Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Midnight Mass in Venice - Bring on the New Year!

Pala d'Oro - Basilica of San Marco, Venice
(Venice, Italy) The Basilica of San Marco is one of the most stunning places of worship in the world; to me, it is the most beautiful and awe-inspiring. The gold mosaics that enhance the enormous interior sparkle with celestial light. The image of Jesus Christ in the center is one of kindness, compassion and wisdom. Many stories are emblazoned across the walls and ceilings of the Basilica; you can tumble into another world just gazing at the images. Angels in the alcoves seem almost real; the air is wispy with the scent and smoke of incense.

On the high holy days, the majestic golden panel, the Pala d'Oro, is turned toward the congregation. I have had the great honor and privilege to kneel directly in front of the Pala d'Oro, and I can tell you what it feels like... it feels as if I am in front of one of the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only more divine because it is gold and studded with precious gems... As if it was created with high intelligence and omniscience... I come away pulsing with star dust.

The Pala d'Oro feels as if it was designed according to a sacred plan. As I wrote for Gems of Venice, "According to Mons. Antonio Niero, author of La Pala d'Oro e il Tesoro di San Marco, 'the use and arrangement of the gems and precious stones suggest that the 13th century restorers followed the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelations, which speaks of 12 precious stones when describing the new Jerusalem; some of the stones used in the pala are identical to those described in that chapter.'"

Last year I wrote about the magical feeling of Christmas in Venice, which you can read here:

Christmas Magic in Venice 2013

For two thousand years Christians have been celebrating the birth of a Jew from Galilee whose profound, simple message rocked humanity, which comes down to us in the words of Mark, who wrote the first Gospel, and is the patron saint of Venice: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Best wishes to all for the New Year.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DOUBLE ENTRY - How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance

(Venice, Italy) It was only a matter of time before someone like Jane Gleeson-White wrote a book subtitled "How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance." If you live in Venice long enough, you start to feel the echoes of ancient Venezia reverberating throughout history straight up to the present day in nearly every aspect of life. Once the financial center of Europe, the center of international trade, and the capital of the publishing industry, Venice was the New York City of its day.

Double Entry is an engaging book about a seemingly boring topic: Accounting, and how the double-entry bookkeeping system rocked the world. The year was 1494, right around the time Christopher Columbus set his sights on America -- inspired, by the way, by the Venetian explorer, Marco Polo; a copy of The Travels of Marco Polo with handwritten annotations was found in Columbus' possessions.

In Venice in 1494, a man named Luca Pacioli published a mathematical encyclopedia called Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportione et proportionalità, introducing Hindu-Arabic numbers to a wide audience in Italy for the first time thanks to new technology called the printing press. In Pacioli's encyclopedia was a treatise about the Venetian double entry system of accounting. Pacioli wrote in the vernacular, not Latin, and encouraged merchants to switch over from using Roman numerals and old arithmetic to the new system.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1494-98)
Gleeson-White describes Luca Pacioli as a "Renaissance mathematician, monk, magician and constant companion of Leonardo da Vinci." After Pacioli's Summa was published, it became a bestseller and he became famous. Leonardo da Vinci read it in Milan and asked Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of the realm, to summon Pacioli to his Court. So, off Pacioli went to Milan and met da Vinci, who was working on the Last Supper. The two men were obsessed with geometry and arithmetic. Pacioli's next book was called De divina proportione about the "divine proportion," or the golden ratio known as phi, with 60 drawings by his pal Leonardo.

In 1499, the army of Louis XII of France invaded Milan and destroyed Pacioli's mathematical models, believing they were the work of the devil. Pacioli and da Vinci escaped to Mantua where Isabella d'Este was taking refugees. Pacioli dedicated a book to Isabella called De viribus quantitatis ("On the Power of Numbers") which, to this day, has never been published and is in the Bologna University Library. Next, Luca and Leonardo went to Florence, where they shared a house.

Pacioli claimed to have written another book called De Ludo Scacchorum, the first book about chess. It was called "Mad Queen's Chess," because it made the queen the most powerful piece on the board. In 2006, after missing for five centuries, Pacioli's surviving manuscript was discovered in Gorizia in the 22,000-volume library of Count Guglielmo Coronini, who said he had bought it in 1963 from a "Venetian poet and bibliophile". It is believed that da Vinci could have done the drawings because Isabella d'Este was a known chess player, and, as we can see, the boys were quite an item at the time.

With these mystical, magical beginnings, how did we arrive to a place in the world where corporate greed and corruption has managed to warp a formula that began as a way to keep merchants honest? Jane Gleeson-White takes us on a fascinating journey through the centuries with a compelling style that entertains even the number-challenged among us. When we grasp the concept of the Gross National Product and how it can be manipulated, today's world of Enrons and Big Banks and Wall Street clicks into place.

