A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge's Palace is an impressive structure composed of layers of building elements and ornamentation, from its 14th and 15th century original foundations to the significant Renaissance and opulent Mannerist additions. The structure is made up of three large blocks, incorporating previous constructions. The wing towards St. Mark's Basin is the oldest, rebuilt from 1340 onwards. The wing towards St. Mark's Square was built in its present form from 1424 onwards. The canal-side wing, housing the Doge's apartments and many government offices, was built between 1483 and 1565. In 1483, a violent fire broke out in the canal-side of the Palace, which housed the Doge's apartments. Antonio Rizzo was commissioned for the reconstruction, introducing a new Renaissance architectural language to the building. An entirely new structure was raised alongside the canal, from the Ponte della Canonica to the Ponte della Paglia. Works were completed by 1510, and in the meantime Rizzo was replaced by Maestro Pietro Lombardo, who reviewed the decoration of the façade and of the Giants' Staircase in the internal courtyard of the palace. In 1515, Antonio Abbondi, also known as Lo Scarpagnino, took over from Lombardo, finally completing the works by 1559. The 1565 erection of Sansovino's two large marble statues of Mars and Neptune at the top of the Giants' Staircase marked the end of this important phase. However, in 1574, another fire destroyed some of the second floor rooms, fortunately without undermining the structure. Works began immediately to replace the wood furnishings and decorations of these rooms. In 1577, when works had just been finished, another huge fire damaged the Sala dello Scrutinio and the Great Council Chamber, destroying masterpieces by artists such as Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello, Alvise Vivarini, Carpaccio, Bellini, Pordenone and Titian. Reconstruction works were rapidly undertaken to restore it to its original appearance, completed by 1579-1580. The Doge's Palace was the heart of the political life and public administration of the Venetian Republic. When the Republic fell in 1797 its role inevitably changed. Venice was firstly subjected to French rule, then to Austrian, and ultimately, in 1866, it became part of a united Italy. Over this period, the Palazzo Ducale was occupied by various administrative offices and housed important cultural institutions such as the Biblioteca Marciana (from 1811 to 1904). By the end of the 19th century, the structure was showing signs of decay and the Italian government set aside significant funds for an extensive restoration. Many original 14th century capitals were removed and substituted and the originals now form the collection in the Museo dell'Opera. All public offices were moved elsewhere, with the exception of the State Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments, which is still housed in the building, but under the current name of Superintendence of the Environmental and Architectural Heritage of Venice and its Lagoon. In 1923, the Italian State, owner of the building, appointed the City Council to manage it as a public museum. In 1996, the Doge's Palace became part of the museums network which today is run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
- Lorenzetti, Venice and Its Lagoon: Historical-Artistic Guide (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1961) as translated and with supplementary content by Taryn Marie Zarrillo, 2012/13