Ca' d'Oro (correctly Palazzo Santa Sofia) is a palace on the Grand Canal in Venice, northern Italy. One of the older palazzi, it has always been known as Ca' d'Oro (golden house) due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls.
The Palazzo was built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676. Upon election, each new Doge would leave his own palazzo and take residence in the Doge's Palace.
The architects of the Ca d'Oro were Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo Bon. The work of these two sculptors and architects epitomises the Gothic style in Venice: they are best known for their work on the Doge's Palace and in particular the Porta della Carta with its monumental sculpture of the judgement of Solomon.
The principal façade of Ca' d'Oro facing onto the Grand Canal is built in the Bon's Venetian floral gothic style. Other nearby buildings in this style are Palazzo Barbaro and the Palazzo Giustinian. This elegant linear style favoured by the Venetian architects was not totally superseded by the flourishes of baroque until the end of the 16th century.
The Venetian Gothic style is Byzantine in appearance. On the Ca' d'Oro's ground floor a recessed colonnaded loggia gives access to the entrance hall (portego de mezo) directly from the canal. Above this colonnade is the enclosed balcony of the principal salon on the piano nobile. The columns and arches of this balcony have capitals which in turn support a row of quatrefoil windows of great delicacy; above this balcony is another enclosed balcony or loggia of a similar yet even lighter design. To describe the style of the palazzo simply:- it is a cross between a medieval church and a mosque. This wedding cake exterior gives no hint that the palazzo is in fact built (like most other Palazzi) around a small inner courtyard.
Following the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 the palazzo changed ownership several times. One 19th century owner, the ballet dancer Marie Taglioni, removed (in what today can be considered an act of vandalism) the Gothic stairway from the inner courtyard and also destroyed the ornate balconies overlooking the court.
In 1922 the palazzo was bequeathed to the State by its last owner and saviour Baron Giorgio Franchetti who had acquired it in 1894. Following extensive restoration, including the reconstruction of the stairway, it is now open to the public as a gallery.