Restoration of the gilding on the ceiling of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace

The Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Great Council Chamber) is the largest in the Doge’s Palace and measures approximately 1350 square metres.

The current ceiling dates from 1584 and was built after a devastating fire in 1577 had severely damaged the wooden structures and architectural parts as well as destroying the paintings in both the Sala del Maggior Consiglio and the adjacent Sala dello Scrutinio.

For the new ceiling decoration, it was decided to create a large frame with compartments of different shapes and sizes. Cristoforo Sorte was entrusted with the design, working on the individual compartments to house the paintings and connecting them by a series of ribbons, scrolls, shells and cartouches and enriching them with a second level of decoration with sculptures and carvings of heads, allegorical figures and symbols.


Contrary to what one might believe, it was not the paintings that conditioned the shapes and sizes of the frames, but rather the opposite: once the frames were defined, the various artists – including Veronese, Palma il Giovane, Francesco Bassano and Tintoretto – were assigned to execute the paintings celebrating the Serenissima.


The realisation of the sumptuous and celebratory wooden ceiling required many skills: from carpentry to sculpture, from carving to engineering. Another task of great skill and specialisation was the gilding of the entire wooden surface of the ceiling, with gold leaf applied in gouache gilding on a plaster and glue preparation.

The inevitable passage of time, temperature fluctuations and moisture infiltration had considerably damaged the gilding, which showed liftings, detachments and disconnections. In 2008, the VIF therefore decided to finance its restoration through the ‘Gleam Team’ micro-patronage project.