Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Villa Barbaro - Paradise on Earth - Palladio & Veronese in the Veneto


Villa Barbaro - Photo Cat Bauer
Villa Barbaro in Maser
(Venice, Italy) On Monday, I visited Paradise on Earth when I went to Villa Barbaro, also known as Villa di Maser, a masterpiece designed by the great architect, Andrea Palladio, in about 1560. Villa Barbaro is a magical estate that was conceived to link the secular to the sacred -- to connect the human to the divine. It is Alice in Wonderland come to life.

Room of the Little Dog Photo Cat Bauer
Room of the Little Dog
Inside, the walls are decorated with astonishing optical illusions by another one of my favorites, the feisty artist, Paolo Veronese. Motifs of everyday life are connected to images of a sacred nature. What is real? What is illusion?

Veronese fresco at Villa Barbaro
This marriage of Palladio and Veronese came about because of the brothers Daniele and Marcantonio Barbaro, the two wise owners of the property, humanists who had a profound influence on art, literature and architecture in Venice and the Veneto during the Renaissance.

The Barbaro brothers were international representatives of Venice. Daniele, the older brother, was a diplomat and scholar; he translated and commented on Vitruvius, and was prominent in the Church, achieving the rank of Cardinal. Marcantonio was Venice's ambassador to France, Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire, and also used his position as a powerful Senator to influence public architecture.

Veronese ceiling fresco
If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I have become obsessed by the Renaissance in general, Venice in particular. It blows my mind that the Renaissance was actually orchestrated by a group of enlightened people. .

Veronese fresco at Villa Barbaro, Maser
Maser, Conversations in Villa will be an ongoing project presented by Villa Barbaro, the Veneto Region, and the village of Maser, just north of Treviso.

The first conversation was Paolo Veronese - The Triumph of Light with Irina Artemieva of The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Giuseppe Pavanello of the University of Trieste, and Denis Ton, of the Museum of Belluno, and it took place inside the villa with fantastic images by Veronese dancing all around us.

Elaborate frescoes depicting gods, time, justice, fame and fortune dazzled the senses. Frescoed people peered down upon real people from the ceiling: frescoed figures opened frescoed doors painted on real walls that led to whatever one could dream of lying beyond.

Diamante Luling Buschetti (in turquoise)
Can you imagine living in such a place? Well, Diamante Luling Boschetti and Vittorio Dalle Ore actually do. Diamante is the granddaughter of the wealthy industrialist Count Giuseppe Volpi, who bought the villa in 1934, and brought the neglected estate back to its current prime condition. Diamante -- which means Diamond -- was born there, and later inherited the treasured property.

Inside Villa Barbaro
During the Venetian Republic, Villa Barbaro was a working farm, complete with vineyard. Under the care of Diamante and Vittorio, the villa continues to flourish, producing high-quality wines created with strictly-regulated grapes grown for the ancient winery. The visit to the villa also included a sampling of cheeses and meats, washed down with the Nectar of the Gods.

Nymphaeum at Villa Barbero
Villa Barbaro is also remarkable for the Nymphaeum in its garden. The Archaic Greeks worshiped waterways as gods and goddesses that gave life. Rushing rivers were masculine; gentle springs were feminine; two rivers of equal size that flowed together were man and wife. Nymphs were divine spirits that animated nature, and a nymphaeum was sort of like a shrine to a nymph.

In other words, there was a spring. Next to the spring was a cave. The cave, or grotto, became a shrine to the particular nymph who protected the spring.

Grotto at Villa Barbaro - Photo by Cat Bauer
Grotto inside the Nymphaeum at Villa Barbero - Photo: Cat Bauer
There was a natural spring on the Barbaro property when the brothers inherited the country estate, which was believed to have been a place of worship in earlier times, and it was decided to create the Nymphaeum, complete with grotto, in the design. With true synchronicity, it turned out that the current owner, Diamante, is the cousin of a friend of mine, and I was given the rare opportunity to snap a photo of the inside of the grotto.

Tempietto Barbaro
Tradition says that Palladio died in Maser in 1580 while working on the building of the tempietto, the last structure he designed (along with the Teatro Olimpico, a Renaissance theatre in Vicenza), and the first religious structure to be attached to a Palladian villa. Designing the tempietto was a dream come true for Palladio, allowing him to combine a circle and a Greek cross, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The Temple served the Villa Barbaro, and was also the church of Maser, located at the foot of the hill where the villa stands.

The Little Dog at Villa Barbaro
To get to Villa Barbaro without a car from Venice is a matter of coordinating public transportation. I took a train to Treviso, then transferred to a train to Montebelluno. I got off and asked the station how to get to the villa, then took the #162 bus that passed through Maser; it was about a 10 minute walk to the villa. (You could also take a taxi from the Belluna train station.) It took just under two hours to get there from Venice.

More synchronicity: after the lecture, I ran into a friend from Treviso, who drove me straight to the station, and got back to Venice in about an hour.

Villa di Maser, Villa Barbaro, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is open to the public. Check the website for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. On Monday, I visited Paradise on Earth when I went to Villa Barbaro, also known as Villa di Maser, a masterpiece designed by the great architect, Andrea Palladio, in about 1560. Villa Barbaro is a magical estate that was conceived to link the secular to the sacred -- to connect the human to the divine. It is Alice in Wonderland come to life.

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