Thursday, June 30, 2016

Flashback Summer! Napoleon Interview - Palladio's Refectory on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

Baldassare Longhena Stair Hall at Giorgio Cini Foundation - Photo: Cat Bauer
Baldassare Longhena Stair Hall at Giorgio Cini Foundation
(Venice, Italy) I wrote about Palladio's Refectory at the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore back on April 15, 2012 when it re-opened after being restored. I had been reading old articles written by Art Buchwald, who I had always loved. I can't remember the exact column, but I think he had conducted an imaginary interview with someone who was dead, and I thought that sounded like a fun thing to do. So, I interviewed Napoleon instead of writing a straight post about Palladio's Refectory. Although I am certainly no Art Buchwald, it turned out to be one of my more popular posts, and is evergreen, so here it is again for Flashback Summer:

Palladio’s Refectory - Unveiling of the Restoration

Palladio’s Refectory with Paolo Veronese’s Wedding at Cana facsimile
(Venice, Italy) On September 11, 1797, the French commissars of the Napoleonic army swiped Paolo Veronese's immense painting, Wedding at Cana, from the Palladio Refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore as war booty. The original is now in the Louvre, in Paris. On September 11, 2007, on the 210th anniversary of the removal, a computerized recreation was unveiled.

From Wikipedia:

On 11 September, 2007, the 210th anniversary of the looting of the painting by Napoleon's troops, a facsimile of the original was hung in its original place in the Palladian Refectory. The computerized facsimile was commissioned by the Giorgio Cini Foundation of Venice with the collaboration of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, where the original remains, and made by the Factum Arte Institute of Madrid, headed by the British artist Adam Lowe. It consists of 1,591 computer graphic files.

I decided to ask The Emperor himself what he thought about the situation. I found Napoleon sitting in the French Quarter of the Afterworld, sipping Champagne.

"Are the French ever going to give the Wedding at Cana back to Venice?"

Horses of San Marco
Napoleon frowned. "They got back the horses. It is enough."

"Yes, they got back the horses, but the Venetians stole them from Constantinople in the first place, so they don't really count," I insisted. "The Wedding at Cana was painted specifically by Veronese to decorate the Palladian Refectory. It was there for 235 years until your troops ripped it off the wall."

"It was war, ma petite chérie. These things happen." Napoleon looked me over and raised an eyebrow. "Where are you from? America?"

"...Yes," I hesitated. "But I've lived in Venice since 1998."

"Remember when the Americans changed the name French fries to Freedom fries in 2003 because we told them not to invade Iraq? That was amusing. They even changed the name on the menus in the restaurants and snack bars in the House of Representatives!" Napoleon chuckled. "French fries come from Belgium."

"So, you're not giving it back."

"Never." The Emperor became serious. "Do you know how much we spent to restore that painting? More than a million dollars. We're keeping it. The fascimile is excellent. Most people will never realize it is a copy."

"The House of Representatives put French fries back on the menu in 2006..."


Wedding at Cana - Musée du Louvre
Back on Earth, inside the Palladian Refectory, the facsimile is, indeed, excellent; the latest restoration of the refectory itself -- especially the wooden paneling, which gives warmth to the room -- has re-established the original vision shared between Palladio and Veronese.

From the Giorgio Cini Foundation:

After having been closed for a year for major structural and functional restoration works, Palladio’s Refectory with Paolo Veronese’s Wedding at Cana facsimile is once more open for public use. Architect Michele De Lucchi’s refurbishing project for the refectory involved various important operations: the renovation of the roof, which required urgent repair work; the modernisation of the air-conditioning and lighting plants and equipment; the introduction of up-to-date security equipment; and the installation of wooden paneling on the interior walls and floors to restore the acoustic and aesthetic function of the old wainscoting, which had been removed during the various uses of the Island of San Giorgio before Vittorio Cini’s redevelopment programme in the 1950s. 
...The restoration work was funded by the Magistrato alle Acque, Venice, and Arcus spa. 

It is possible to visit the monumental complex of San Giorgio Maggiore and see the marvelous Palladio Refectory yourselves thanks to guided tours organized with Codess Cultura. 

