The Opulent Contents of Venice’s ‘Palazzo Volpi’ Hit the Auction Block

The luxurious palace has for decades been a prominent landmark of Venetian culture.

Decadent lobby with chandelier and velvet furnishings
Palazzo Volpi is one of Venice’s most famed palaces. Courtesy Sotheby's

Treasures from Palazzo Volpi, a 16th-century Renaissance building renowned as one of Venice’s most famous palaces, are hitting the auction block. From palatial Roman tables to Venetian mirrors and mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, 200 opulent lots of furniture and artwork will be sold by Sotheby's Paris on February 13.

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Overlooking the left side of Venice’s Grand Canal, the palace was acquired by Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata in 1917 and has remained in the family ever since. In addition to acting as a politician and diplomat, Giuseppe was a significant supporter and patron of Venetian culture—he acted as president of the Contemporary Art Biennale and oversaw the construction of the city’s Porto Marghera. But his most significant contribution took place in 1932 when he founded the Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest film festival and one of its most prestigious.

Black and white photo of a man and woman standing outside grand building
Barbara Steele and Paul Newman pictured outside Palazzo Volpi. © David Lees/Courtesy Sotheby's

The Palazzo Volpi was already a cultural landmark, with Michelangelo rumored to have regularly visited the palace to admire its frescoes. But under the ownership of Giuseppe, it took on a new place in Venetian culture. Royal figures, artists and politicians like Coco Chanel, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Josephine Baker and even King Fuad of Egypt were regularly entertained in the luxurious palazzo.

Giuseppe’s wife Nathalie continued to host iconic palatial gatherings following her husband’s death in 1947, with visitors like Winston Churchill, Andy Warhol and Jean Cocteau invited to take in the palace’s picturesque views or enjoy its coveted events like the famed “Volpi ball.”

Grand room with yellow walls and red carpet
The auction will include art and design pieces from several rooms of the palace. Courtesy Sotheby's

The palace’s luxurious interior opens to the public

The palace’s grand furnishings, put together nearly a century ago, will now head to auction for the first time. Plucked from the Palazzo Volpi’s ballroom, reception room and music room, highlights of the sale include a pair of Italian giltwood side tables with an estimate between 150 million euros ($164 million) and 300 million euros ($328 million) and a pair of Venetian mirrors that are expected to fetch up to 200 million euros ($281 million).

The auction lots are being offered up by Giuseppe and Nathalie’s son Giovanni. Known for his involvement in Formula One Racing and his founding of Venetian racing team Serenissima, Giovanni also continued to carry on his family’s legacy of holding legendary parties at Palazzo Volpi. Elite attendees have over the years come to include Hollywood stars like Jack Nicholson and George Clooney.

“Palazzo Volpi has been the beating heart of Venice throughout the 20th century and beyond, and we have had the privilege of sharing many memorable moments with our family and friends within its walls,” said Giovanni and his wife the Countess Dominique Volpi di Misurata in a statement. “By opening the doors of Palazzo Volpi to the world and offering these works of art, we hope that a new generation of collectors will now enjoy its unique beauty and taste and cherish these pieces as much as we did.”

The Opulent Contents of Venice’s ‘Palazzo Volpi’ Hit the Auction Block