Category: Venice

April 25th: St. Mark and the “bocolo”

In Venice on April 25th the feast is one and only one: the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, patron saint of the city.

The birth of Venice

On 25 March Venice celebrates its birthday.

According to Martino Da Canal in his “History of Venice” the date of birth of the city is March 25, 421. The date coincides with the consecration of the church of San Giacometto on the banks of the current Grand Canal, which marks the first settlement in Venice on the Riva Alta (Rialto) according to the 11th century Chronicon Altinate.

Actually, the most beautiful city in the world does not have a precise date of birth, but it is the result of continuous movement and change.

Going back in time we would not have seen any expanse of uncontaminated water, as we could imagine looking at the lagoon, with its sandbanks, its islets and its peace.

What we could have seen was the dominance of the continent in the eternal struggle between land and sea.
The Alpine rivers, flowing into today’s lagoon, continuously carried debris that created an expanse of land covered with forests, interspersed with freshwater marshes and a few brief hillocks (“dosso” in italian, dossum durum which will give its name to Dorsoduro, one of the districts of Venice, and dossum oliveti, which will give its name to Olivolo, today’s Castello, another district of Venice).


A freshwater stream, the rivus altus (Rialto), marked the current course of the Grand Canal, on whose banks human settlements had been built since prehistoric times, as well as in the territory of Torcello.
In the basin of San Marco stood a saltern, with the floor in Roman bricks placed more than 3 meters below the current level of the common tide.

According to Titus Livius, the fugitives from the Trojan War came in search of refuge on the Venetian coast and Aeneas founded Venice in 1107 BC. Martino da Canal also describes how the Trojans landed in the area of Olivolo and placed there their first settlement.

One of the first centers built was a port called Metamauco and dates back to Roman times. It stood near today’s Malamocco, in the Lido of Venice, and was located at the mouth of the river Medoacus Maior, the current river Brenta.

Legend has it that it was located further out to sea than the modern Malamocco. A catastrophic climatic event caused it to sink under the sea and it is said that in good weather you can still see its submerged walls and that the fishermen’s nets sometimes remain imprisoned in the tip of the bell tower.

During the last two millennia the activity of tides, winds, coastal currents and the progressive rise in sea level led to a gradual transformation from continent to lagoon, accentuated by the deviation of rivers led to flow into other parts of the coast by man.

Venice begins to see its population grow as a result of the barbarian invasions that followed one another since the fifth century. The fugitives found in the lagoon city protection provided by the Byzantine Empire, present in the territory in different administrative forms.

The growing economic development and the distance from the capital Constantinople were the circumstances that allowed to achieve the administrative autonomy that led to the birth of the Republic of Venice, the Serenissima.
In a short time Venice conquered the political and military hegemony in the Adriatic Sea and throughout the Mediterranean, becoming the main seaport and trading center.

Immediately afterwards, the Serenissima will reach its maximum splendour.

“And if their lagunes are gradually filling up, if unwholesome vapours are floating over the marsh, if their trade is declining, and their power has sunk, still the great place and the essential character will not, for a moment, be less venerable to the observer.”
– Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Sources
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storia_di_Venezia
http://www.viagginellastoria.it/archeoletture/luoghi/1940venezia.htm
https://evenice.it/blog/info/compleanno-di-venezia.html
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martino_Canal
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storia_della_Repubblica_di_Venezia
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repubblica_di_Venezia

James Abbott McNeill Whistler: a true lover of Venice

“If the man who paints only the tree, or the flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer. It is for the artist to do something beyond this.”
James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a great and famous American painter, who became famous for works such as “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1” also known as “Whistler’s Mother”.

Whistler’s Mother

What the fewest people know, however, is his genius in the production of chalcographic engravings: Whistler has been one of the most inventive and influential engravers in history, making almost 500 engravings in five decades.
He approached engraving in 1857, at the age of 23, as a gifted and passionate young draughtsman, using the chalcographic technique to capture and reproduce quick sketches at the time when engraving was used as a mere reproductive technique.
From the 18th century onwards, in fact, the art print had become almost exclusively a means of reproducing works of art and portraits, going towards a real industrialisation.
At the end of the 19th century, with the birth and success of photography, engraving was able to free itself of its utilitarian function, thanks to artists such as Whistler, who rediscovered the vitality and autonomy that characterized it at the beginning.