For further information, please visit 

Information and reservations:
Codess Cultura
+39 041 5240119 

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The First Ghetto - Venice, the Jews and Europe at Palazzo Ducale

The Venice Insider - Cat Bauer
Multimedia copper melting cast
(Venice, Italy) On March 29, 1516, the Venetian Senate decreed that "The Jews must all live together." Five hundred years later, Venice is commemorating the creation of the Jewish Ghetto, the very first time the word "ghetto" was used to signify a segregated part of a city.

Venetie MD by Jacopo de' Barbari (1500)
Where did the word come from? No one was certain, but in 1500, Jacopo de' Barbari provided Venice with an excellent birds-eye view map of the city. The zone that was later to become the Ghetto was labeled geto "iactus ramis."

Venice also has nearly 50 miles of ancient documents stored in the State Archive over at the Frari -- Venetians documented everything for centuries -- and research indicated that Geto was the area where the waste from the old copper smelter was dumped, which later morphed into the Ghetto Nuovo.

Cat Bauer - The Venice Insider
The Geto before the Ghetto
The exhibition kicks off with sound effects and a cool multimedia smelting pot with crackling stones that burst into flames, leaving it up to your imagination to create the world that existed in that part of town before the Jews were shuffled off to "all live together" in the Ghetto.

Cat Bauer - The Venice Insider
Parochet - Classic damask green silk - second half of 16th century
In its heyday, Venice was a cosmopolitan city, a trade emporium that connected the eastern Mediterranean with Northern Europe, as well as a stopping point for pilgrims heading toward the Holy Land.

Venice had allowed Jews to enter the city as war refugees after they were expelled from Spain in 1492 -- the same time that Christopher Columbus set off to discover the New World -- and Portugal in 1496. They also implemented a deliberate strategy of welcoming other religious and national communities like Germans, Orthodox Greeks, Albanians, Persians and Turks, communities that were important for the republic's economic activities. Each of the foreign communities was assigned a zone in which to operate.

Cat Bauer - The Venice Insider
Gilt leather panel - late 16th-early 17th century
Outside the Ghetto, the Jews were a politically weak entity, but inside the walls, they were autonomous, with Jews from all over the world -- German and Italian, Levantine, Western and Portuguese -- creating their own world within the world of Venice.

The exhibition is divided into ten sections:
  •  Before the Ghetto
  • Cosmopolitan Venice
  • The Cosmopolitan Ghetto
  • Synagogues
  • Jewish Culture and the Role of Women
  • Trade in the 17th and 18th Century
  • Tales of the Ghetto. The Shadow of Shylock
  • Napoleon: the Opening of the Gates and Assimilation
  • Treves Room - Collecting & Collectors
  • The Twentieth Century
You regular readers will remember a while back when Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's newly-elected mayor, declared that he was going to sell off some artwork to raise cash, causing all sorts of uproar, one of the pieces being The Rabbi of Vitebsk (The Praying Jew) by Marc Chagall. Well, it has been more than a year since Brugnaro has been Venice's mayor, and he seems to have calmed down a bit. Now it seems a place has been found for the painting at the Venice, the Jews and Europe exhibition.

Marc Chagall
Rabbino N. 2
1914 – 1922
olio su tela
cm 104 x 84
Venezia, Ca’ Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna
©Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Archivio Fotografico
Marc Chagall's life is like a 20th Century version of life in the Venice Ghetto. His parents were devote Hasidic Jews. When he was growing up in Russia, Jewish children were not allowed to attend regular Russian schools or universities; their movement inside the city was also restricted. So, his mother bribed the headmaster, and they let him in, where he discovered art, and grew up to become "the world's preeminent Jewish artist," traveling between St. Petersburg, Paris and Berlin.

In 1914, while visiting Vitebsk (now Belarus), where he was born, Chagall realized that the traditions he had grown up with were disappearing, and he wanted to document them. He paid a beggar to pose in his father's prayer clothes. He had intended to return to Paris, but was stuck in Russia until 1923 after World War I and the Russian Revolution broke out. Then, in 1923, he brought the painting with him to Paris and found out that much of the work he had left there had disappeared during the war.

So, before he left his studio, he made two more paintings of The Praying Jew after the original 1914 composition -- that is how serious he was about the record he wanted to leave. The original is now in the Kunstmuseum in Basel; the other 1923 painting is in the Art Institute in Chicago; the 1923 painting here in Venice is normally on display at Ca' Pesaro, but is now happily inside the Doge's Apartment at Palazzo Ducale as long as Venice, the Jews and Europe is running.

Go see the Chagall.

