Just down the Zattere from little Santa Maria della Visitazione stands the 'other' Gesuati, Santa Maria del Rosario, a Rococo masterpiece built for the Dominicans between 1726 and 1743 by Giorgio Massari. It would be the biggest conventual complex erected in 18th-century Venice.
Some 270 piles had to be sunk into the mud to support the weight of the white façade alone, which with its giant half Corinthian columns and classical tympanum echoes Palladio’s Redentore across the water; the interior, too is an 18th-century compliment to Palladio, in its illumination, grey and white contrasts and the plasticity of its walls, that embrace the congregation in an elipse.
What sets Gesuati apart as a shining example of 18th-century Venetian art and architecture was the collaboration of Massari with two of the city's greatest Rococo masters. In the 1730s, Giambattista Tiepolo frescoed the ceiling with the The Apparition of the Virgin to St Dominic, The Institution of the Rosary, and The Glory of St Dominic—in the last one, the stern saint gets hauled up by angels to his heavenly reward amid suitably soaring perspectives. Tiepolo also painted the monochromes and the first altar on the right, the Virgin in Glory with three female Dominican saints, well lit in front but with an unusually haughty Virgin in the background.
The sculptures in the niches along the nave are the masterpieces of Giovanni Maria Morlaiter, who spent so much time working on the church (from 1738-55) that it contains nearly all of his life's work.
And there's more by Morlaiter:
Tiepolo's ceiling's painting of David playing the harp crowns the high altar, although for all of its pounds of lapis lazuli and coloured marbles, its seems sombre fare compared to the large Madonna and Child dolls in a little chapel off to the left, dressed on feast days in dazzling jewels and costumes (including, it is rumoured, a pair of proper lace knickers for the Bambino).
Images by: Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls