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Arianna 

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David Hockney at Ca’ Pesaro

Ca’ Pesaro, the grand palace of the second half of the 17th century where the International Gallery of Modern Art of Venice is located, is hosting a beautiful exhibition which nears its end.

The exhibition of David Hockney, from June 24th to October 22nd, is the first Italian exhibition focused on the master of contemporary art, and it has brought for the first time in our country his most recent project: 82 portraits and a still life.

David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937 in Bradford, a British industrial town in West Yorkshire, and attended the Royal College of Art in London after graduating at the Bradford School of Art.

In 1960 he exhibited at the historic Young Contemporaries at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, an exhibition which marks the birth of the British pop art, and David became one of the major exponents.

In 1961 he travelled to the United States for the first time, destination New York, and then in 1964 he went to Los Angeles, a city that inspired him with his dazzling California light: he became an interpreter of that particular light, turning the atmosphere of the American life into famous works.

His work, from the beginning to the present, has the figurative element as the absolute protagonist, from portrait to landscape, through the use of traditional art and new media techniques.

David ranges among pastel designs, engravings, oil paintings, photographic collages,  designs on the iPad, portraying the life around him, and he works also on many scenographies both in England and in the United States.

His artworks lead him to become one of the most famous and important artists of the twentieth century and, for some decades, the best-known British artist.

I’d like to indicate a quote to his famous picture “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures)” in one of my favorite Netflix series: in the Bojack Horseman’s living room there is a funny “horse version”.

In the current exhibition at Ca’ Pesaro we can see the 82 portraits made between 2013 and 2016 featuring gallerists, curators, artists, well-known and familiar faces in Los Angeles, as well as family members and friends.

Each portrait is executed under the same conditions: the realization time is three days (or, as the artist says, “twenty hours of exposure”), with the subject sitting in a chair on a platform with a neutral two-tone background, to prove that, within the limits of these rigid standards of representation, the greatness of the master is measured by his ability to express an infinite range of human feelings.

 

Sources

http://www.veneziatoday.it/eventi/location/ca-pesaro/
http://www.veneziatoday.it/eventi/mostra-david-hockney-ca-pesaro.html
http://capesaro.visitmuve.it/it/mostre/mostre-in-corso/david-hockney/2017/03/18600/82-ritratti-e-1-natura-morta/
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hockney
http://www.ilpost.it/2017/07/09/david-hockney/

Vere da pozzo – Venetian wellheads

Venice is undoubtedly a city unique in all the world, a symphony of treasures, monuments, palaces, glimpses, history, poetry and many other things, and sometimes you are dazzled by all this beauty that you do not realize that just in front of you there are spectacles of architecture, art, and engineering that go almost unnoticed. This is the case of the wellheads (“vere da pozzo” in venetian), real art jewels and above all an expression of the typical venetian wisdom that have contributed to make the Serenissima so powerful.

It may seems strange that a city crossed and surrounded by so much water has always had problems with water supply.

Marin Sanudo, historian and chronicler of Venice, around the early 1500s wrote “Venezia è in acqua et non ha acqua” (“Venice is in the water but has no water”).

Because of its geological shape, the “lidi” (shores) were the only areas where rich water sources were present and where they found natural wells, formed by the accumulation of rainwater filtered and depurated by the sand.

Finding these wells could have influenced the method of construction of the wells, because only Venice used layers of sand to filter and make rainwater drinkable.

Since the Middle Ages, citizens began to build underground cisterns, while the government encouraged and promoted the construction of water systems.

The solution to the water problems of an ever-growing population was finally found thanks to the realization of the “Venetian wellheads“.

 

Photo by Wolfgang Moroder

These structures served both as a freshwater cistern -the freswater was carried by the Brenta and Sile rivers (task of the “Corporazione degli Acquaioli” founded in 1386)- and for the purification of rainwater.

Once found the best place for the well, they began to dig (usually no more deep than 5 meters below the sea level) sometimes raising an entire “campo” (field) to reach the required depth and to avoid that the brackish water of the lagoon enters the cistern as a result of the rising tide.