What was new to me is the term "Natural Capital," something that is slowly being taking into account at meetings around the globe. It means that Nature is finally going to be worth something. Right now, Nature is not worth anything in terms of profit and loss. Look at it this way: a friend of mine owns some property in the country. On her property is a small forest full of trees. Those trees are not worth anything unless she chops them down and sells the wood, or uproots them. My friend wanted more trees closer to the house and bought three new trees, which cost her €1,000. With Natural Capital, those old, majestic trees growing in her small forest would add value to the property that is not being taken into account today.

Or what about the value of waters of the Venice lagoon versus the exploitation by the cruise ships? Has the "Natural Capital" of the Venetian lagoon and all the riches it provides been tallied into the equation? On her Bookishgirl blog, Jane Gleeson-White says, "The problem with our current accounting systems – both national and corporate – is that they don’t account for natural capital, they don’t value living nature, and so it is invisible."

Gleeson-White starts her book with a speech that Bobby Kennedy made on March 18, 1964 at Kansas State University, three months before he was assassinated:

"Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion a year, but that Gross National Product... does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

Happy Holidays from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, December 8, 2014

The United States Dazzles Venice with the POETRY OF LIGHT

The Palace; white and pink (1879/80) by James McNeil Whistler
(Venice, Italy) Andrew Robison, the effervescent curator of The Poetry of Light from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has finally achieved his dream of the past two decades: to present a great exhibition of Venetian drawings in Venice. The finest Venetian drawings that the National Gallery possesses are now on show at the Museo Correr until the Ides of March, 2015. More than 130 works are hung in elaborate frames chosen especially for each drawing in La Poesia della Luce: Disegni veneziani dalla National Gallery of Art di Washington.

Punchinello released from prison (1798-1802) by Giandomenico Tiepolo
Robison said most exhibitions about Venetian art stop around the year 1800 with Giandomenico Tiepolo, the last great artist from Venice before the collapse of the Republic after the Napoleonic invasion. However, Venice still continues today; the culture continues, and artists continue to be inspired by Venice. When Venice transformed from a state to a myth, it drew artists from all over the world who added another element to her image.

Venice has always been an international city, so included in the exhibition are not only Venetian artists, but artists from abroad who traveled to Venice and were touched by the light -- which means artists such as the German Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Americans James Whistler (1834-1903) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) are represented. In addition, the Gallery considers all unprinted works of art on paper to be drawings, including watercolors and pastels, and considers not only the city of Venice in the term "Venetian," but all drawings made in the Veneto, not only by Venetians, but also by artists born and trained elsewhere. (I agree with that broad definition. It feels right.)

An Oriental Ruler Seated on His Throne (1495) by Albrecht Dürer
In 1937, Andrew Mellon donated his private art collection plus $10 million for construction to create the National Gallery of Art, which is free of charge, for the people of the United States. He believed that the United States should have a national art gallery equal to those of other great nations. Mellon insisted that the museum not bear his name to encourage other collectors to donate their treasures. His foresight worked. Before the Gallery opened, other major donors were already giving their collections. To read more about the National Gallery of Art, click HERE

If I tallied correctly, there are works by 74 artists on show: Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio are there. Lorenzo Lotto and Titian. Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. No less than twelve works by Giambattista Tiepolo. The number and quality of artists inspired by Venice is astonishing. The National Gallery has been building its collection of Venetian drawings since before it opened its doors to the public on March 17, 1941, starting with the "ravishing" Rosalba Carriera pastel given by Samuel H. Kress in 1939.

Giovedi Grasso Festival Before the Ducal Palace (1765/77) by Canaletto
"…the striking effects of light in Venice, the absence of any total darkness, soft light diffused by humidity in the atmosphere, brilliant light from penetrating sunshine, dancing light and shadow reflected from constantly moving waterways, and scintillating light shimmering off the water make the varieties and movement of light a special feature of the city, which deeply affected her artists and let to their feeling for the poetry of light."
---Andrew Robison
Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings,
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s by Giovanni Badile
The Poetry of Light is in chronological order beginning with Giovanni Badile's Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s, one of the earliest examples of an actual portrait of a specific individual -- not a ruler -- and ending with three of John Singer Sargent's brilliant watercolors from the early 1900s. Perhaps the most fascinating room is dedicated to the wild imagination of Giambattista Piranesi, who is represented by ten pieces of work. Piranesi said, "I need great ideas and I think that if someone were to commission me with the project for a new universe, I'd be mad enough to accept."

A Magnificent Palatial Interior (1748/52) by Giambattista Piranesi
Robison praised Gabriella Belli, the Director of Venice's Civic Museums for a "magnificent collaboration," and said that her energy and enthusiasm allowed the exhibition to become reality. During the viewing, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabriella Belli, and told her what a great difference there was in the Musei Civici under her leadership. Venice is collaborating with some of the most prestigious museums in the world. Nations that are at odds politically are still able to communicate through culture. Belli said that she "believes in culture, and the effect it has on humanity," and that she wanted to do something "for the people."

