One of the striking things about Zoffany’s Tribuna of the Uffizi is the prominence given, in this Florentine gallery, to a great Venetian painting. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, attracts as much, if not more, attention than any of the paintings by Raphael or classical antiquities in the Medici collections. This veneration for Venetian painting was certainly one important reason why grand tourists and later visitors flocked to Venice. Even if some later travellers such as Helen Frick, expressed disappointment with the Accademia, (opened as a museum in 1817) this was more than compensated for by the riches on view in the churches, the scuole, and the palazzi as is revealed in the little-known diaries of the dealer John Waddie who visited Venice in the 1830s as well as the records of better-known visitors such as Henry James and Ruskin . One notable shift in nineteenth-century visitor attitudes was that Tintoretto, partly through the championship of Ruskin, started to eclipse Titian and travellers were as keen to seek out the paintings of Carpaccio and Bellini as the long-admired paintings of the High Renaissance.
Aside from looking at Old Masters, eighteenth-century grand tourists were eager patrons of contemporary art and, whether you wanted to commission a souvenir view by Canaletto or sit for your portrait by Rosalba Carriera, this could be organized through Joseph Smith, the British Consul or Owen McSwinny, a charmingly feckless Irishman who had started his career as an opera impresario and fled to Venice with the takings of one of Handel’s operas, reinventing himself as an art agent. Contemporary art could also be bought at the open-air exhibitions held on the feast of San Rocco immortalised by Canaletto, while Venetian antique shops provided plentiful opportunities to 19th-century collectors like Isabella Stewart Gardner. One of the notable developments that has happened since the eighteenth century , is the growth of museums in Venice, beginning with the Accademia (opened 1817) and the institutionalizing of former private collections such as the Correr, the Querini Stampalia and, the Peggy Guggenheim collection. Another notable development has been the growth of exhibitions and arts festivals such as the Biennale (founded 1895) the Venice Film Festival and high-profile contemporary art exhibitions (such as the 2017 Damien Hirst show), which have made Venice a go-to place for contemporary art as well as a great repository of historic treasures.