The walls and the bottom of the underground cistern were covered with a layer of clay that made it impermeable to any brackish water infiltration from the ground.

The clay was then covered with layers of clean sand of different sizes, which was constantly wet, and which had the aim to filter the rainwater.

Rainwater was collected inside the well through two or four stone blocks of Istria, called “pilelle”, arranged symmetrically in relation to the well barrel.

In some wells, the perimeter of the underlying cistern was visible on the surface thanks to a frame of Istrian stone.

 

Underneath the “pilelle”, they build structures made of bricks shaped like bells open at the bottom to convey as much water as possible, while the above pavement was slightly elevated around the mounds to help the water to drain thanks to the gravity.

At the bottom of the cistern, just at the center of the excavation, they placed a slab made of stone of Istria on which they built the well barrel with special bricks, called “pozzali”, which allowed the filtered rainwater to enter the barrel.

At the top of the barrel, usually above one or two steps, they placed the “vera da pozzo” (wellhead), the only part of the structure  external to the pavement.

 

Source: commons.wikimedia.org // Author: Marrabbio2

Usually the venetian wellheads were made of Istrian stone and Veronese limestone, though sometimes the oldest wells were obtained from large capitals coming from Roman buildings.

Over time, and with the evolution of architectural taste, the wellheads became ornamental elements, with many different shapes and decorations.

Building a wellhead was a very expensive and demanding hard work due to the complexity of the proceedings, and the Republic encouraged the richest families to donate a well to the city, thus bringing prestige to the family. This is why you can see a lot of wellheads with aristocratic coat-of-arms, inscriptions and bas-reliefs of the families that took charge of the construction.

The placing of the wellheads could be very different: from the public “campi” (fields)  to the private courtyards or cloisters.

Maintenance was necessary to keep the well in order and healthy, and it was just the Republic that took care of this, assuring that infantrymen of the “Provveditori alla Acque” supervised the wellheads.

Parish priests and county leaders had to check wells too: these had the keys of the cisterns, which were opened twice a day (morning and evening) to the sound of the “campana dei pozzi” (bell of the wells).

According to a statistics compiled by the Municipal Technical Office on December 1st, 1858, there were 6046 private wells, 180 public wells, and 556 basement wells.

In the 19th century, after the construction of the city aqueduct, the use of the wells was progressively abandoned and the wells were closed to the top with metal or cement cover for security reasons.

Today there are 600 wellheads and they fulfil a purely aesthetic function, in a city that in the past has always been able to improve through difficulties thanks to the intelligence and the willingness of its inhabitants.

 

 

Sources

A. Penso, I Pozzi, in ArcheoVenezia del 4 dicembre 1995
http://venezia.myblog.it/2016/01/20/le-vere-pozzo-venezia-straordinario-sistema-idrico-ornamento-della-serenissima/
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozzo_(Venezia)
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_da_pozzo
http://veredapozzo.com
https://venicewiki.org/wiki/Vere_da_pozzo

The Venice Historical Regatta and Caterina Cornaro: the strength of a woman

The Venice Historical Regatta will take place on Sunday, September 3rd, (the Regata takes place the first Sunday of September) and it will have its climax in the beautiful “gondolini” racing, a fascinating race, rich in tradition and historic rivalries as well.

Before the official races, there will be a beautiful historical parade which recalls a particular episode of Serenissima’s history: the triumphant return of Caterina Cornaro from Cyprus to Venice in 1489.

Who was Caterina Cornaro, and why is this recurrence celebrated? What’s her story?
Caterina’s story is in fact the story of a strong, courageous and beloved woman which mixes strong feelings and political intrigues.

Caterina Cornaro (in Venetian the second name is “Corner”) belongs to one of the most powerful Venetian families. She was born on November 25th, 1454 in Venice and spent her early childhood in the family palace on the Grand Canal and later in a monastery near Padua.

At 14, she married Giacomo II of Lusignano by proxy, king of Cyprus and Armenia. The wedding was proposed by her uncle Andrea Corner, exiled from Venice to the island of Cyprus.

Needless to say that it was the classic marriage of convenience, and in this case there were many good reasons: the Cornero could better manage their possessions in the island, Venice could extend its influence on Cyprus and thus consolidate its control on the Mediterranean Sea, and finally Cyprus found thus a powerful ally in the struggle against Genoa, who yearned for Famagusta, and against the Turkish.

Actually, Giacomo II delayed his marriage commitment because he tried to approach the Kingdom of Naples, enemy of Venice; however, the insistence of the Venetians and, above all, the Ottoman advance convinced him to respect the treaties and in 1469 he concluded an alliance that guaranteed Cyprus under the protection of the Republic.

That’s how in 1472, when she was 18, Caterina left Venice on board of the Bucintoro to arrive in her new residence in Nicosia, where she got married and she was crowned queen.

Less than a year later, in July, Giacomo suddenly died, leaving Caterina pregnant of their son, Giacomo III, who would be born the following month.

Meanwhile the queen was excluded from the throne which was entrusted to a college of “commissars”. It was very difficult for Caterina to succeed in being recognized as Queen of Cyprus, but she resisted and remained until the Venetian fleet reached the island and restored order.

From March 28th, 1474, the Republic of Venice affixed to Catherine a commissioner and two counselors, removing some of the queen’s trusted men from the island.

Catherine, however, was a lonely woman, and the premature death of little Giacomo III made her increase her loneliness so much that she fell into depression. She was thus achieved by her father who helped her to overcome her illness and to improve her relationships with Venice, obtaining more freedom.

There were two conspiracies by noble Catalans who tried to overthrow the reign of Caterina, both repressed by the Republic of Venice.

After the second attempt, the Serenissima began to press for Caterina to return home and to surrender the kingdom to Venice in exchange for benefits worthy of a queen.

Caterina did not accept, but finally she had to surrender because of the intercession of his brother Giorgio Cornaro: on February 26th, 1489, dressed in black, she had to relentlessly leave the island forever and to return home, giving the island to Venice.

On June 6th, 1489, sitting on the Bucintoro next to Doge Agostino Barbarigo, Caterina made her triumphal entrance to Venice, which received her “daughter” with great affection: she was named “domina Aceli” (Lady of Asolo), retaining her title and rank of queen.

The historical parade of the Regata recalls just this episode: the embrace of the city to a strong and unlucky woman, who has always kept its integrity and dignity exemplarily.

During the reign of Caterina, Asolo’s court became famous for welcoming famous artists and literati. However, her life in the castle of Asolo was no less tormented: in 1509 she had to flee twice because of the advance of the Hapsburg troops, taking refuge in Venice, her city, where she died in 1510.

They say that the crowd who wanted to participate to the funeral was so big that they had to build a bridge of boats from Rialto to Santa Sofia to allow a better outflow.

Caterina still rests in the church of San Salvador, near Rialto Bridge.

The Redentore Feast in Venice

The Redentore Feast (Redeemer’s Feast) is a traditional feast of Venice: it is celebrated on the third Sunday of July and it is certainly deeply felt by the Venetians.

The Saturday before the third Sunday of July a long votive bridge of boats is opened on the Giudecca Canal connecting the island with the Zattere, thus allowing people to reach the Redentore Church.

 

The Redeemer’s Day is the event that celebrates the building of the Redentore Church by order of the Venetian Senate in 1576 as an ex-vote for the liberation of the city from the plague of 1575. The terrible plague caused the death of more than 50,000 people in just two years.

At the end of the plague, in July 1577, it was decided to celebrate every year the liberation from the plague with a votive deck being set up.

This celebration has become over time a tradition very much felt by the Venetians and it is still very much alive – and it is very healthy, indeed – after almost five centuries.

 

 

The festival is famous (also called “la notte famosissima – the very famous night”) especially for the wonderful fireworks show (“i foghi – the fires”) that takes place the night between Saturday and Sunday on the San Marco basin, which for the occasion is closed to normal navigation and welcomes the boats of the many Venetians who pour into the dock to eat, drink, dance and spend a night together.