In his first years of experimentation with this technique he worked outdoors, drawing on suitably prepared copper, and then proceeding to morsure in his room, travelling around Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhineland.
In 1859 he moved to London, where he produced views of the Thames, maintaining the purity of unadorned realism inspired by Japanese prints.
At that time he also began to rub the inks in an expressive way and to work using the technique of drypoint, preferring it to etching, for the production of portraits and figures.

From September 1879 Whistler moved to Venice to produce twelve etchings, commissioned by the Fine Arts Society of London, which expected the return of the artist after a stay of three months.
The artist instead stops in the city for fourteen months and produces fifty etchings, over a hundred pastels, reaching its creative peak.
The views of smaller canals, the entrances to palaces, the reflections dancing on the water and the dark evanescent landscapes represent places known by the locals, far from the tourist routes, just before Venice was sold to the masses

As a supporter of “Art for Art’s sake”, in the celebration of visual beauty, his production is an honest work that shows the most intimate spaces of Venice, showing the viewer the city through the eyes of a Venetian and helps to redraw the map of the city.
Etching gave Whistler the opportunity to combine the speed of execution, quickly drawing ideas on the plate, with the possibility of perfecting and developing them across multiple states, highlighting its complex aesthetics.
His work, with such an innovative approach, has not only attracted followers and imitators, but has also influenced the entire art world.

“I learned to know a Venice in Venice that the others never seem to have perceived…”

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Sources
https://www.frasicelebri.it/frasi-di/james-mcneill-whistler/ https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Abbott_McNeill_Whistler
https://themitchellgallery.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/james-mcneill-whistler/
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/whet/hd_whet.htm
https://news.virginia.edu/content/museum-opens-printmaking-venice-exhibit-inspired-whistler-s-art
https://www.plumplumcreations.com/the-history-of-printmaking-part-2/

October, 29th: an ordinary day on an extraordinary high water

Do you see these people? Do you see them well? Good.
These people are idiots.

These people were photographed on November 11st, 2012 in St. Mark’s Square, when the high water in Venice reached 140 centimeters. These people are part of the vast majority of tourists who visit Venice every year thinking that it is not a city with its problems, its inhabitants, its dramas, but an amusement park where everything is “fake”, everything is fun and everything is legitimate because – as you often hear – “I pay to stay here”.

Another consideration: these idiots are bathing in dirty water, because maybe you don’t know it, but part of the sewers in Venice drain into the canals… and I assure you that that water smells like few things in the world!

I don’t want to be controversial with this blogpost: it wants to be simply the chronicle of what happened from my point of view on October 28th, 2018, when the water in Venice reached 160 centimeters (20 centimeters higher than the picture above). And I want to somehow inform people about some aspects of the high water that they may not know or have never thought about.
I would like to try to make many people understand that maybe they don’t know, or maybe they never thought about it, that for most of the people who live and work in Venice, a high water of these proportions is a real drama.

That’s why seeing tourists having fun taking pictures like the one I published above makes me feel angry: because it’s an unconscious mockery of people who suffer serious damage, both economic and even psychological. For example: while I had the shop completely flooded and I was desperately trying to save as much as I could, there were people outside who came by and wanted to take pictures of me.
I don’t think they’re tourists, they’re just jackals.
‘Cause I assure you that seeing your own laboratory, your own shop, your own house invaded by the water is certainly not a pleasure.
I felt awful when I saw that all the measures I had taken to combat this phenomenon had failed.

But first things first.

The high water alarm had begun several days before, when the tide forecast service had announced a very sustained high water for the day 28th in the afternoon. The day before I lifted all the materials that are usually placed on the floor and those that were at a lower level.
One thing has to be taken into account: I have two bulkheads (one for the front door and one for the door to the back yard) and a pump that “spits” out the water when it reaches a certain level and that for the “normal” high waters allows me to stay relatively quiet. The problem, however, is that after a certain measure (around 115 centimeters, so almost every time there is high water!) the high water starts to rise from the floor …! However, for such high waters there are only many annoyances but not real damages.

Below is a photo-story of what happened that day.

The day before I prepared everything: I lifted everything up to protect the materials.

Ocober, 29th: the water starts to grow…

The water level exceeds the shop window and comes dangerously close to the edge of the bulkhead. The water comes from the floor.

At this point it’s really too close, the sirocco wind continues to blow and it’s a moment: the water passes the bulkhead, enters the studio and invades everything. The bulkhead is no longer needed, the pump is no longer needed: there is no longer any difference between inside and outside.  Things at a lower level begin to float and go around the store.

Even the courtyard behind was flooded, submerging and ruining my beloved plants that I had unnecessarily placed above some wooden elevations

The tide usually grows for 6 hours and then decreases for the next 6 hours. This time, due to adverse weather conditions (especially the strong sirocco wind), the tide has decreased very little, so that the minimum was around 130 centimeters. And during the evening it came back high again. Luckily then, after midnight, the wind lost strength and the water began to fall, leaving behind only dirt and a very bad smell (…and think that some people take a bath in it!).

The back yard was a disaster too

It took almost three days to clean, disinfect and dry everything. A very hard job, and I realize that I am very lucky because I have not suffered serious damage. There are many shopkeepers and craftsmen with electrical machinery who have suffered irreparable damage, economic damage and now have to start again by investing money: this high water is not fun, it is a misfortune

This testimony of mine does not want to be absolutely a way to out-mourn or self-celebrate: I just want to try to make those who do not know the phenomenon of high water understand what’s really behind something that to many may seem funny, but that actually only involves damage and days of hard work.

I take this opportunity to say hello to all of you who may have learned something from this blogpost and to all the artisans of Venice who do not give up.

Arianna

PS: To take out Bic, my dog who’s always with me in the studio, to do his evening “needs” I had to take him in my arms and find a place high enough where he could walk and not swim… what a feat! And he wasn’t very happy either… 🙂

Venice place names: Campi, Campielli, Corti

In Venice there are no streets but calli (with a few exceptions, as we learned here), and it’s just the same for the squares: if you hear about “square”, you can’t help to refer to St. Mark’s Square, the one and only square in Venice.
All the other areas of the road network that in the rest of the world are called squares, in Venice are called Campi (Fields).
On ancient times the campi, as the term suggests, were covered with grass and used for cultivation, with orchards and fruit trees, and sheeps or horses could be found grazing there.
Only recently the campi have been paved, but there is still a testimony of what the fields should look like on the days of the Serenissima: to see it just visit the Campo di San Pietro di Castello, with its meadows and trees.

 

San Pietro di Castello

 

The social meaning of the campo has always been very strong, since Venice is a polycentric city, built on numerous islands that lived a life of their own.
The open space surrounded by houses was a meeting place for the inhabitants, a place where there was a market and overlooked the craft shops.
On the campo there was always a church, with an adjoining cemetery; the function of the campo as a burial place is still indicated in some cases with the presence of an elevated area more than a meter above normal traffic (Napoleon then banned the practice of burial in the campi, moving the cemetery to the current island of San Michele).

 

Campo San Trovato and the former cemetery

 

In the larger campi there were also processions and religious events, as well as tournaments and public speeches.

Even in much more recent times, the campo has been (and still is, even if the depopulation of Venice dramatically has its strong impact) the meeting place of children who played mainly football or other games, such as jumping the rope or going on skates.

 

Campo dei Gesuiti with children playing football

 

The well was another inevitable figure in every campo, and it was the only source of water for the city, before the construction of the aqueduct.
Fortunately you can still admire many real finely worked wells, even if unused (if you want to learn more about the functioning of the wells, read this article).
The campi often owe their name to the churches that rise (or rised) there, but also to important families who lived there or to trades that were carried out in ancient times.

 

When the campo is smaller than usual it is referred to it as Campiello (small field), which is often only a widening of the calle or an appendix to a larger field, and it is usually devoid of well and surrounded by houses.

In the campiello social life was even more typical, because it was just the center of a micro district, where the social fabric of the city was interwoven, with gossip, quarrels and the popular chatter of a lively and crowded city. Carlo Goldoni in his comedy “Il campiello” tells just these habits.The importance of the campiello is also testified by the name given to the important literary prize “Il campiello”, one of the most prestigious and well-known Italian literary prizes.

 

Campiello

 

Even smaller than the campiello is the Corte (courtyard), which usually has only one entrance through a portico or a street sometimes equipped with a gate. In fact, the corte was considered an extension of the house, where you could find women who, during the summer, sitting next to their door, engaged in housework activities such as cleaning fish and vegetables, sewing and embroidery, and the practice of inserting beads into a thread for the manufacture of necklaces, a typical activity that in dialect is called “impiraperle”.

Corte

 

Sources

https://venicewiki.org/wiki/Campo
https://www.innvenice.com/Toponomastica-Venezia.htm
https://venipedia.it/it/campi
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campo_(Venezia)
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campiello
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corte_(Venezia)

Venice place names: Calle, Calle Larga, Salizada, Rio terà, Ramo, Sotoportego

In Venice everything is different from the rest of the world, there’s no doubt. Even the streets are not simple ways to transport people and things, but they are opportunities to see magnificent places at every step.