The Ghetto in Venice today - Cat Bauer - The Venice Insider
Ghetto in Venice today
Venice, Jews and Europe 1516 - 2016 is at the Doge's Palace inside the Doge's Apartments from June 19 until November 13, 2016.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Venetian Affair - the Book Comes Alive at Palazzo Pisani in Venice

Andrea di Robilant does A Venetian Affair at Palazzo Pisani - Photo: Cat Bauer Venice Blog
Andrea di Robilant does A Venetian Affair at Palazzo Pisani - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century by Andrea di Robilant was first published in hardcover in 2003, based on ancestral letters written in secret code that Andrea's father found up in the attic of Palazzo Mocenigo. I remember when the English edition came out in Venice in 2004 because two different aristocrats gave it to me as a gift, tripping over each other to be the first to deliver it, a 21st Century version of the intriguing -- and comedic -- love story.

Soprano Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer Venice Blog
Soprano Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer
Since then, A Venetian Affair has been transformed into a show, with Andrea di Robilant himself reading the letters written by his ancestor, Andrea Memmo. The American soprano and long-time Venice resident, Liesl Odenweller, not only hits the high notes accompanied by Venice Music Project, a Baroque ensemble, she reads the letters that Giustiniana Wynn wrote to her lover.

The Venice Insider
Courtyard of Palazzo Pisani - Photo: Cat Bauer
I have seen the show twice before, but never at monumental Palazzo Pisani in Campo Santo Stefano, a Venetian palace built in 1614-15 -- the largest after Palazzo Ducale itself -- which is now the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Music. It just so happened that Andrea Memmo's mother was part of the ancient Pisani family, so watching the show in Palazzo Pisani brought home what kind of imposing foundation Giustiniana Wynne, the illegitimate daughter of a British father and Greek-born Venetian mother, was up against when trying to marry into Venetian nobility.

Gianni De Luigi, Andrea di Robilant, Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer Venice Blog
Gianni De Luigi, Andrea di Robilant, Liesl Odenweller - Photo: Cat Bauer
This time A Venetian Affair had a little help from Venetian director Gianni De Luigi. I don't know whose idea it was, but I really liked that this time the lute from the Largo of Vivaldi's Concerto in D major, RV 93 accompanied the reading of Memmo's sexual fantasy about Giustiniana, which you can read below.

I wrote an extensive post two years ago about the experience when I saw it at San Giovanni Evangelista, so it's time for Flashback Summer a little early this year:

Perfect Evening in Venice - A Venetian Affair at Venice Music Project

The Venice Insider
A Venetian Affair at San Giovanni Evangelista - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) If you have ever been in Venice when the spirits of the past make an appearance in the present, you know how wondrous it can be. On Friday, June 27, all the elements came together to create a magical evening when Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair, told the story of his ancestor, Andrea Memmo (1729-1793) and his clandestine love affair with the alluring Giustiniana Wynne (1737-1791).

The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista where the Venice Music Project is based was the venue. Interspersed perfectly between the story were Baroque melodies played by the Venetia Antiqua Ensemble on original instruments, with soprano Liesl Odenweller bringing alive arias that were composed during the same era.

The Venice Insider
Andrea di Robilant - Venice Music Project
Andrea Memmo was the oldest son of one of Venice's oldest, wealthiest and most powerful families -- he was Andrea di Robilant's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. In 1919, the author's grandfather, also named Andrea di Robilant, inherited Palazzo Mocenigo, one of Venice's most magnificent palaces. Andrea's father, Alvise, found a carton of letters up in the attic, and they turned out to be be love letters written by Andrea Memmo to Giustiniana Wynne -- in secret code. Father and son worked together and broke the code, but Andrea's father was murdered during the project, and Andrea carried on alone, resulting in the New York Times notable book,  A Venetian Affair - A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century.

Giustiniana Wynne was the illegitimate daughter (her parents later married) of a British father, Sir Richard Wynne, and Greek-born Venetian mother, Anna Gazini. Giustiniana was the oldest of their five children, and was raised solely by Anna after the death of Sir Richard.

Giustiniana met Andrea Memmo at Palazzo Balbi, the home of Joseph Smith, the British Consul and Canaletto patron, and the two fell passionately in love; she was not quite 18; he was 24. (Giustiniana called him Memmo, and I will, too, since there are an abundance of Andreas in this story.) When Giustiniana's mother, Anna, learned of the affair, she forbade it, wanting to preserve her daughter's reputation. Venetian society at the time dictated that the oldest son of a patrician family must marry into Venetian nobility.