I also spoke with Andrew Robison, whose passion for culture is contagious. I told him how thrilled I was that the United States had brought such an exhibition to Venice, and what a pleasure it was to meet like-minded Americans. Robison said that it was important to show that the US does not only lead when it comes to the military, but that we can also be leaders in culture.

Gondola Moorings on the Grand Canal (1904s/1907s) by John Singer Sargent
To make the exhibition the finest it could possibly be, Robison said that the Gallery gave everything; they didn't hold back anything. "It's not everything we own, but it is the best. We have given the best, our all." He said that after the show was over in March, it wasn't going to Paris, Berlin or London, the works were going back to the States. "Not for Paris, Berlin or London would we do this, but for Venice, yes."

Venetian drawings from the National Gallery of Art, Washington
December 6, 2014 to March 15, 2015
Organized by The National Gallery of Art, Washington
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Get Ready for VENICE CARNIVAL 2015! Masquerade Balls at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava

Intrigue. Romance. Splendor. Seduction. The Carnival of Venice tempts travelers from all over the globe to don a mask, slip into a costume, and step through the door to a different time. The mysterious grandeur of the Gothic Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava is the sumptuous setting for some of the most charming galas of the season.

The Grand Balls take place in the piano nobile of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava, a genuine 14th Century palace with an exclusive water entrance and Gothic windows overlooking the magical Misericordia canal. Gondoliers serenade guests upon arrival, along with a welcome cocktail. During the gala dinners, flickering candlelight and classical music illuminate the ancient rooms, whisking guests back to a time of enchantment. Traditional Venetian food is served, and wine is included. For dessert, a chocolate fountain oozes decadent delights, accompanied by traditional Carnival sweets. Live entertainment starts at 11:00PM, featuring something for every taste: arias from operas, burlesque and cabaret, minuets and gavottes -- and, of course, love songs on St. Valentine's Day. At midnight, it's time to hit the dance floor and rock the night away.

For those colorful couples who prefer to arrive after dinner, Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava also offers entrance to the live entertainment at 11:00PM, together with a bottle of Prosecco, the sparkling wine of the Veneto, and a bottle of Bellini, the Venetian cocktail made with Prosecco and peach nectar. Indulge at the dessert buffet, and dance to live music after the show.

Have a look below to find the ball that tempts you…


Saturday, February 7, 2015
"The Barber of Seville" and Homage to Gioachino Rossini
Gala dinner & live entertainment

Figaro! Arias from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," one of the most beloved operas of all time, is the entertainment for the first Saturday night of Carnival. A captive maiden, a salacious guardian, a handsome noble suitor, and Figaro, the barber, are the feisty ingredients for comic chaos.  

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias from Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening gown with mask
Cost: €365 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, "Barber of Seville," dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person 


Sunday, February 8, 2015
An homage to Placid Domingo, José Carreras & Luciano Pavarotti
Gala dinner & live entertainment

Years ago, The Three Tenors, Plàcido Domingo, José Carreras & Luciano Pavarotti, created a world-wide phenomenon as they toured the globe. As an homage, the Three Tenors at Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava perform favorite arias, Broadway hits and traditional Neapolitan songs.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias, Broadway hits and Neapolitan songs with the Three Tenors 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €320 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, the Three Tenors, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Thursday, February 12, 2015
Burlesque & Caffè-Concerto
Gala dinner and live entertainment

For the fourth year, La Dolce Vita Grand Ball dazzles with a naughty new burlesque extravaganza. Frolic at the caffé-concerto and enjoy the gaiety of the Belle Époque! 

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Burlesque show and caffé-concerto 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €325 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, burlesque show, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Saturday, February 14, 2015
Arias of love on St. Valentine's Day
Gala dinner and live entertainment

On Saint Valentine's Day, The Dogaressa Grand Ball features arias of love from the Bel Canto repertoire sung by the Three Sopranos, promising an evening full of romance, elegance and passion. There's poetry in the air!

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias of love sung by the Three Sopranos 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €365 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, arias of love, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Sunday, February 15, 2015
St. Valentine's Day Continues
Chocolate fountain and live entertainment

Saint Valentine's Day continues with the Pomeriggio Cioccolata or Afternoon Chocolate, in the Sansovino salon of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava. The Pomeriggio Cioccolata is an ancient custom of the Venetian nobility, dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A chocolate fountain surrounded by a buffet of deliciously decadent Carnival sweets is the centerpiece, accompanied by hot chocolate and the Venetian bubbly Prosecco while a soprano sings arias of love. Dance masters and ballerinas introduce guests to dances of the Baroque period, offering instructions on how to dance the Minuet, Gavotte and Jigs in the ballroom of the ancient palace.