 

Scala Contarini del Bovolo (Bovolo staircase)

Contarini del Bovolo Palace is a late Gothic building in San Marco district, near Campo Manin, overlooking the San Luca Canal.

The Palace, built between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was the home of the Contarini family of St. Peternian.

In 1499 Pietro Contarini, Marco Contarini and Giovanni Battista Contarini, senators of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, added the famous spiral staircase (“bovolo” means spiral in venetian): from that moment on the staircase gave its name not only to the palace but to the whole family, who was nicknamed Contarini “dal Bovolo”.

The staircase represents a perfect synthesis of different styles, with its Renaissance elements, the typical construction technique of Gothic style and the Venetian-Byzantine shape.

 

Initially the staircase had the only purpose of decorating the interior facade of the palace, to enhance the prestige and the popularity of the family.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the palace was purchased by Emery company. The company rented the palace to Arnoldo Marseille, who opened the hotel called “Maltese” in 1803, and that’s why the court of the palace is called “corte del Maltese” (Maltese court).

In 1859, from the lookout tower Wilhem Tempel, a German lithographer and amateur in astronomy, discovered a comet bearing its name.

The current owner placed in the back courtyard an important collection of venetian water wells, which frame the facade of the most imposing and prestigious spiral staircase in Venice.

From the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, the history of the Palace is linked to the events of assistance in Venice, until it becomes the headquarter of the IRE (Institution of Hospitality and Education), which administers the old people’s homes around the city.

 

Click here to see the watercolor “Scala Contarini del Bovolo (Bovolo staircase)” >

Sources
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Contarini_del_Bovolo
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contarini#Contarini_dal_Bovolo
http://www.scalacontarinidelbovolo.com
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Wilhelm_Tempel

Vogalonga 2017 – 43rd edition

Only three days to the 43rd edition of the Vogalonga here in Venice!

Vogalonga is a rowing regatta in the Italian city of Venice.

On November 11th, 1974 a group of Venetians, both amateur and professional rowers, had a race. They came up with an idea of non-competitive “race” in which any kind of rowing boat could participate, in the spirit of historical festivities. The first Vogalonga began the next year with the message to protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the swell damage they do to the historic city.

Participants gather in St Marks Basin in front of the ducal palace. The racecourse is scenic route 30 kilometers long along the various Venetian canals and historical buildings, and reach islands like Sant’Erasmo, Burano and Murano.

At the this first edition there were about 1.500 riders.

The following editions Vogalonga gradually increased consensus and participation, reaching over 8,000 members this year (absolute record), with regattas coming from around the world and with all kinds of rowing boats.

Each participant receives a commemorative medal and a certificate of participation.

Thanks to www.vogalonga.com

Festa della Sensa – Feast of the Ascension

Next Sunday it’s going to be the Feast of the Sensa here in Venice, and we’re going to celebrate this very special day. I’m going to tell you a couple of things about this venetian tradition.

The “Festa della Sensa” (Feast of the Sensa – in Italian “Ascension”) was a feast of the Republic of Venice, which coincided with the day of Ascension of Christ, the last chapter of his earthly life when, 40 days after his death and resurrection, he ascended to heaven his body to join his father.

The Sensa Feast commemorated two important events for the Republic of Venice.

The first being May 9, 1000, when the Doge Pietro II Orseolo rescued the denizens of Dalmatia imperiled by the Slavs. The aforementioned date marked the onset of Venetian extension in the Adriatic.

The second event is related to the peace treaty that doge Sebastiano Ziani, Pope Alexander lll and Emperor Federico Barbarossa in 1177 agreed to the Treaty of Venice which ended the long standing differences between the Pontificate and the Holy Roman Empire.