But Memmo was head-over-heels in love, as was Giustiniana, as their letters reveal. To communicate, the young couple developed a written secret code, as well as a sign language, and bombarded each other with love letters delivered by a boy named Alvisetto. They dashed all over town, hoping for a glimpse of one another. Anyone familiar with Venice can picture the scene depicted in one of Memmo's letters:

Yesterday I tried desperately to see you. Before lunch the gondoliers could not serve me. After lunch I went looking for you in Campo Santo Stefano. Nothing. So I walked toward Piazza San Marco, and when I arrived at the bridge of San Moisè I ran into Lucrezia Pisani! I gave her my hand on the bridge, and then I saw you. I left her immediately and went looking for you everywhere. Finally I found you in the Piazza. I sent Alvisetto ahead to find out whether you were on your way to the opera or to the new play at the Teatro Sant'Angelo so that I could rush to get a box in time. Then I forged ahead and waited for you, filled with desire. Finally you arrived and I went up to my box so that I could contemplate you -- not only for the sheer pleasure I take in admiring you, but also in the hope of receiving a sign of acknowledgment as a form of consolation. But you did nothing of the sort. Instead you laughed continuously, made loud noises until the end of the show, for which I was both sorry and angry -- as you can well imagine. 

Venetia Antiqua Ensemble
The music performed between the intervals in the story moved the action along seamlessly. Pieces composed by Vivaldi, J.A. Hasse and Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello provided the soundtrack to the love story. Memmo desperately wanted to be with Giustiniana, and tried several schemes to make that happen. When the elderly John Smith's wife died, Memmo directed Giustiniana to seduce the old man in the hopes of making a marriage, thereby opening up the possibility for Giustiniana to be seen in the company of gentlemen -- since she would be a properly married woman. At first Giustiniana was outraged, then saw Memmo's logic, and made the attempt. She writes:

I've never seen Smith so sprightly. He made me walk with him all morning and climbed the stairs, skipping the steps to show his agility and strength. [The children] were playing in the garden at who could throw stones the furthest. And Memmo, would you believe it? Smith turned to me and said, "Do you want to see me throw a stone further than anyone else?" I thought he was kidding, but no: he asked [the children] to hand him two rocks and threw them toward the target. He didn't even reach it, so he blamed the stones, saying they were too light. He then threw more stones. By that time I was bursting with laughter and kept biting my lip.

My favorite letter was the young Memmo's sexual fantasy about his beloved:

As I lay in bed alone for so long I thought of the days when we will be together, comforting each other at night. This idea led to another and then to another and soon I was so fired up I could see you in bed with me. You wore that nightcap of yours I like so much, and a certain ribbon I gave you adorned your face so sweetly. You were so near to me and so seductive I took in your tender fragrance and felt your breath. You were in a deep sleep -- you even snored at times. You had kept me company all evening long with such grace that I really didn't have the heart to wake you up... but then a most fortunate little accident occurred just as my discretion was exhausting itself. You turned to me at the very moment in which you dreamed of being in my arms. Nature, perhaps encourage by habit, led you to embrace me. So there we were, next to each other, face to face and mouth to mouth! Your right leg was leaning on my left leg. Little by little the beak of the baby dove began to prick you so forcefully that in your sleep you moved your hand in such a way the thirsty little creature found the door wide open. Trembling from both fear and delight, it entered oh so gently into that little cage and after quenching its thirst it began to have some fun, flying about those spaces and trying to penetrate them as far as it could. It was so eager and made such a fuss that in the end you woke up.

It was not long before Memmo's scheme was found out -- Venice being the gossipy town that it is -- and Smith, furious, banished him from Palazzo Balbi. Undeterred, Memmo then plotted to marry Giustiniana secretly in the church, and the church was happy to oblige, eager to capture such a notable young nobleman. But when Giustiniana insisted that Memmo seriously consider what he would lose -- his entire life and career -- he reconsidered.

He next decided that he would marry Giustiniana legally, in front of the entire world -- all he needed to do was to change the law itself. He was not the only young man who wanted to move the oligarchy into modern times; there were other aristocrats in the same spot, and Memmo had the wealth and power to do it. He came very close to persuading enough nobility to join his cause until a document was found in the Archives revealing that Giustiniana's mother, Anna, had been deflowered by a Greek in her youth, and that was the end of that.