16:00: Elegant cocktail with traditional hot chocolate and typical Venetian buffet of pastries
Arias of love performed by the Soprano
Masters of dance offer Baroque period dance instructions
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Gown with Mask 
Cost: €95 per person


Sunday, February 15, 2015
"La Serva Padrona"
Gala dinner & live entertainment

The homage to Pergolesi highlights his comic operetta "La Serva Padrona," or "The Servant Turned Mistress" featuring the wily maid Serpina who plots to marry her aging master.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias from "La Serva Padrona" by Giovan Battista Pergolesi
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €320 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, "La Serva Padrona," dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Martedi Grasso or Fat Tuesday - The Last Dance
Gala dinner & live entertainment

The Minuet Grand Ball on Mardi Gras, the last night of Carnival, takes place in the piano nobile of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava. The elegant Minuet was the favorite dance of European aristocrats. The masters of dance introduce guests to the Minuet, Gavotte and Jigs, and offer instruction in the ballrooms of the ancient palace. Join hands and dance the open-chain farandole throughout the palazzo -- a perfect way to end Carnival.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Minuet, Gavotte and Jig lessons by dance masters
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €295 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, dance masters, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person

Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava
Calle Racchetta 3764
Cannaregio, Venice

The Palace is a 5-minute walk from the Ca D'Oro vaporetto stop, or can be reached by its water door entrance which faces the Church of the Misericordia, allowing guests to arrive by gondola or taxi boat.

For further information and to buy your tickets, please visit Venezia Segreta:
Tel. +39 041.520.18.55
Tel. +39 348.359.18.18
Fax +39
Venice Carnival 2015 at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava is from the event planners at Incentive Harmony

*This is a sponsored post.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Humans as the Heart of Industry - America and LEWIS HINE at Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice

Worker on the Empire State Building (1931) - Photo by Lewis Hine
(Venice, Italy) Lewis Hine (1874-1940) was one of the first American photographers to use his camera to impact society. His revealing photos of children toiling in mills in the early 1900s were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States. He captured the frank expressions of bewildered immigrants arriving on Ellis Island, and the blackened faces of workers in the coal mines. His dramatic images of death-defying workers dancing like acrobats across steel girders during construction of the Empire State Building were awe-inspiring. By using photography to capture the human beings who were the engines of the industrial machine, Lewis Hine was a knight armed with a camera.

Addie Card, 12-year-old spinner (1910) - Photo: Lewis Whine
Nina Rosenblum grew up with the photographs of Lewis Hine, which she used to stick on the wall with a thumb tack because back then nobody thought they were worth anything. The Academy Award-nominated documentary film director is the daughter of the photographer, Walter Rosenblum, and the photographic historian, Naomi Rosenblum. Nina was here in Venice with her husband, Daniel Allentuck, who is the son of Maureen Stapleton. They are partners in life and work, founding Daedalus Productions, a non-profit film and television production company in 1980. On Friday, November 28, 2014, they screened their 1984 family-affair documentary, "America and Lewis Hine," at Casa Dei Tre Oci here in Venice, where Lewis Hine's photos are on show until December 8.

Lewis Hine was an early faculty member of the prestigious Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a private independent school in New York City whose core value is the respect for human dignity, and which has produced such diverse members of society as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Barbara Walters and Jeffrey Katzenberg. In the early 1900s, Hine took his students to Ellis Island and encouraged them to use photography as an educational medium. He documented the masses of immigrants fleeing an impoverished Europe, hoping for a better future in an America that was booming.

Ellis Island (1905) Photo: Lewis Hine
Hines then worked as a staff photographer for the newly-established Russell Sage Foundation, one of America's oldest foundations, whose mission is for the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States. In 1907, Hines documented living conditions in Pittsburgh, which was then the prototype of an industrial city, helping to influence public opinion about the harmful effects industry was having on society and the environment.

Child labor (1908) Photo: Lewis Hine
He next worked for National Child Labor Committee, using different guises to gain entry to mills, mines and factories to document the savage effects the grueling labor was having on America's children. He documented the efforts of the American Red Cross in Europe during and after WWI, and was the official photographer for the construction of the Empire State Building, recording the fearless men who worked at dizzying heights without safety harnesses.

Empire State Building (1931) Photo: Lewis Hine
Walter Rosenblum, Nina's father, who was interviewed during the film, met Lewis Hine when Rosemblum was 17-years-old and Hine was in his 60s. By then, Hine had lost his governmental and corporate contracts, as well as his house. Rosenblum was instrumental in preserving Hine's photos, and followed in his path. Walter Rosenblum recorded the D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944, was the first Allied photographer to enter the liberated Dachau concentration camp, and was a Purple Heart recipient. Through December 19, Rosenblum's photos can be seen in Rome in an exhibition called, "They Fight with Cameras."

