezzonico – completed the restoration of the Palazzo Zane commissioned by Dominico Zane (d. 1672). On his death the latter had bequeathed his property and an important collection of books and paintings to his nephew Marino. Marino Zane then commissioned the building of a casino (now the Palazzetto) and a library to house the collection left to him, which he had subsequently enlarged.
The architect Antonio Gaspari, who had worked in Longhena’s workshop, was given carte blanche to design the casino. On his death, his assistant Domenico Rossi carried on the work with the help of artists of repute. The very rich interior decoration is attributed to the famous stucco decorator Abbondio Stazio; the woodwork, including the ornate wooden balustrade above the main salon, is from Andrea Brustolon’s workshop. The frescoes in the house have recently been attributed to Sebastiano Ricci.
The palace is listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments. After consultations in 2006, restoration work was begun in 2007, the aims of the Fondation Bru being to restore the building in its original spirit and to create a venue for music. The building, with an overall area of eight hundred square metres, is on three levels. Its windows look out over a canal on one side and over the garden on the other. The ground plan is traditional Venetian.
The sixteen rooms include a concert hall with a seating capacity of up to a hundred. Now the restoration work is finished, the Palazzetto has a sound-proofed rehearsal studio; there is also a lift for persons with reduced mobility. The glory of the house is the double-height salon (music room of the Zane family) with a magnificent coved ceiling bearing a huge painting of Hercules with Fame and Virtue in the centre, and Olympian gods in grisaille in the four corners. Painted shells, such as those seen on the ceiling, are a rarity in Venice. The room is reached via a grand staircase decorated with splendid frescoes.