Andrea di Robilant and Liesl Odenweller
In the end, both Memmo and Giustiana married others, but remained lifelong friends; Giustiniana even went to Memmo's daughter's wedding. Memmo became governor of Padua and Ambassador to Constantinople; Giustiana married Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the Austrian Ambassador to Venice, and then became a respected writer. Although they have been gone for more than 200 hundred years, their great love story lives on.

Titian's Assumption at the Frari
Coda: As we left San Giovanni Evangelista and headed toward dinner, a chorus of angels filled the night air. The door to the Frari was wide open, and Titian's Assumption of the Virgin glowed as if it were lit by heaven itself. We entered the enormous basilica and learned it was a free concert -- a perfect coda to a perfect evening in mystical, magical Venice.

Click for Venice Music Project
Click for Andrea di Robilant
Click for Liesl Odenweller

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Better than a Photo - Ippolito Caffi at Museo Correr - Venice Museums by Moonlight

Venice Museums by Moonlight - inside Palazzo Ducale
(Venice, Italy) The Correr Museum and Palazzo Ducale are now open to the public until 11:00PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, an idea I think is fantastic. Visiting a museum at night is a magical experience. It is like a childhood adventure where statues come alive and phantoms from the past whisper secrets in your ear.

Venice: Carnival Evening by Ipolitto Caffi (1860)
One exhibit you can visit at the Museo Correr any time until November 22 is a celebration of the work of the landscape painter, Ippolito Caffi - Between Venice and the Orient. Caffi died 150 years ago when he lost his life on the sinking ship Re d'Italia during the Battle of Lissa in 1866, a battle in which the Austrian Empire fought Italy, who were trying to capture Venice, which was then under Austrian rule.

Venice: The Molo at Sunset by Ipolitto Caffi (1864)
Here's some backstory: Italy became a nation-state called the Kingdom of Italy on March 17, 1861, but Venice was not part of it. Venice was an independent republic from 697 until 1797 when Napoleon conquered her, and then gave her to Austria. In 1848-1849, Venice briefly overthrew her Austrian rulers, and Ippolito Caffi, a fierce Venetian patriot, was part of the revolution that created the Republic of San Marco, which existed for 17 months. The Veneto did not want to be part of Italy, or Austria, or any other country, they wanted their independence back (they still do:-). However, Austria reconquered Venice on August 28, 1849. 

Venice: Regatta on the Grand Canal by Ipolitto Caffi (before 1848-49)
Almost seventeen years later, on July 20, 1866, Caffi was on the ship Re d'Italia to document the Kingdom of Italy's battle with the Austrians upon whom they had declared war. The Re d'Italia was rammed by the Ezherzog Ferdinand Max, and sank, taking some 400 of her crew down with her, including the captain -- and including Ippolito Caffi.

Back in the days when wars were actually declared and when peace treaties were actually negotiated to end the bloodshed, the Armistice of Cormons was signed a few weeks later on August 12, 1866 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire.

On October 12, 1866, according to the Treaty of Vienna, the Austrian Empire ceded Venetia to the French Empire, who ceded it to the Kingdom of Italy. So, it is also the 150 year anniversary that Venice has been part of Italy -- less than the United States of America has been a republic -- who, by the way, had built the armored frigate, the Re d'Italia (which means "King of Italy") in New York City for the Italian Royal Navy.

Italy became a republic on June 2, 1946, just 70 years ago, when it voted to abolish the monarchy and elect its head of state.

Venice: Snow and Fog by Ipollito Caffi (1842)
Ippolito Caffi was not just a revolutionary, he was the most modern and original landscape artist of his time. Born in Belluno, but Venetian by choice, he traveled throughout Italy, Europe and the Mediterranean, his exquisite paintings immortalizing the exotic cities he visited, and the people who lived there.

Egypt: Caravan in the Desert by Ippolito Caffi (1843)
More than 150 paintings were donated to Venice by Caffi's widow, Virginia Massana, back in 1889, and are normally conserved at the depositories at Ca' Pesaro. The exhibition commemorates the double anniversary of the death of Caffi, and the annexation of Venice into Italy.

Ippolito Caffi - 1809 - 1866 - Between Venice to the Orient runs through November 22, 2016.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog