(Venice, Italy) The Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), or the Italian Environmental Foundation was established in 1975 to "emulate the English National Trust." (For Americans, a similar organization would be the National Trust for Historic Preservation.) Several years ago, I was in a location in Wales managed by the National Trust where I purchased some very fine furniture wax, the old-fashioned kind that you must rub hard into the real wood to keep it alive. To me, that is symbolic of the kind of work these type of foundations do. In fact, FAI declares that it bases its work on five principles: knowledge, pragmatism, consistency, independence and quality. Since FAI is a foundation, we can agree those are principles upon which any solid foundation should be built. FAI safeguards the heritage of art, nature and the Italian landscape.
The Venice Chapter of FAI is putting their unique imprint on fundraising by hosting a series of events with the theme Personaggi stravaganti a Venezia tra '800 e '900 , which Google Translate amusingly interprets as "Oddballs in Venice between 1800 and 1900." Let's call them "unique personalities" or "extravagant characters."
The series kicked off on October 15 at Ca' d'Oro, featuring Concetta Lo Iacono reporting on the famous ballerina, Maria Taglioni (1804-1884) who lived for a time at the palazzo. Taglioni's claim to notoriety was shortening her skirts so the audience could see her excellent en pointe.
On October 21st, Ida Tonini and Guido Zucconi spoke at the Hotel Palladio on Giudecca about Fredric Eden (1828-1916) and the colorful and controversial Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) owners of the most mysterious garden in Venice, The Garden of Eden, an event I am sorry to have missed. Visited in the past by the likes of Proust, Rilke, Cocteau, Henry James, Thomas Hardy and D'Annunzio, the enormous walled garden is a source of unending curiosity to this day. Click HERE to read an excellent post from British librarian Jeff Cotten's blog, Fictional Cities; here is an excerpt:
The Disquieting Muses
by Giorgio De Chirico
he spectacularly rich American, Winnaretta Singer de Polignac (1865-1943), an heir to the Singer fortune and wife of the Prince Edmond de Polignac, will be honored by Vitale Fano. FAI has decided to make the restoration of Palazzo Pisani one of their projects, sure to attract international music students from around the globe. From Wikipedia:
"In 1894 the Prince and Princess de Polignac established a salon in Paris in the music room of their mansion on Avenue Henri-Martin (today, Avenue Georges-Mandel). The Polignac salon came to be known as a haven for avant-garde music. First performances of Chabrier, d'Indy, Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel took place in the Polignac salon. The young Ravel dedicated his celebrated piano work, "Pavane pour une infante défunte", to the Princesse de Polignac. Many of Proust's memorable evocations of salon culture were born during his attendance at concerts in the Polignac living room."
On November 25 at 5:30 at the Tribunale di Venezia - Aula di Corte d'Assise, Franca Zanchi and Antonio Franchini will reveal information about one of Venice's most shocking scandals, The Russian Affair -- the trial of Russian Maria Tarnowska (1877-149), which made front page headlines all over Europe. The setting was yet another palace, Palazzo Maurogonato, which today is the Hotel Ala. There is even an unproduced film script. From Wikipedia:
"In 1907, one of her lovers, Nicholas Naumov (also spelled Naumoff), killed another one of Maria's lovers, Count Pavel Kamarovsky, in Venice, allegedly upon her instigation. The Countess Tarnowska, as she was commonly called, was arrested that same year in Vienna and transferred to La Giudecca penitentiary in Venice, where the trial was to be held. The trial, locally called the Russian affair (l'affare dei Russi), began on March 14, 1910, and ended on May 20 of the same year, with the conviction of both defendants. Maria Tarnowska was found guilty but was sentenced to serve a relatively mild term of only eight years in prison, thanks to an ingenious defence (it was one of the first to include Freudian analysis of the defendant's personality and motives) – and, possibly, due to the leniency of the presiding judge."
Finally, on December 14 at 5:30PM at Palazzo Fortuny, Enric Bou will entertain with tales about the great designer, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949). From Wikipedia:
"Nowadays the Museum Fortuny is housed in the Venezian-Gothic Palazzo, the former home, studio, showroom and "Think-Tank" of Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949) who acquired it at the beginning of the century. Fortuny invented in his Palazzo the Delphos gown, a gown based on the ancient Grecian style; and the Knossos Scarf, a silk scarf also inspired by this civilization. Fortuny also created new methods of dying textiles and well as ways of printing on fabrics. He created the Fortuny cyclorama dome, a stage lighting innovation that could be used to create lighting effects such as a bright sky or a faint dusk; and the Fortuny lamp, for indoor lighting."
For those of you fortunate enough to be in Venice, attending these events will be like stepping into the pages of Marcel Proust. For those of you in other parts of the world, I suggest putting on some Wagner and getting your copy of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu down off the shelf. If you would like to support FAI, please click HERE.
For further information: