Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fortuny and Wagner - Messages from the gods

Mariano Fortuny - Wagnerian Cycle - Siegmund & Sieglind's Embrace 1928
(Venice, Italy) It is surprising that never before has the theme of "Wagnerism" been the inspiration for an exhibition, considering the enormous influence the man and his music has had on humanity. Richard Wagner gave earthly voice to the gods themselves, music that opened the portal to the heavens.

"I am convinced that there are universal currents of Divine Thought vibrating the ether everywhere and that any who can feel these vibrations is inspired." Richard Wagner

On Friday at Palazzo Fortuny I felt those vibrations wafting through the air so strongly that I sat on the sofa at the far end of the piano nobile for a long time and wept silently with joy. Mariano Fortuny created an environment inside the Venetian palace where he lived and worked that allowed the vibrations of Divine Thought to permeate the very space itself, vibrations that still resound today. The Fortuny fabric on the walls, the overhead Fortuny lamps, the 46 paintings of the Wagnerian Cycle on display, the books, sculptures, drawings, prints, illustrations, postcards and works of like-minded thinkers, combined with the music of Wagner playing softly in the background overwhelmed me. I sat on the long sofa and the vibrations were like a golden bath washing away the darkness. I thought: This energy is what is missing in the world today. There is a gap. Who is continuing this work? And then I thought, suddenly: This work is being continued by many, only it is being suppressed.

From The Atlantic: Neuschwanstein Castle is now a world-famous tourist attraction. Criticized by many as wasteful and extravagant at the time of their construction (despite the King using his own money, not state funds), Ludwig's castles have paid for themselves many times over in the years since his death. Photo taken on May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was sponsored by King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886), the Fairytale King, who also tapped into the same vibrations, and had the enormous resources to create magical castles and bring his imagination to life. The officials said Ludwig was mad and tried to have him institutionalized, as is their habit. They then said he committed suicide, but many, including yours truly, do not believe that for one moment. I believe Ludwig II was murdered while trying to escape his captors.

The physical manifestation of Divine Thought frightens those on Earth who cannot absorb the vibrations, and those dark creatures will do everything they can to suppress it. I wondered aloud about the reason for this, and a young woman told me, "Nothing is more powerful than Love. The powerful on earth lose their power in the face of Love and so they try to destroy it."

Richard Wagner's music also had a profound impact on Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), which he expressed through stage design, fabrics and costumes. To mark the bicentennial of Richard Wagner's birth, the Fortuny Museum presents Fortuny and Wagner - Wagnerism in the visual arts in Italy, which opened yesterday, December 8, 2012 and will run through April 8, 2013, and focuses on the visual arts in Italy from the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century.

December 8, 2012 also happened to be the 32nd anniversary of the day that John Lennon was assassinated. It is also the day that the protagonist of my novels, Harley Columba, was born.

"One supreme fact which I have discovered is that it is not willpower, but fantasy-imagination that creates. Imagination is the creative force. Imagination creates reality." Richard Wagner

Mariano Fortuny-self portrait
I was a bit dazed when I rose from the sofa at Palazzo Fortuny and started to head toward the exit. A female guide told me that I must go up, not down. I went up to second floor (third floor to Americans) and took a peek into Mariano Fortuny's workshop,  crammed with inspiration.

“I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, and likewise their disciples and apostles; - I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art; - I believe that this Art proceeds from God, and lives within the hearts of all illumined men; - I believe that he who once has bathed in the sublime delights of this high Art, is consecrate to Her for ever, and never can deny Her; - I believe that through Art all men are saved.” Richard Wagner

Fortuny lamp
I was stunned to discover that a little room on the right was labeled:

"Bill Viola. Isolde's Ascension
(The Shape of Light in the Space After Death). 
2005 10'33." 

Ah, ha! Here was one of the missing links! I thought. Bill Viola! I had forgotten all about Bill Viola, who is my favorite contemporary artist. I never expected to see a video of his in a Fortuny and Wagner exhibition, but that is exactly where Isolde's Ascension belonged. I was the only one in the tiny theater that seated four.

By the time that Isolde had burst from the water and ascended to the heavens, I was weeping all over again. I had had a conversation with Bill Viola during the 2007 Art Biennale. Many people were clamoring for his attention, and were shuffling him here and there. I said, "Have you read Carl Jung's Seven Sermons to the Dead?" Bill Viola said, "No, but I've read Man and His Symbols." I said, "You should read the Seven Sermons to the Dead. It's different." Bill Viola stopped short and shook off his entourage. "Get me a pen. Get me some paper. I must write this down." And he did.

 —Man is a portal through which one enters from the outer world of the gods, demons and souls, into the inner world, from the greater world into the smaller world. Small and insignificant is man; one leaves him soon behind, and thus one enters once more into infinite space, into the microcosm, into the inner eternity. From The Seven Sermons to the Dead by C.J. Jung, 1916

Help restore the Fortuny model of the Bayreuth Theater at the Venice Fondation
Richard Wagner died in Venice on February 13, 1883 a few months shy of his 70th birthday. Mariano Fortuny died in Venice on May 2, 1949 nine days before his 78th birthday.

The Fortuny and Wagner exhibition is curated by Paolo Bolpagni and installed by Daniela Ferrettio, and made possible thanks to the collaboration of the City of Lipsia, Klinger Forum, the Richard Wagner Verband Leipzig, and the Associazione Richard Wagner Venezia.

Fortuny and Wagner
Wagnerism in the Italian visual arts

December 8, 2012 to April 8, 2013

Palazzo Fortuny
San Marco 3780
San Beneto, Venice
Daily from 10AM to 6PM
Closed Tuesdays, Christmas and Jan. 1
Full price admission: 10 euro

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


  1. It is surprising that never before has the theme of "Wagnerism" been the inspiration for an exhibition, considering the enormous influence the man and his music has had on humanity. Richard Wagner gave earthly voice to the gods themselves, music that opened the portal to the heavens.

  2. Love Fortuny fabrics and what a treat seeing his self-portrait. Are you on Twitter?

  3. Hi, Layla -

    I love Fortuny fabrics, too. I'm on Twitter but I don't tweet; my blog just feeds into it.