Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 31, 2014

Venetian faces

I continued my quest to find interesting faces on my last trip to Venice. The city is a treasure trove of these details.

Here are a few of my discoveries.

At the end of the Rialto bridge on the San Marco side is a golden head. The bronze sculpture is the sign for the apothecary “Alla Testa d’Oro” (At the Golden Head) and dates from an era when most of the population was illiterate and needed a way to identify the shop.


A reminder of an incident that happened on 15th June 1310 is on the corner of the Sotoportego del Cappello Mercerie, near St Mark’s square. A plot by a couple of Venetian families to overthrow Doge Pietro Gradenigo was foiled when informers warned the guards and the rebels were forced to retreat. An old woman was watching from her balcony and dropped a heavy mortar on the fleeing rebels, killing one of them.

She was rewarded by having her rent fixed for herself and her heirs. In 1861 the occupant of the house had a plaque made of the old woman and the mortar.


Now under scaffolding at Palazzo Maffetti-Tiepolo is the head of Hercules covered with a lion’s head. It recalls the first of his “Twelve Labours”: the killing of the Nemean Lion. He used the lion’s head as a helmet, thus becoming invulnerable.


The high relief of La Donna Onesta is on the wall of the house at San Polo 2935. There are several stories behind this face. One says that the beautiful wife of a bladesmith attracted the unwanted attention of a nobleman.

He arranged to have a knife made as an excuse to see her. He returned when the husband was not at home and raped her. She killed herself with the knife.

Another version is that the head is of a local prostitute whose reasonable rates were described as “honest”.


Dante appears all over Italy and he never looks happy.


Below is the face of Tommaso Rangone who made his fortune from a “natural” remedy for syphilis. In his hand is the plant discovered in South America from which his remedy was obtained. His sculpture is on the facade of the church of San Giuliano.


The rest I know nothing about…I just liked them.


See more faces in Venice, Naples, Florence and Rome.


  1. Such a magnificent place and you discovered so many fascinating faces, love the stories behind some of them – makes for fascinating reading.

  2. Thanks for a look at those wonderful Venetian faces.

  3. Enjoyed your faces of Venice but do agree about Dante – he didn’t ever look happy.

  4. How very amazing – time for another Venice visit – 6 times is simply not enough ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

  5. Fantastic faces. I will have to go back to Venice to see these. X

  6. Reblogged this on carmillaweirdlove.

  7. A wonderful gallery, Debra. The Golden Head is so impressive. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I have seen the golden head many times and wondered what the story behind it was.

  8. I love seeing these faces. The smile on the griffin head looks like the expression on my students’ faces back to school this past week ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Fascinating faces! Thank you, Debra.

    • There is just too much to see in Venice in one lifetime.

  10. Fascinating, loving the lion face

    • I like the way the lion is looking one way and the woman behind is looking in a different direction.

  11. Not all handsome or beautiful….but interesting nevertheless.

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