On the occasion of the Feast of the Sensa was held the ceremony of the Marriage of the Sea (in italian, Sposalizio del Mare), a ceremony symbolizing the maritime rule of Venice and its intimate relationship with the sea. Originally, there was a solemn procession of boats, guided by the Doge’s ship (from 1253 Bucintoro, the Venetian Venus Galea) coming out of the lagoon through the harbor entrance of Lido.

 
When the procession arrived in front of the church of San Nicolò, patron saint of the sailors, a prayer was prayed for calm and peaceful sea for all sailors. Finally, the doge and the other officians were aspersed with the holy water; the rest of the holy water was poured into the sea.

Every year the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the sea reciting: “We marry you, sea. In a sign of true and perpetual domination” (“Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique dominii..”) declaring Venice and the sea indissolubly united, reiterating the possession of the Adriatic Sea.

According to the legend on which the myth of Venice is based, in 1177 Pope Alexander III would have conferred a character of sacredness on this ancient ceremony

The rites of the atonement of the sins to the sea date back to antiquity, like the one told by Herodotus, where Policrate, Samo’s tyrant, casts a precious ring into the sea to appease the gods, or like the one of Empress Sant’Elena, who casted a nail of the True Cross into the Adriatic Sea to ingratiate the winds.

According to various archaeological studies, the Venetian “Marriage of the sea” and the ceremony of the ring comes from an ancient pagan ritual that later the Church endorsed.

Since 1965, the city of Venice, on the occasion of the Ascension Day, organizes a story reminiscent of the ancient Marriage of the Sea.

The Mayor of the City of Venice presides over the ceremony on board of the “bissona” Serenissima, a special Venetian-style boat, characterized by rich decorations and thrust by eight rowers. After reaching the harbor entrance close to the church of San Nicolò del Lido, along with a boat parade, he throws the ring blessed by the patriarch of Venice into the sea.

The ceremony is accompanied by regattas where old traditional customs are worn.

Every year the city of Venice re-launches this celebration, which revives the millennial history of the Serenissima, its intimate relationship with the sea and the practice of Voga alla Veneta.

Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge) in Torcello

Torcello is one of the oldest islands of the Venetian lagoon, north of Burano, in the middle of a salt marsh zone (clay soil lying areas which are periodically flooded by tides and which are fundamental for the health of the lagoon).

Torcello was very prosperous and densely populated since the first centuries of the Roman Empire, and it began its decline from the fifteenth century because of climate changes and continuous plagues, and also because of the predominance of Venice.

One of the two bridges of Torcello is the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge), that crosses the Maggiore Canal, the waterway that connects the historic center of Torcello with the lagoon. It goes back to the fifteenth century but recent archaeological investigations have established that its foundations are grafted onto pre-existing foundations, dated thirteenth century.

The origin of the name is uncertain. Some say that “Diavoli” (Devils) was the nickname of a local family who gave the bridge its name; other say the name comes from a legend about a Venetian girl, a witch and an Austrian soldier.

The legend says that the girl falls in love with a young officer during the Austrian invasion, but the union was disliked by her family, who send her away. One day the girl hears the news that the young lover has been murdered.

The girl returns to Venice and meets a witch, with whom she enters into a pact with the devil: the young Austrian in exchange for the souls of seven died prematurely Christians children.

The site of the exchange would be the Devil’s Bridge.


The two women reach the island and the girl crosses the bridge with a candle and a golden coin while the witch invokes the devil. The devil, as soon as he sees the girl, spits the key of space and time into the water taking the gold coin, making the young Austrian appear at the other side of the bridge.

The second half of the pact had to be the delivery of the seven souls on the Devil’s Bridge, scheduled for December 24th, but the witch was murdered before the exchange by a young man who wanted to save the souls of children.

Legend has it that from that December 24th onwards, every year the devil appears on the Devil’s Bridge to get his payment, in the form of a black cat.

The main feature of the Devil’s Bridge is its shape without railings, typical of the Venetian ancient bridges, and together with the Ponte Chiodo (Nail’s Bridge) in Cannaregio, it is the only one to preserve the ancient form.

Palazzo Dario, the cursed palace

A horrible fate has combined the stories of the owners of this beautiful building, so as to define it “cursed”.