If you are looking for a “Strada” (Street) in Venice, you’ll find only “Strada Nova(New Street), located in the Cannaregio district, a real city artery. Strada Nova commonly indicates the long route formed by a long series of spacious streets, from the railway station to Campo Ss. Apostoli- actually, only a part of it is the real Strada Nova.

Its construction began at the beginning of the 19th century and continued for almost the entire century, turning a long and winding road into a spacious and full of shops street.

Strada Nova

 

The other streets in Venice are called “Calli“, from the Latin callis, which means path.

The “calli” can be very narrow or wide, the “Calli larghe” (wide streets) can be dead end streets- in this case they are called “Rami” (branches), when they lead to a dead end “campo” (field) or directly to a house.

Calle

 

The “Salizade” are “calli”  which once were more important, and that’s why they were first paved with masegni (typical stone used just in Venice), while the others were paved with terracotta bricks (or clay) placed in a herringbone pattern (as you can see even today in front of the Church of Madonna dell’Orto).

 

 

Salizada

Madonna dell’Orto

The masegni are the classic gray stones that cover almost the entire Venetian public ground, from the first half of the 18th century. This paving is composed of slabs of trachyte, a volcanic stone extracted in the quarries of the Euganean Hills area, near Padua.

Masegni

 

Another type of street in Venice is the “Ruga” (from the French Rue): it is a street important for commercial business that have always been there since ancient times.

Ruga

 

Sometimes the need to create spaces on the streets led to bury the canals, turning them into “Rio Terà” (buried canal): the water of the canal often still flows under the road ground.

Rio Terà

The need to build houses forced the Venetians to widen the houses above the street: this is the case of “Sotoporteghi” (underpasses), a sort of “gallery” through the houses, often dark, where you can see the classic wooden beam ceiling that every Venetian house has.

Sotoportego

 

Even the  names of these different kind of “streets” are particular and different: they often refer to the ancient (or present) proximity to a convent or church or crafts that were practiced in a concentrated way, or they get their name from some famous person who used to live around there, but also by ordinary people who became famous for some reason.

And if all these names were not enough, keep in mind one thing: sometimes you can find the same name of a calle in different areas of the city, leading the distracted or superficial visitor to lose his way  (or go crazy at all!).

Sources

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strada_Nova

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calle

http://alloggibarbaria.blogspot.it/2009/11/masegni.html

https://www.innvenice.com/Toponomastica-Venezia.htm

The Venetian “Fondamenta”

Venice is a unique and special city, and the names of its “streets” are different from any other city in the world.

In Venice there is only one “Strada” (street), the “strada nova” and just one “Piazza” (square), Piazza San Marco.

The only road signs you can find walking around Venice are called “nizioleti” (Venetian term which means “sheets”).

The nizioleti are wall paintings painted on the plaster of the buildings and they show names, directions and street numbers.

The appearance of these atypical street signs is unmistakable: they appear as white squares (this is why there is the reference to the small sheet) bordered with black and they contain letters, numbers and arrows painted by hand in black thanks to the use of molds.

 

A recurring word you’ll find is Fondamenta or Fondamente.

“Fondamenta” means “foundation” in Italian, and it describes the walking bank along a canal. It was (and still is today) a popular area to load and unload boats, kind of like a dock.

The Fondamenta is the road that faces the water, just like the one I’m looking at now from my studio.

There may be different types of fondamenta, but they all will have some shore, the landing place for boats, with steps made of Istrian stone that descend into the canal and which are usually covered by slippery algae that capture unsuspecting tourists and sometimes take them to water.

Some fondamenta have wrought iron railings, interspersed with metal columns or Istrian stone, while others have masonry parapets covered with stone.

Some fondamenta have no parapets and have only a strip of Istrian stone along the edge that runs along the canal.

There are particularly large and long fondamenta, like the Zattere, which runs along the Giudecca Canal.

Other fondmaneta are not very large but they can be very long and you can find a lot of commercial activities, such as the Fondamenta della Misericordia which I wanted to portray in my engraving and which continues changing its name in Fondamenta dei Ormesini, where my studio is located.

 

 

The fondamenta has the particular charm to represent the union between land and water, in a city that lives in balance between these two elements and which can take the best from both, transforming them into a unique magic.

 

Sources

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fondamenta_(Venezia)

http://www.venezia.travel/blog-eventi/curiosita/le-fondamente-o-fondamenta-di-venezia-cosa-sono.html

https://www.magicoveneto.it/Venezia/Venezia/Conoscere-Venezia-Salizada-Calle-Ramo-Ruga-Piscina-Fondamenta-Riva.htm

http://www.myveniceapartment.com/it/venezia-calle-fondamenta-rio-e-salizada/

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizioleto

The Bicentenary of Gallerie dell’Accademia – Canova, Hayez, Cicognara

The year just passed saw the celebration of the bicentennial of the Gallerie dell’Academia, one of the most important Venetian museums, where you can find the best collection of art from Venice and  the whole Veneto, especially paintings from 14th to 17th century.

The Gallerie were born in 1817, a special moment in the artistic history of Venice: there was a cultural awakening of the city, together with a rediscovery of the ancient glory, arresting the decline followed by the fall of the Serenissima.

Among the major artists represented at the Accademia there are Tintoretto, Tiziano, Canaletto, Giorgione, Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio and Veronese.

Besides the paintings, in the Gallerie you can also find sculptures and drawings, including the famous Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, which is only exhibited on special occasions.

The exhibition, open until April 2nd 2018, celebrates the crucial years of the cultural revival which begun in 1815 with the return from Paris of the four horses of San Marco and the lion of the column on the pier of San Marco, symbolic works of Venice stolen in 1798 by Napoleon’s army, and ended with Canova’s death in 1822 in Venice.

The exhibition revolves around three key figures: Cicognara, Canova and Hayez.

 

Count Leopoldo Cicognara, (Ferrara 1767 – Venice 1834) intellectual, art historian and biographer, engaged in the preservation and enhancement of the past and at the same time in supporting contemporary art of those years.

He was president of the Academy of Fine Arts since 1808, where he had important results in the increase of the number of professors, in the establishment of awards for students and in the improvement of the courses of studies.

He was also the creator of the Galleria for the exhibition of Venetian paintings that now celebrates 200 years of life.

 

 

 

Antonio Canova, (Possagno 1757 – Venice 1822) famous sculptor, is considered the greatest exponent of European Neoclassicism in sculpture and he was in charge of the recovery of the works of art stolen by Napoleon during the occupation.

He was also highly appreciated during Romanticism, especially in Italy, where he was able to ignite national pride during the Risorgimento, to the point of being considered the tutelary genius of the nation.

 

 

 

 

Francesco Hayez, (Venice 1791 – Milan 1882) an innovative and multifaceted Venetian painter, one of the greatest exponent in Italy of the Romantic movement, left an indelible mark on the history of Italian art thanks to his works, many of which contain a hidden Risorgimento political message.

Cicognara, in an epistle sent to his friend Canova in 1812, wrote of his ambition to see Hayez becoming the interpreter of national inspirations, capable of giving new life to the great Italian painting.

 

 

 

The current exhibition is divided into ten thematic sections, among which stands out the meeting of the series of artifacts sent in 1818 to the court of Vienna for the wedding of Emperor Francis I, known as the “Homage of the Venetian Provinces”, which return to Venice for the first time in 200 years.

Inside the exhibition there are also paintings, sculptural groups, two ares and two large marble vases, a table made of bronze and wood with the top covered with precious Murano glass and precious bindings representing the highest artistic production of the Venetian Neoclassicism.

The visiting path also features the Musa Polimnia by Canova, completed in 1816, which has a troubled story which is told for the first time on this occasion.

In 1898, after the death of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the sculpture passes into the collection of her niece, Archduchess Elisabeth Mary of Austria, daughter of Rudolf of Hapsburg-Lorraine.

In 1942, after two years of negotiations and the payment of an exorbitant sum, the Musa Polimnia became property of Adolf Hitler, who wanted it for his Fuhrermuseum in Linz.

Found by the Americans in 1942 in a castle, it was moved to Munich, Germany.

Only in 1964 the statue returned to Hofburg, in the same rooms that had hosted it until 1929, and then moved for a few months to the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.veneziatoday.it/eventi/canova-hayez-cicognara-gallerie-accademia-venezia.html

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallerie_dell%27Accademia

http://www.gallerieaccademia.it/canova-hayez-cicognara-lultima-gloria-di-venezia-0

http://www.mostrabicentenariogallerie.it/

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Canova

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopoldo_Cicognara

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Hayez

http://www.exibart.com/notizia.asp?IDNotizia=54874&IDCategoria=264

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

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