This colossal Baroque monument dedicated to Giovanni Pesaro, who was Doge between 1658 and 1659, was erected in 1669 based on the design of Baldassarre Longhena (1598-1682). Above the ornate red and black marble pedestals with sculptured lion heads connected by swags, there are four gigantic Moors, with naked arms and feet and torn clothes, bearing the entablature, adorned with metopes and triglyphs, on their shoulders. In their midst, as if they were in niches, there are two black skeletons which hold a long inscription etched in gold letters on white marble. Above the entablature, four black marble columns support a grandiose red marble canopy which replicates a drape with brocade strips. On the throne held by monsters the Doge addresses the crowd, radiant and full of life, seated between the allegories of Religion, Valour, Concord and Justice. At his feet, above the architrave from left to right, a genius is drawing his bow, two women are offering crowns while another is reading a book. On the second entablature up on high six charming putti bear the architrave. In the middle, two children display the coat of arms of the Pesaro family. The characteristic inscription reads: «Vixit Annos LXX (he lived for 70 years) – Devixit Anno MDCLIX (he died in the year 1659) – Hic revixit Anno MDCLXIX (here, he comes to life again in the year 1669)».
Titian died in Venice on August 27, 1576. He had asked to be buried at the Frari at the foot of the Altar of the Crucifix which was the focus of his last piece of work, The Pietà, left unfinished and completed by Palma the Younger. Towards the end of the 18th century, many artists wanted to erect a monument in memory of the artist. The project was commissioned to Canova in 1790. The project was never completed due to the fall of the Republic of Venice and lack of funds. In 1838, while visiting Venice, the Emperor of Austria, Ferdinand I, was struck with the idea of erecting a monument in memory of the great artist who had worked at the court of his forefathers. The monument is in Carrara marble. The centre is dominated by the statue of the artist crowned with a laurel wreath. Nearby is the universal nature and the genius of knowledge with the statues of Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Art and Architecture. Five bas-reliefs recall Titian’s most important religious works: in the centre of the masterpiece is the Assumption on the left the Martyrdom of St. Peter from Verona, a splendid piece of artwork for the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, destroyed during a fire; and on the right the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, now located in the Gesuiti church. Above the entablature are the following sculptures: on the right the Visitation, while on the left the Deposition from the Cross. On the top of the monument is the Lion of St. Mark clutching the shield with the Hapsburg Coat of Arms. On the base, to the left of the monument, is an old man sitting down with a tablet bearing the inscription: “EQUES ET COMES TITIANUS SIT CAROLUS V – MDLIII”.
On the left wall of the Presbytery, surrounded by a fresco which resembles a red drape, there is the grand sepulchral monument of Doge Nicolò Tron. In terms of size, architectural structure, and number of statues it is the greatest Renaissance sculpture in Venice. This impressive work was mastered by Antonio Rizzo of Verona between 1476 and 1480. Along with the tall base and the end lunette, it is made up of four orders and is finished at the sides with slender columns with niches joined at the top by an elegant round arch. In the middle of the first order, there is the Doge wearing a golden mantle flanked by Faith on one side and Charity on the other. In the second order there is an epigraph with two children on either side who are holding a bunch of grapes and, at the ends, two well-sculpted warriors, holding shields with the Tron family insignia. In the third order there is the urn, adorned with medals and little statues, on which the Doge lies. On either side there is a statue, one singing and the other playing an instrument. In the fourth order, there are seven women who represent the Virtues. In the lunette, in the middle, there is Christ Resurrected, the Annunciation on either side and on the top of the arch with a lacunared intrados, the Eternal Father.
On the right wall of the Presbytery there is the monument to the Doge Francesco Foscari, one of the most important Doge of the Serenissima. His Dogeate of 34 years was mixed, with moments of glory as well as suffering. The monument was a transitional piece as it was sculpted in the mid-1400s and reveals the Florid Gothic style moderated by the Renaissance spirit. Four elegant corbels, adorned with foliage, support an urn on whose front are detailed the three theological Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity, with St. Anthony and St. Mark on either side. Above the urn, in the shadow of the marble canopy opened by two warriors, lies the Doge assisted by the four cardinal virtues, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance. Above the canopy, there is Christ Resurrected who takes the Doge’s soul, in the form of a tender child, up to Heaven. On the pillars on either side, which complete the monument, is the Annunciation. Even this monument is surrounded by frescoed decorations which imitate the sumptuous tapestry of the period.
The second monument is dedicated to Benedetto Pesaro and adorns the door to the sacristy. He was the Captain of the Venetian fleets and died in 1503 in Corfu. In his will he requested to be buried in the Frari Basilica. His wish was fulfilled and Lorenzo and Giambattista Bregno (16th century) erected this monument upon the commission of Gerolamo Pesaro. Four charming composite columns support the Renaissance monument. Between the columns there are two medal-shaped bas-reliefs depicting the Lion of Venice. On the extension of the two external columns there are the statues of Neptune and Mars which have always been attributed to Baccio from Montelupo, but, according to John Turner, they do not have the hallmark of this artist. Above the central columns there is the urn and the statue of the Captain, armed ready for battle with standard in hand. On the front of the urn are the fortresses of Leucade and Cefalonia, conquered by Pesaro, amid two sailing galleys. In the tympanum, there is the Virgin with the Child, the only religious motif.
Jacopo Marcello was the commander of the Venetian fleet, killed on March 31, 1488, while leading the troops in the conquering of Gallipoli. A marble oval surrounds the monument and renders it pleasing to the eye. In the centre, in Istrian stone on a ‘pavonazzetto’ background, stands an extremely elaborate foliaged urn supported by three small deformed hunchbacks standing on Lombardesque corbels. Between the corbels there are two eagles framed by foliaged swags. Above the urn stands the Fleet Commander, Jacopo Marcello, with a lance in his right hand and his left hand on his hip. He is wearing plated armour and stands between two pages who are holding Marcello’s shield which can also be seen between the three hunchbacks. The monument was attributed to Pietro Lombardo but recent studies claim it was the work of Giovanni Buora (1450-1513). Up above, the background to the monument is frescoed in Mantegnesque style. The fresco portrays the Triumph of the Hero (15th century). On high there is a banner with the name of Jesus in the middle and the coat of arms of Marcello on either side. On the left are the trophies and coats of arms. This gives a magnificent effect to the wall in that the hero is celebrated rather than mourned. Along the entire wall and beneath the monuments is an elegant wainscoting dating to the 16th century divided into 18 parts by small Doric columns with foliaged frieze and triglyphs.