The origins of the name dall'Albero d'Oro

5 May 2022

A recent study by author Mario Canato reveals the reason why this noble branch of the Grimani family adopted the curious appellation dell'Albero d'Oro.

According to this recent publication, the Grimani's nickname is the result of the geographical position of the second residence of Doge Pietro Grimani's father, Pietro Grimani dall'Albero d'Oro (1647-1734).

In front of the palazzo located along the Brenta Riviera between Padua and Venice stood in fact a monumental tree, a poplar (or piopa in Venetian) which a foliage that turned to gold in the fall.

This tree, as shown in Domenico Margutti's watercolour, was for a long time the protagonist of various anecdotes and exemplary tales that still today form part of the heritage of the Riviera del Brenta area's oral tradition.

Tales of the Albero d'Oro

The golden poplar of the Brenta Riviera which is the origin of the name of the Grimani dall'Albero d'Oro family of Venice was a symbol of prosperity in popular culture.

Several anecdotes bear witness to how, in the collective psyche of the time, this 'tree of fortune' was linked to the loss and recovery of great wealth.

According to legend, a Griman family member, having lost almost all his wealth at gambling, when betting on what remained to him - the palazzo on the banks of the Brenta - refused to bet on the large golden tree on the property for which he felt great affection. The Grimani lost the palazzo and, in the end, also bet the tree. From then on he began to win: not only did he recover what he had lost, but he obtained a sum of money that made him much richer than before.

Another version of this narrative is found in the chronicles of English cartographer and traveller Edward Wright in the 1720s, as well as in the correspondence of Dr Maihose in the mid-18th century, with a few variations. Moreover, the nobleman Francesco Zorzi Muazzo (1732- 1775), who was also fond of gambling, reported the anecdote in 'Raccolta de' proverbi' (1768-71):

"Anca la casa Grimani ze vegnua su un albero, perché ghe ze stà un zogador ch'avea zogà tutto eccetto che un albero e con sto albero el s'a refatto de tutto e l'à rimesso la casa che fa quel spicco in Venezia che la fa."

Arcadia in Brenta

We find again the now famous "golden tree" owned by the Grimani family on the Brenta Riviera in the collection of novellas, entitled 'Arcadia in Brenta', by Giovanni Sagredo, ambassador of the Republic of Venice.

«Three ladies (Marina, Rosana, Laura) and three knights (Silvio, Giacinto, Foresto) are travelling on a boat from Venice to Fiesso for a short summer holiday, during which they exchange pleasant conversations: riddles, stories, witty questions, jokes with a sexual background, hidden by the veil of metaphor.
When the group arrives at their destination, Marina asks who is the owner of the house where they are going to stay, and after being told that it is the knight Ginnesio Gavardo, an anagram of Giovanni Sagredo, she asks for information about the building opposite: "But whose building is that," she says, "and why is most of the façade occupied by that huge tree planted in front of it? -"
The answer, given by Foresto, is the occasion for a circumstantial eulogy of the neighbour's gifts - the identification of Marcantonio Grimani q. Antonio, Pietro's father, is suggested here - and, talking about the tree, to offer a reflection that is only apparently banal: "Foresto: - The owner of the building is a senator of the most duties of the Republic, endowed with all the qualities that can make a gentleman of the most qualified conditions amiable. If he were to cut down that great tree, he would remove the enjoyment of a beautiful shade, take away a cool rest from the passers-by who are fatigued by the heat, and at the same time recreate the story that is told about it, as there is no carter or bargee of those who frequent this river who does not recite the story of the golden tree.»

After the poplar was lost in the mid-18th century, this oral tradition did not survive. The demolition of the palace in the 19th century was decisive in bringing total silence to the golden tree that gave its name to the Grimani branch of San Polo.

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