By coincidence, I happen to be reading "Waterworks" by E.L. Doctorow, historical fiction set in New York City in 1871. From the back cover:

"In a city where every form of crime and vice flourishes, corruption is king, fabulous wealth stands on the shoulders of unspeakable want, and there are no limits to larceny."

Photo: Lewis Hine (1916)
The film reminded me that the current inequalities and extreme greed the planet is experiencing is nothing new under the sun, and it gave me hope: there are genuine photographers and filmmakers such as Nina Rosenblum and Daniel Allentuck who follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, recording social conditions in order to bring these issues into the public awareness and effect change. We have made progress since children in the United States were no better than slaves, and miners labored under horrific conditions in the coal mines. Lewis Hine fought with his camera to improve conditions for the working-class human beings that were the heart and soul of the industrial machine, allowing those with disposable income to spend it on Black Friday today.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, November 23, 2014

George Washington in the Nude - Sublime Canova - Revival of the Famed Sculptor in Venice

George Washington by Antonio Canova*
(Venice, Italy) I was astonished to learn that Antonio Canova (1757-1822), the renowned sculptor from the village of Possagno in the Veneto, had been commissioned to create a sculpture of George Washington by the North Carolina General Assembly back in 1816 for their State House when the Carolinians were feeling euphoric after the War of 1812. Thomas Jefferson himself urged that Canova, whom he considered the greatest sculptor in the world, create the neoclassical statue, which was brought to the United States on a war vessel, and arrived in Raleigh on December 24, 1821. Canova's depiction of Washington as an enlightened Roman general became "the pride and glory" of North Carolina, attracting visitors from near and far to their state capitol, including Washington's close friend, Lafayette.

Canova had never met George Washington, so he was sent a bust and a full-length portrait; the portrait never arrived, so Washington's body was left to Canova's imagination. Canova's instructions were that the style should be Roman, the size somewhat larger than life, and the attitude to be left to the artist. According to North Carolina Digital History, Countess Albrizzi described the statue in "The Works of Antonio Canova:"

If to this great man a worthy cause was not wanting, or the means of acquiring the truest and most lasting glory, neither has he been less fortunate after death, when, by the genius of so sublime an artist, he appears again among his admiring countrymen in this dear and venerated form; not as a soldier, though not inferior to the greatest generals, but in his loftier and more benevolent character of the virtuous citizen and enlightened lawgiver.

Unfortunately, the original statue was destroyed in a fire in the State House on June 21, 1831. North Carolina tried to replace it, to no avail. Then, in 1908, it was discovered that the original plaster model that Canova used to create the Cararra marble statue was in excellent condition in the Museum and Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in Canova's hometown of Possagno, a village in the former Republic of Venice, not far from Asolo in the foothills of the Venetian Alps. Diplomatic inquiries were made to see if a copy could be made from the original cast. On March 5, 1908, the Mayor of Possagno replied:

As a special favor, and making an exception to the rule 
that forbids the reproduction, the Administration of this
town has decided to permit the copy of the statue of
George Washington by Canova, of which a very fine
original model exists in this museum. Such concession has
been made with a view to paying a tribute of homage to
the great man who was the first President of the United
States, and to increase the admiration for the genius of
the celebrated artist who is a glory to our country. 

The Italian government itself then got involved, and decided that the King of Italy would present the replica to the North Carolina Historical Commission as a gift.  The replica of the original cast arrived in Raleigh in January, 1910, almost 100 years after the General Assembly decided to commission a statue of the Father of our Country. But it was not until 1970 that a marble replica by the Italian artist Romano Vio was completed, which is what stands in the rotunda of the capitol building in Raleigh, North Carolina today.

Replica of Canova's George Washington statue by Romano Vio
An interesting historical note: when the statue was first inaugurated in North Carolina back on Deccember 24, 1821, the Veneto was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a separate part of the Austrian Empire. Canova, who was then in his 60s was based in Rome, which was part of the Kingdom of Italy. However, his headquarters was in his hometown of Possagno, and he traveled there constantly throughout his life; he designed the neoclassical Tempio Canova, which was completed after his death in 1830. During the time of the Napoleonic conquests, Europe was in constant chaos as treaties and congresses divvied up territories, creating new, rapidly changing republics, kingdoms and empires with similar-sounding names.

Napoleon had forced the 1000-year-old Republic of Venice to surrender on May 12, 1797. Venice was then placed under Austrian domination on October 17, 1797 until December 26, 1805 when the Treaty of Fressburg again put Napoleon in control, who made the Veneto part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, titling himself "Emperor of the French and King of Italy." But the Veneto refused to live under French-Italian rule, and revolted.

When the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy collapsed, The Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815 gave the Veneto back to the Austrian Empire, who created the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. Venice then revolted against Austria in 1848, briefly establishing the Republic of San Marco until it surrendered to the Austrian Empire after 17 months. Finally, after the battle of Vittorio Veneto in 1918 during World War I, the Veneto became part of the Kingdom of Italy. So, there was a lot of diplomacy required to get the statue in the first place, and then again to acquire the plaster cast almost a century later.

I called the Museum and Gipsoteca Antonio Canova up in Canova's hometown of Possagno to see if the original model was still there. I spoke to Giancarlo Cunial of the Fondazione Canova, and he assured me that not only was the original model there, they also had three smaller plaster molds that Canova had created, one of which was George Washington in the nude! Since Canova had never received the full-length portrait, he needed to use his imagination to create Washington's body. Mr. Cunial informed me that although Canova had created the Washington statue while in Rome, the original models were now in Possagno, and since the marble statues were created from the original models, what they had in their museum was most precious of all.

Museo Correr
Which brings us to SUBLIME CANOVA, a work in progress. On November 18, 2014, there was a press conference at the Museo Correr to announce the collaboration between the Civic Museums of Venice Foundation, the Venice Foundation, the American Friends of Venice Foundation and the French Committee to Safeguard Venice to shine the spotlight on Antonio Canova, considered to be the greatest neoclassical European artist who ever lived. SUBLIME CANOVA is part of an overall project to transform the Correr Museum in Piazza San Marco into the Great Correr. The works of Canova will be restored, and the rooms of the museum arranged to highlight the celebrated sculptor from the Veneto, who died in Venice in 1822, just shy of his 65th birthday. His funeral was so spectacular it was said to have rivaled Michaelangelo's.

Daedulus and Icarus by Canova (1779)
The Comité Français pour la Savegarde de Venise has been around for years; they are responsible for restoring the Salla da Ballo inside the Correr, and the fine restoration of the apartments of my favorite empress, the feisty Elisbeth "Sissi"of Austria, who lived here in Venice when it was under Austrian rule -- as well as many other projects. And the prestigious Venice International Foundation was founded way back in 1966, after Venice's great flood, and is responsible for the restoration and preservation of a long list of works. It is headed by the universally-respected Franca Coin, who was here on behalf of the organization. But I was not aware of the American Friends of Venice, which is new, founded in 2012, and is the New York base of the Venice International Foundation. According to their website, their mission is:

Friends of Venice Italy is a non-profit organization that operates to raise funds for Venice. Founded in 2012, it selects and supports some of the charitable activities proposed by The Venice International Foundation, with particular reference to the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice in its work to preserve and enhance the art of Venice and its cultural heritage. As stated in a declaration signed by the president of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice, Friends of Venice Italy is in charge of representing and promoting its cultural activities in the United States of America.
Friends of Venice Italy aims to preserve and enhance Venice’s identity, respecting the social and environmental sustainability of the city in order to guarantee the link between past present and future, to promote cultural exchanges, to communicate and share ideas and knowledge, to offer new opportunities for research and cultural production, and to attract new talent and resources.

After learning about Canova's statue of George Washington, it is fitting that the American Friends of Venice focus their efforts on SUBLIME CANOVA. They've got some distinguished people on the Advisory Committee, including Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Bobby Kennedy's oldest daughter and JFK's niece, which makes the project an interesting circle between the Veneto, France and the US. 

Psyché Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Canova
Antonio Canova's work is in nearly every important museum on the planet, from the Louvre to the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Kunsthistorisches. Even though he was based in Rome, Canova's heart remained in the Veneto; he returned every year to his beloved village of Possagno. He died in Venice in 1822. He is buried in the Temple of Canova in Possagno, but his heart, literally, is here in Venice, in the monument based on the design Canova created for the great Venetian artist, Titian, inside the Frari.

Canova Monument - Frari 
The original plaster model for the Washington statue which is preserved in the Gipsoteca Canova in Possagno bears this inscription:

"Giorgio Washington al Popolo degli Stati Uniti 1796: Amici e concittadini…" which translates to "George Washington to the People of the United States 1796: Friends and fellow citizens…"

Apparently that inscription was not on the marble statue that arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina on Christmas Eve December 24, 1821. I wonder what George Washington would say to the People of the  United States of America today.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

*Top photo of George Washington by Canova from The Life of H. Ernest Chen blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

All Saints Day 2014 on the Island of San Michele, Venice

Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge grave - Venice, Italy - Venice Blog - photo by Cat Bauer
Grave of Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge
(Venice, Italy) That is what the grave of poet Ezra Pound and violinist Olga Rudge looks like on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. Nearly every time I go out there, someone asks me where the grave is, and even when I indicate the general direction, they still can't find it. That photo is from All Saints Day, so normally that many roses and other flowers aren't there. According to their wishes, the grave is embellished only with greenery. Perhaps people are expecting something more flashy and need to look down, not up, to find it.

