Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Italy, Defend Your Heart

(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:

Henry McCarter
"Eden and his wife Caroline bought the artichoke garden on the, then semi-rural, island of Giudecca in 1884. They transformed the six acres into an English-style paradise, complete with roaming cattle, statues, and rose trellises. It's tempting to think of Gertrude Jekyll helping out her elder sister, but Jekyll's fascination with gardening did not, it seems, develop until years after the creation of the Eden's garden. It was then, and remains, the largest private garden in Venice (although its exact size is the subject of argument). ...

...The sociable Edens made the garden into the social centre of the British ex-pat society and attracted visitors like Proust, Rilke and Henry James in it's turn-of-the-century heyday. Gabriele d'Annunzio has an episode set in the garden in his novel Il fuoco. Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo, author of The desire and pursuit of the whole (and something of a side-thorn for the ex-pat society of the time which gathered in the garden) even offered his services to the Edens as poultry manager during a period of skintness. ..."

Next up, on October 28 at 5:30PM at the Archivio di Stato in Campo dei Frari, Mariachiara Mazzariol will discuss one of the greatest publishers of his time, Ferdinando Ongania (1842 -1911). 

The Disquieting Muses
by Giorgio De Chirico
On November 11th at 5:30PM at Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale headquarters, in the beautifully restored Sala delle ColonneGiorgio Colombo will shed light on the surrealist artist, Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978), founder of the scuola metafisica, and who was an annual visitor to Venice.

On November 15 at 6:00pm at the Istituto Italo-Britannico over at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, Maria Stella Florio will speak about Rawdon Brown, a historical scholar who came to Venice for a two week vacation in 1833 and never left -- he died in Venice in 1883. A great friend of John Ruskin, Rawdon Brown managed to explore the Venetian State Archives and uncover volumes concerning England and its relationship with Venice which were published as "Calendar of State Papers in the Archives of Venice." He also bought the mysterious palazzo Ca' Dario in 1838.

On November 18 at 5:30PM at Palazzo Pisani, the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Santo Stefano, Venice's music conservatory -- the same palace where  Don Giovanni and The Man of Stone was held -- the 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 Chabrierd'IndyDebussyFauré, 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.[2]"

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:
Studio Systema
Tel. +39 041 5201959
Fax +39 041 5201960

Ciao from Venice,

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