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Palazzo Contarini della Scala or Dal Bovolo

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Palazzo Contarini della Scala or Dal Bovolo 1850s ?

Not on display

This architectural gem is hidden in a small courtyard at the back of the Palazzo Contarini Minelli dal Bovolo in Venice. Built in 1499, the spiral staircase owes its name to the Venetian word ‘bovolo’, or snail shell. The architecture is a mixture of early Venetian Renaissance and Gothic-Byzantine building techniques, with its main feature the arches and railing that follow the winding staircase to the top of the building. In this photograph, the loggias – galleries that are opened up to one side by a series of arches – have been closed off with walls and windows. This indicates that in the 1850s these narrow balconies were used as rather rundown living spaces. Today, the loggias have been returned to their original state and the 121 stairs can be climbed by visitors.

Glossary Open

Byzantine art

Artistic style that developed in the eastern Mediterranean under the rule of the Byzantine Empire and spread beyond its boundaries to other parts of the Christian world. It moved away from classical naturalistic figures to flat frontal figures and is best seen in mosaics and icons.


The art and architectural style that dominated Western Europe during the medieval period. Its buildings are characterised by pointed arches, strong vertical lines and elaborate window structures. The style was widely revived in the 19th century.


A period in European culture from the 14th to the 16th centuries in which the visual arts flourished with advances in the treatment of anatomy and the use of perspective. It is particularly associated with Italy, where it began, though the term applies elsewhere. It is noted for a revival of interest in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.

Byzantine art, Gothic, Renaissance


  • Acc. No. PGP R 196
  • Medium Albumen print, probably gold-toned
  • Size 35.5 x 25.7 cm
  • Credit Gift of Mrs. Riddell in memory of Peter Fletcher Riddell, 1985