Tuesday, 21 June 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

1 comment:

  1. 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.