Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where's the Blood? Palladio Redux - Venice, Italy

Photo by Sara Jane Boyers, US spy
(Venice, Italy) Palladio! That image you see (photo by Sara Jane Boyers, who is working with the CIA and/or the US State Department and/or the FBI and/or whatever-spy-agency, and who manipulated me into allowing her to take privileged photos at the time I wrote this blog on Oct. 2, 2008*) is me aligning myself with a beam of Palladian energy from a circle high up in the ceiling over at the Church of Redentore (now, don't go running over there asking to beam up, too, because it is behind the scenes:) Even though our dear Earth has lovely scenery, I will do anything to get off this planet. Beam me up, Scottie!

Seriously, I became intrigued after I went to the Palladian Gala back in July, and stumbled into the lecture by Professor Guido Beltramini, and learned about the anti-Palladio movement by architects in Vicenza. To read my reaction, go here:

I was very much looking forward to the exhibit in Vicenza, which opened on September 20th. I was fortunate enough to score an invitation to the Gala the night before, but when we arrived, we were told we were too late for entry -- and we were late. There was heavy traffic that day from Venice to Vicenza. They would not let us in. Security was tight because there were many Heads of State and folks of that ilk inside. They told us to go over to the exhibit, which we did (not easy to clatter around Vicenza in high heels!). I was anticipating all sorts of things -- blood-red color on the pillars, fauns on the floor, clues as to how Thomas Jefferson built Montecello, revelations of Jungian proportions about the subconcious mind finally revealed -- but I must have missed it. I guess I have to go again. If any of you readers out there would like to illuminate me, your comments would be most welcome.

The latest information I can find about the Palladio Exhibition Tour was given to me at the British Pavillion at La Biennale International Architecture Exhibition -- as I write this, even the official Palladio website seems to have incorrect info, which says: "It will open in Vicenza, (palazzo Barbaran da Porto, 20 September 2008 – 6 January 2009), it will then move to London (Royal Academy of Arts, 31 January – 13 April 2009) and will close in the United States of America in Autumn 2009." (click English after the intro)

What I've got is from a press release from the Royal Academy of Arts:

Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza: 20 September 2008 - 6 January 2009
Royal Academny of Arts, London: 31 January 2009 - 13 April 2009
Fundaciò "la Caixa", Caixaforum, Barcelona: 19 May - 6 September 2009
Caixaforum, Madrid: 6 October 2009 - 17 January, 2010

Rumor has it that it might make it to America in 2011.

In any event, we will make due with some images taken by my former "friend," the "photographer/writer," Sara Jane Boyers. We went over to Redentore the other day. I was particularly intrigued by Professor Beltramini's statement about there being underground chambers in Palladio's buildings. When I was a child, we had a basement below the ground, and it always scared me. We used to keep canned goods down there, and my mother would tell me to go down and get a can of tomatoes or peas. As I closed the cupboard, I would feel something dark behind my back and ran back up those steps as if the devil himself were chasing me. To be honest, I found it thrilling. There is something mysteriously satisfying about descending to a room below the earth, running up the stairs, and then bursting back into the light.

I knew there was a type of underground room at Redentore -- which is truly peculiar, since we have all sorts of problems with high water and flooding. How could there be an underground chamber in Venice? It seems impossible. Yet, there it is, in that photo over there on the right.

The windows are deceptive because the bottoms of the sills are closer to the ground than they appear -- in other words, they are almost level with the pavement outside. Therefore, if my memory serves me correctly, the room itself is below the ground almost immediately beneath the windows. It's not like descending into a deep, dark basement, but part of that room is underground. There is an ancient irrigation system that keeps the water out.

The Capuchin friars use the underground room to pray in the winter because it is warmer than their small, sparse church, Saint Mary of the Angels, built in 1536 -- about 50 years before the Redentore itself. The Capuchin friars are humble by nature, so they are more comfortable in their little church. On the altar is a copy on wood of Rocco Marconi's 14th century "Madonna and Child with Saints Gerolamo and Francesco." As you can see, their private church is not grand like Redentore -- and even that, compared to other churches, is lacking in ornamentation.

Here is something about Redentore that I wrote back in 2003 for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily:

"Known for its absence of ornate funeral monuments, the austerity of the church's interior was a result of the Capuchins' insistence that their vow of poverity be respected. The Venetian Senate ultimately consented and decreed that no burials should ever take place inside the church, thus providing an uncluttered view of the white luminous purity and harmonious lines of Palladio's original design."

If you look at that photo of Redentore's interior (taken from Wikipedia), you will understand a bit what the fuss is all about. Those pillars were originally red. They have been painted white. Red pillars inside the Church of Redentore is a whole other church. Gone is the "white luminous purity."

This is from a September 19, 2008 article from ANSA, which is sort of like the Associated Press. It refers to the Church of San Giorgio, but during the tour I was on in July inside Redentore, the professor said the pillars in Redentore were also red:

"Of particular interest was the discovery by top Palladian experts from Italy, France, Britain, Germany, Spain and the US that the Renaissance architect had a hitherto unknown penchant for occasional colour. Palladio's classical Roman designs are famous for their white simplicity but the latest research suggests that a number of works originally incorporated splashes of red.Traces of red paint have been found on several famous buildings designed by Palladio, including the Church of St. George in Venice, whose columns were repainted white in the mid-1600s. Experts are now convinced that an important element of Palladio's original design for the church was the contrast between its fiery red columns and their brilliant white bases."

What does it mean? Why were they painted over? I will leave it to the scholars to interpret the meaning of red pillars in a white church.

Ciao from Venice,
*Note added on January 2, 2011

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