The construction of the palace for the Public Library was began by Jacopo Sansovino in 1537 under the orders of the Doge Andrea Gritti, in an area that was previously occupied by market stalls and lodgings. The ‘Library’ held the book collection of the Cardinal Bessarione, which was donated to the Republic in 1468 and became the public library of the State of the Veneto.
The construction of the Library began from the corner of the belltower, with a homogeneous and elegant profile: a continuous loggia above a ground floor portico, with triglyphs and metopes, and an upper loggia with freezes depicting putti and festoons of flowers and fruit. Above are three balustrades with three angular obelisques and statues of various classical divinities, the work of Alessandro Vittoria and other artists.
Jacopo Sansovino had initially designed a vaulted roof, but it seems that the vault collapsed during a violent storm in December 1545. The Senate immediately had him imprisoned and forced him to rebuild everything at his own expense. Sansovino then modified the original design, creating a roof terrace.
The first phase of construction was from 1537 to 1553 and stopped at the first sixteen arches. After the death of Sansovino in 1570, Vincenzo Scamozzi completed the work. In 1588 the buildings that were still present were demolished and the last five arches were built towards the docks.
Another portico leading to the Mint was created in correspondence to the seventeenth arch, with two giants made by Gerolamo Campagna and Tiziano Aspetti, and a austere portal with two Telamons. This is the current entrance to the National Marciana Library.
The great Salone della Libreria houses works by important Venetian artists of the Sixteenth century, amongst which are the five paintings depicting the Philosophers by Jacopo Tintoretto.