Palazzo Dario (known as Ca’ Dario) is a palace overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice.

It was built by Giovanni Dario, fascinated by the places and the enchanting landscape.

In 1479 Marietta, Giovanni’s daughter, committed suicide because of the economic failure of her husband Vincenzo Barbaro, who died stabbed. Even their son suffered a violent death, in fact he died in an ambush in Crete. These three deaths caused a sensation among the Venetians, who anagrammtized the inscription on the facade, turning “VRBIS GENIO IOANNES DARIVS” into “SVB RVINA INSIDIOSA GENERO“ (in Latin, “I generate under an insidious ruin”).

The descendants of the Barbaro family sold the villa to Arbit Abdoll, an Armenian merchant of precious stones, who ended up in ruins shortly after taking possession of the dwelling.

The Englishman Radon Brown met his fate in 1838 when he became the new owner of Ca’ Dario. In only four years he suffered a financial meltdown and his homosexual relationship was discovered: the scandal engulfed him so much that in 1842 he committed suicide in the palace together with his partner.

Fared no better the American Charles Briggs, who had to flee from Venice because of the continuous rumors about his homosexuality: he fled to Mexico, where his lover committed suicide.

In the early ‘900 Ca’ Dario hosted the French poet Henri de Regnier; but a serious illness struck the writer, so he couldn’t come back to Venice anymore.

For decades the building was empty, until 1964 when the tenor Mario del Monaco began the negotiations to buy the property. But the artist, on his way to Venice to finalize the details of the contract, was involved in a serious car accident that forced him to a long rehabilitation and made him decide to give up the purchase.

A few years later Ca’ Dario was bought by Count Filippo Giordano delle Lanze from Turin, who was killed inside the building in 1970 by a Croatian sailor named Raul Blasich, with whom he had a relationship. Blasich then fled to London, where he was murdered.

The palace was later bought by Kit Lambert, manager of the rock band The Who, who died a very short time later in London falling down stairs. Although he claims not to believe in the curse, Lambert had told some friends to sleep in the nearby Hotel Gritti gondoliers kiosk to “escape the ghosts that haunted him in the Palace”.

Fabrizio Ferrari, a venetian businessman, bought the house in the 80s and moved there with his sister Nicoletta. Ferrari did not die, but he lost all of his assets after taking possession of the building, while his sister died in a car accident without witnesses.

In the late 80s, the building was purchased by financier Raul Gardini who wanted to make a gift to his daughter. Gardini, after a series of economic setbacks and the involvement in the scandal of Tangentopoli, committed suicide in 1993 in never fully clarified circumstances.

After the death of Gardini, no one wanted to buy Ca’ Dario anymore, and the first brokerage company that had been mandated to sell surrendered and stranded down. At the end of the 90s the director and actor Woody Allen seemed willing to buy the building, but then he desisted. In 2002, a week after renting Ca’ Dario for a vacation in Venice, bass player John Entwistle died because of a heart attack.

In 2006 the property passed to an American company on behalf of an unknown buyer and it is currently being restored.

 

Handmade frames for handmade prints

Some time ago I met here at my studio in Venice Marco Faccio, a nice and friendly guy from Vicenza who came here with his wife Clara. They loved some of my works and we talked a lot, and so I knew that Marco is a very talented wood craftsman. After they left the studio, I went to visit his website and I realized that I did love his artworks so much!

He makes (all handmade, of course!) frames, boxes, (unbelievable) towerboxes, cases.. everything is wonderful!

And I’m very happy that he decided to do something for me.

Marco took inspiration from my etchings and made a study of shapes and materials and then he made these handmade African durmast frames for my prints. The frames, made of solid wood, have been waxed and have a durable synthetic glass and they are unique works of art.

The frames and the prints are viewable at my store in VeniceMarco chose the following prints to build his beautiful frames:

I have printed the etchings in brand new colors- a color between red and brown.

I hope you’ll like the new frames as much as I do!

Ciao,

Arianna

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