Ezra Pound grave - Venice, Italy, Photo by Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Grave of Ezra Pound
By serendipity, I have run into Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, on All Saints Day before, and this year was no exception. Mary lives in Brunnenburg Castle up in South Tyrol, and comes down to visit her parent's tomb. I have had the good fortune to visit the castle a few times where Mary continues her father's work in her own elegant fashion. The woman is 89-years-old, and still radiates grace and charm.

Olga Rudge grave - Venice, Italy - Photo by Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Grave of Olga Rudge
Olga Rudge stood by Ezra Pound when he was arrested for being a traitor by the United States government during World War II, declared criminally insane and institutionalized in 1945 in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for more than twelve years. When Ezra Pound was finally released in 1958, he joined Olga here in Venice, where he died on November 1, 1972, All Saints Day. Two weeks before he died, at a reading he clarified his position:

 "re USURY / I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause. / The cause is AVARICE."

We can also thank Olga Rudge's advocacy of Antonio Vivaldi for much of his popularity today. I have written about Vivaldi before; here's a post from April 18, 2009:

Antonio Vivaldi - The Flaming Red Priest

Jospeh Brodsky grave - Venice, Italy - Photo by Cat Bauer - Venice Blog
Grave of Joseph Brodsky
Another grave I am often asked about is that of the Russian poet, Joseph Brodsky, who was also institutionalized by his government, the Soviet Union. (An amusing aside: After I, myself, had been institutionalized back in 2010 by an over-funded rogue section of the US government here in Italy, the sculptress, Joan Fitzgerald, who carved the headstones of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, comforted me: "All great writers have been institutionalized," to which I replied, "Well, I'd better write something great. They seem to be taking precautionary measures.")

The Barque of Dante by Georgy Frangulyan Photo: Alloggi Barbaria
Ezra Pound, Olga Rudge and Joseph Brodsky are buried among the cypress trees in the Evangelico section of San Michele, which looks like a graveyard right out of an Washington Irving story -- Ichabod Crane could be buried there. If you stand in the center with your back facing the entrance, turn left. About halfway to the end of the aisle, head into the section there on the left, and you will find Pound and Rudge. If you walk to the end of the aisle, on the right, you will find Brodsky.

I have written about All Saints Day and All Souls Day many times before. But for those of you who missed it, you might enjoy the post about when the Biennale Contemporary Music Festival ended on the Island of San Michele:

Cemetery Party in Venice - Music Amidst the Graves

Gods' aid, let not my bones lie in a public location

With crowds too assiduous in their crossing of it;

For thus are tombs of lovers most desecrated.

May a woody and sequestered place cover me with its foliage

Or may I inter beneath the hummock

of some as yet uncatalogued sand;

At any rate I shall not have my epitaph in a high road.
---from Homage to Sextus Propertius by Ezra Pound

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dynamic Weekend in Venice - Lunch at Aman Canal Grande, Peace at Palazzo Ducale, Pianist Prizes at La Fenice

The Venice Insider
Cat Bauer at Aman Canal Grande
(Venice, Italy) The Aman Canal Grande, where George and Amal Clooney were married, would like you to know that you are very welcome to come in for lunch, drinks or dinner.

I had heard some local gossip -- that Palazzo Papadopoli was only open to guests of the hotel; that the food was not up to par, etc. That was not the situation when I had visited in August of last year when I featured the Aman Canal Grande in the CNN Venice Insider Travel Guide. So when a friend recently expressed an interest in seeing the fabulous palace, I made arrangements for a tour and lunch on Monday so I could see firsthand what the situation was.

I am pleased to report that the food was exceptional  -- fresh, delicious and reasonably priced, and the palace was as welcoming as I remembered, elegant and homey.

Alcova Tiepolo Suite - Aman Canal Grande
At the close of the 19th century, Vera Papadopoli Aldobrandini married Count Giberto Arrivabene, with Palazzo Papadopoli as part of her dowry. Today, the palazzo is owned by her grandson, Count Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga; he and his wife, Bianca di Savoia Aosta, and kids still live on the top floor.

My friend and I were shown around the remarkable palace with wit and humor. Originally built in 1550 by the architect and follower of Sansovino, Gian Giacomo de Grigi, as commissioned by the Coccina Family, the palazzo was sold to the Tiepolo family in 1718 after the death of Francesco Coccina, the last descendant.

The Tiepolos were avid art collectors, and also employed the painter Giambattista Tiepolo to decorate rooms with frescoes, which still remain to this day. (Of course, I had to know if the Clooneys had stayed in the famous Tiepolo Suite, which is complete with a genuine Giambattista Tiepolo ceiling, and the answer was: Yes, they did.)

Yellow Dining Room - Aman Canal Grande
There are two piano nobile floors, and one rumor could have started because the fourth level of the palazzo is reserved only for hotel guests. But the public is absolutely welcome to enjoy the dining rooms and bar in the first piano nobile with stunning views of the Grand Canal. Also, there is a new chef from the oldest Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, so any kitchen concerns have been addressed. My friend and I each ordered the most expensive thing on the menu (€35), grilled fish -- a sea bass and a sole -- which were grilled to perfection and shared for us at the table, and accompanied by a generous assortment of grilled vegetables. There are not many places in Venice on the San Polo side of town where you can have a reasonably-priced lunch in such magnificent surroundings, so don't be shy -- just ring the bell and go on in!

1760, marzo 15. Venezia.
Francesco Loredan, doge di Venezia, rilascia la commissione a Giovanni Domenico Almorò Tiepolo, eletto ambasciatore ordinario a Luigi XV re di Francia.
There is an incredible exhibition over at Palazzo Ducale entitled FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE - The Long Walk from the Peace of Bologna to the Declaration of Human Rights (1530-1789). Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture, and Gianpaolo Scarante, the Italian Ambassador to Turkey, were among the luminaries present at the inauguration on October 25th. On show are about 70 documents that illustrate that the quest for peace is the supreme value of European culture.

I have known Alessandra Schiavon of the Archivio di Stato di Venezia for about 15 years, back from the time I first visited the immense Archives next to the Frari when I was writing for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily. It was deeply moving to see how hard she had worked to gather such pivotal documents together to illustrate the value Europe places on peace. Schiavon said it used to be that wars had beginnings, and wars had ends, and wars had specific territories -- not like today when we find ourselves constantly at war with enemies who have no borders, in wars against a concept like "terror," in wars that stretch on without limits. Ambassadors and diplomats worked hard for peace -- that was their occupation. (That image above is a March 15, 1760 document issued by Francesco Loredan, the Doge of Venice, commissioning one of those wealthy Tiepolos -- Giovanni Domenico Almorò Tiepolo -- to be the ambassador to Louis XV, King of France.)

1641, 24 gennaio-2 febbraio. Costantinopoli.
Capitolationi rinovate sotto sultan Ibraim, re al presente degli Ottomani.
Archivio di Stato di Venezia
The documents and names involved are riveting, and the captions have been translated into English. Some examples: January 5, 1530: "Emperor Charles V solemnly ratifies the peace treaty concluded during the Congress of Bologna with the Pope and the rulers of Europe." March 5, 1684: "The plenipotentiary ministers of Pope Innocent XI, the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I, King of Poland, John III Sobieski, Doge of Venice, Marc Antonio Giustinian sign a defense treaty." February 8, 1697, "Peter the Great, the Czar of Russia, Leopold I, the Hapsburg Emperor, Frederick Augustus II of Saxony and Silvestro Valier, Doge of Venice stipulate a reciprocal non-aggression and peace accord."

                                                                         1755, marzo 14. Vienna.
Maria Teresa imperatrice e Francesco Loredan doge di Venezia stipulano accordi in materia di confini e servizio postale.
Archivio di Stato di Venezia
Wars over territories. Wars between religions. One side groups up against another side, changes sides, changes back again. After viewing all those documents inside the Doge's Palace, and the many powers behind those documents, and the very serious disagreements and battles that had been hammered into compromises to achieve peace, it really made me wonder why we are having such a difficult time today just getting a moment to catch our breath.

Per il bene della Pace
Il lungo cammino verso l’Europa dalla pace di Bologna alla Dichiarazione dei diritti dell’uomo (1530-1789)
Venezia, Palazzo Ducale, Sala dello Scrutinio
25 ottobre 2014 – 12 gennaio 2015

Alessandro Marchetti - winner Premio Venezia
One of my favorite annual events is the PREMIO VENEZIA, a national pianist competition held by the Fondazione Amici Della Fenice at La Fenice. Every year, young pianists throughout Italy compete for the top prize, which includes substantial sums of money to continue their studies, as well as concerts in prestigious venues. The Premio Venezia is funded entirely with private money, and is one of the most important events of the season, always drawing a full-house invitation-only crowd.

This year the Premio Venezia was won by Alessandro Marchetti, who was born in Pavia, Italy in 1998, the year I arrived in Venice, which makes him, astonishingly, only 16-years-old. Adrian Nicodim, who was born in Galati, Romania in 1992, won second place, which also includes a good chunk of money and concerts. Both young men exhibited composure, grace and talent, and performed admirably.

In a planet filled with chaos and strife, it is an honor to have the privilege of living in La Serenissima, a city that still focuses on the highest principles the civilized world has to offer.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog