Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Most Powerful Kiss in Art: Do you know what MAGISTER GIOTTO in Venice is?

(Venice, Italy) The husband and wife kissing in the poster for MAGISTER GIOTTO you see all over Venice are Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus Christ.

Joachim was a wealthy, pious man, and Anne was his beloved, but childless wife -- a situation that gave the couple much grief. Both were descendants of the house of David. Joachim was generous with his wealth, giving to the poor and making offerings to the temple. Then one day the high priest said he would not accept Joachim's offerings because he was childless, and, therefore, God must be displeased with him.

Joachim went off to the desert to fast and pray for 40 days and nights, while Anne sobbed and prayed at home in their garden. An angel appeared separately to both of them, and promised the devout couple that they would have a child, even in their old age -- and not just any child, but the mother of God. They were instructed to meet each other at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem.

The Meeting at the Golden Gate by Giotto
In 1305, Giotto di Bondone, one of the greatest artists to grace the planet, captured the moment that Joachim and Anne kissed each other for the first time after receiving the angelic news, and immortalized it in a fresco inside the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Some people interpret the kiss as the Immaculate Conception itself.

And the woman in black? There is much disagreement about who she is, but the theory I like the best is that she is Mary, the mother of Jesus, after Christ was crucified, witnessing the moment of her own conception. Very quantum theory.

Back in 2007, Tom Lubbock wrote an excellent piece for The Independent called, Bondone, di Giotto: The Meeting at the Golden Gate (1305) where he examines famous kisses in art, this kiss in particular.

I did not know any of that before I saw MAGISTER GIOTTO at the Scuola Grande della Misercordia.

Magister Giotto
MAGISTER GIOTTO is billing itself as an exhibition in an unprecedented format, a visual journey that tells a story with high-definition images, narration and music. It is not an interactive bombardment of the senses, but rather a 55-minute spiritual and intellectual experience that hopes to blow the dust off Giotto and fling him into the spotlight of the present.

Giotto is considered the first great artist to contribute to the Renaissance, and after you visit the exhibition, you will understand why.

Giotto press conference - Scuola Grande della Misericordia - Photo: Cat Bauer
MAGISTER GIOTTO is the first in a series of three exhibitions backed by Cose Belle d'Italia, a company founded by Stefano Vegni, VP General Manager of Citibank, Milan. The great Italian sculptor Canova is up next in 2018, followed by Raphael in 2019. Originating in Venice, the exhibitions will then travel around the world. From the Cose Belle d'Italia website:

Cose Belle d’Italia is a group that aggregates Italian companies representing Made in Italy excellence, acquiring, preserving and valorising them within an integrated system based on the perennial values of Italian beauty, culture and ‘the good life’.

The group operates across all sectors, creating value and promoting the propagation of excellence among its subsidiaries.

Fully owned by Europa Investimenti S.p.A., Cose Belle d’Italia was founded in 2013 following the definition of its ‘Manifesto’, which sets the key points on which the vision and mission of the company are based. The first acquisitions began in the spring of 2014.

Magister Giotto
Luca Mazzieri, the Artistic Director, said they chose Giotto because it is the 750th anniversary of his birth, and that he is an artist who is "much talked about, but not yet well-known."

The main exhibition consists of seven spaces on the first floor of the immense Scuola Grande della Misericordia, each with a different theme. Visitors are organized into groups of about 15-20 people that depart every 15 minutes. The visitors put on headsets, and the narrative starts, sort of like a documentary film that you wander through, with background music by jazz musician, Paolo Fresu.

The Italian narrator is Luca Zingaretti, one of the most well-known actors in Italy, who plays Salvo Montalbano in the Commissario Montalbano TV mystery series. (The TV show is based on the addictive novels by Andrea Camilleri, which I highly recommend reading. They are translated into English, with a creative solution when the characters slip from Italian into Sicilian.)

The themes of the seven spaces are:

1.  The Birth of the Myth 
2.  The Story of Saint Francis
3.  The Places of Giotto
4.  Giotto and the Painted Cross
5.  Giotto and Florence
6.  The Scrovegni Chapel
7.  Giotto and Halley's Comet

Envy by Giotto
The images are high-definition, blown up to reveal details not possible to see in situ; you are surrounded by images so that you can immerse yourself in Giotto's work. For instance, during the last decade, I have become fascinated by the deadly sin, "Envy," which Wikipedia defines as:
Envy (from Latin invidia) is an emotion which "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it".
I was speaking about envy just before I went to see the exhibition, and then there it was -- wicked tongue, big ears, bag of money and all -- up there on the wall, so close that I could walk over and almost touch it.

Magister Giotto - Photo: Cat Bauer
I thought the exhibition was terrific. An immense amount of research provided by a cast of luminaries in their fields takes us through many aspects of Giotto's life, revealing an impressive amount of fresh information. Giotto completely transformed the art of painting. The Italian painter Cennino Cennini nailed it when he said, "Giotto translated the art of painting from Greek to Latin."  

Adoration of the Magi by Giotto
The exhibition concludes with the Giotto spacecraft mission in 1986, run by the European Space Agency. The spacecraft was the first to get up close and personal with Halley's Comet. The ESA named the spacecraft "Giotto" because the painter had seen the comet in 1301, and included it as the Star of Bethlehem in his Adoration of the Magi manger scene that he painted in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua around 1305.

MAGISTER GIOTTO is at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia through November 5, 2017, and is a MUST SEE. Tickets are €18, but there are many discounts; for instance, the exhibition is FREE for residents of Venice every Tuesday. Go to MAGISTER GIOTTO for more information.

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Alice Neel, Uptown at Victoria Moro Gallery + Venice Biennale Honors Women who Direct

Mother and Child by Alice Neel (1938) - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Victoria Miro, "a grande dame on the Britart scene" recently expanded her domain to include an outpost here in Venice when she took over Il Capricorno Galleria close to Teatro La Fenice. Founded by her friend and fellow grande dame Bruna Aickelin in 1971, an impressive number of heavyweights like Lucio Fontana, Robert Rauschenburg and Cy Twombly have been mounted on the walls of the Capricorno over the years.

Hilton Als at Victoria Moro Gallery Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
Before the Redentore fireworks on Saturday, Pulitzer Prize winning critic and author Hilton Als was here in Venice to present a new chapter of Alice Neel, Uptown, which he curated especially for the Venice gallery. Hilton Als fell in love with Alice Neel when he was fourteen-years-old, and went on his own from Brooklyn into Manhattan to see her show at the Whitney.

Childbirth by Alice Neel (1939) Photo: Cat Bauer
In 1938, Alice Neel (1900-1984) moved from Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem in pursuit of "the truth," and painted friends, neighbors and people on the street as well as cultural figures connected to Harlem or to the civil rights movement. Als writes: "what fascinated her was the breath of humanity that she encountered."

Alice Neel, Uptown is at Victoria Miro Venice, Il Capricorno from July 15 to September 16.

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, over in the Portego of Ca' Giustinian, headquarters of the Venice Biennale, Antonio Latella, the new Director of Biennale Theatre dove into the archives and mounted an exhibition called Registe alla Biennale, or Women Directors at the Biennale, dedicated to the female directors who have left their imprint on Biennale over the years.

Latella says, "Today, we are often unexpectedly thrilled by dramaturgical or aesthetic shifts that our memory has already erased, while it is not uncommon that everything we see has been masterfully told before, as the history of the Biennale Teatro never ceases to remind us."

The 45th La Biennale International Theatre Festival directed by Antonio Latella runs from July 25 to August 12, 2017, and has a fascinating focus: Latella has invited only women directors.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Feast of Redentore 2017 in Venice - Same as it ever was

(Venice, Italy) One of the first articles I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, was about the Feast of Redentore, sixteen years ago. Over the years it seems that the amount of tourists who come here for the celebrations has increased, and the amount of Venetians who decorate their boats the old-fashioned way has decreased, otherwise it's the same as it ever was. I shot the video clip (above) last night (link:

The weather was beautiful today, just like last year -- so today it's Redentore Flashback Summer:-)

Today is the Feast of Redentore in Venice! The Day in Pictures

After last night's spectacular fireworks display, today is the actual day of the Festa del Redentore, a purely Venetian holiday to give thanks for deliverance from the plague back in 1577.

You can read my previous thoughts about Redentore here:

Cat Bauer in Venice talks about the Festa del Redentore 

Since I have written about Redentore so often before, today is going to be a visual post. It is a beautiful day here in Venice, clear and hot, with throngs making their way over the floating bridge, their feet keeping the beat to the chimes of the Redentore bells, as the sunshine dances on the waves of the Giudecca Canal.

(Again, here is the link to the video, complete with bell chimes:

Everybody was up late last night because the fireworks don't start until 11:30pm, but that didn't seem to stop most folks from making the trek across to the Island of Giudecca to pay their respects inside the Church of Redentore, designed by the renowned architect, Andrea Palladio.

Once across the bridge, at the entrance of the church there are baskets full of shawls to toss across your shoulders if they are bare.

Inside, the church is all decked out for the special Votive Mass of the Redeemer, celebrated by the patriarch, as has been done for centuries.

Trays of candles flicker expressions of thanks.

Redentore Bridge - Giudecca view
This is the view of Venice from the entrance to the Church of Redetore. To arrive at the top, 15 spiritually-significant steps must climbed. The bridge stretching across the canal all the way to Venice reinforces the importance of the celebration. 

One of my favorite things to play is Pesca di Beneficenza, fishing for charity, or a lucky dip. You pay a euro,and a volunteer (or, today, a Capuchin friar, the Order in charge of the Church of Redentore) spins the barrel, and hands you a small, rolled-up scroll with a number or a word on it. Then you go inside to collect your winnings.

Everybody plays, young and old, boys and girls, men and women, and everybody wins something. If you draw a specific number, you get a specific prize, or else you get a grab bag kind of treasure. In the past, I have won some very useful items, like wooden stirring spoons, or a pad and pencil. 

Today my scroll said "tigre," or "tiger." Apparently, that was the designation for a type of grab bag. A boy about 12-years-old took my opened scroll, scurried away, and brought back a colorful bag tied by a pink bow. 

Here is what was inside my bag of loot, which I'm sure I would find very useful if I were a 12-year-old girl:

Meanwhile, the rowing regatta out on the Giudecca Canal captivated spectators on land and water. After all, what would a celebration in Venice be without a rowing regatta?

It was a beautiful, peaceful day inside the cocoon of the Venice lagoon -- something greatly appreciated, especially when much of the outside world seems stricken by turbulence.

Ciao from the Festa del Redentore in Venice,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fashion & Food: The Rose Room at The Met Opens in Venice

The Rose Room at the Met opening - Photo: Cat Bauer

A hot summer night. We are in the outdoor garden courtyard and, later, the indoor dining room of The Met Restaurant inside the Metropole Hotel, a five-star family-owned hotel located on the Riva degli Schiavone in Venice. The Met Restaurant is headquarters for Michelin star chef, Luca Veritti.


It is July 7, 2017 at 7:00pm, the evening of the inauguration of the Rose Room, a casual, intimate nook inside The Met Restaurant.


Gloria Beggiato is the owner of the Metropole Hotel. Gloria has "a thousand dreams and a thousand ideas," and an Alice in Wonderland glow about her. Gloria has long desired to transform The Met Restaurant into an eatery that reflects who she is -- her philosophies and her goals. When she met fashion designer Silvia Bisconti it was like a world burst wide open, a world of colors and emotions. Together they refreshed and expanded The Met, and created the Rose Room.

Gloria Beggiato
Silvia Bisconti is the "creative soul" of Raptus & Rose Atelier. Silvia looks a bit like a kindly Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, and "likes to speak about Beauty." Silvia has used her fashion skills to dress The Met, and create the Rose Room, together with Gloria.

Silvia Bisconti - Photo: Eleonora Milner
perfect for a hot summer night

Rapture & Rose

Cranberry juice, Ferrari champagne and a slice of ginger, adorned with a rose bud and served with plenty of ice

Cat Bauer enjoying a Rapture & Rose champagne & cranberry juice cocktail


Verdure dell'isola di Sant'Erasmo, pane alle erbe, crema di formaggio, passion fruit e semi di zucca

Grachio reale, insalata di avocado, limone di Sorrento e cipolla di Tropea aromatizzata all'aceto di lamponi

*Risotto al pomodoro datterino, acciughe del Cantabrico, olio aromatizzato e basilico fresco

Filetto di San Pietro al rofumo di timo, zucchine alla menta e cialda croccante ai semi di lino

Biscotto croccante alla vaniglia, caffè Guatemala, mascarpone fresco e creema al Marsala

Sorbetto ananas, rosmarino, Alchèrmes

Proscecco Bareta Merotto
Incrocio Manzoni Serafini e Vidotto 2016
Vermentino - Giba 6mura 2015

*One of the best risottos I've ever tasted by Michelin star chef Luca Veritti
There is a touch of the Orient at The Met and the Rose Room, captured in the fabrics, the walls, the ceilings -- in the fashion worn by the staff.

Valentina Tommasi outside the Rose Room
Fashion fused with food. Cuisine with decor. The Rose Room is a casual alcove inside a Michelin star restaurant, where the cuisine is light, inspired by nature and reflects the seasons -- perfect for an aperitif, or a small, exclusive party.

Take a peek at the Raptus & Rose fashion show:

Have a look at the grand finale with Gloria Beggiato and Silvia Bisconti:

Go to the Met Restaurant for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Remembering Ernest Hemingway in Venice and the Veneto

Adriana Ivancich (far right) next to Ernest Hemingway in Havana, Cuba. Photo: JFK Library
(Venice, Italy) The force of nature named "Ernest Hemingway" conjures up all kinds of images: writer, lover, soldier, hunter, fisherman and world-class drinker, to name a few. Wherever he touched down, he left powerful images in his wake, and he touched down hard in Venice and the Veneto.

Ernest Hemingway died 56 years ago, on July 2, 1961, and the more I re-read his work, the more I realize what a startling and innovative a writer he was. He first arrived in the Veneto Region in 1918 during World War I, a boy of eighteen, who had signed on to drive an ambulance in Italy. A couple of months after Hemingway's arrival, while he was stationed in Fossalta di Piave about forty miles north of Venice, he was seriously wounded by mortar fire. He spent six months recuperating in a Red Cross hospital in Milan where he famously fell in love with his nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky.

In 1923 he wintered in Cortina d'Ampezzo with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and returned there in 1948, with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a Time magazine correspondent. They lived for a at time in Cortina, where Hemingway met Fernanda Pivano, who translated A Farewell to Arms into Italian, and is credited with introducing American literature to Italy. The Hemingways also spent time in Venice, staying at the Hotel Gritti Palace, where Ernest started work on Across the River and Into the Trees, a novel inspired by his real-life love affair with a young Venetian aristocrat named Adriana Ivancich.

I excerpted most of the above from a post I wrote more than six years ago, back on April 8, 2011, to promote an exhibition at Palazzo Loredan entitled:

The Veneto of Ernest Hemingway

About a year later, in March 2012,the JFK Library unveiled letters written between Gianfranco Ivancich, Adriana's brother, and Hemingway, which The Guardian described as: "Remarkable correspondence between Hemingway and friend Gianfranco Ivancich showcases the author's sentimental side."

Gianfranco Ivancich first met Hemingway in the bar of the Gritti Palace here in Venice, and they became great friends. Ivancich traveled to Cuba and stayed in the author's house. When Gianfranco introduced his sister, Adriana, to the author, Hemingway was smitten and pumped full of creative energy; Adriana is credited as his muse for the Pulitzer Prize Winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

Gianfranco Ivancich holding a cat at Hemingway home in Cuba - Photo: JFK Library
One of the most poignant excerpts from the letters is when Hemingway writes Ivancich about having to shoot his cat, Willie, after he was hit by a car, and the abominable behavior of "rich Cadillac psycho" tourists who arrived, unannounced, at his house during the scene:

In February 1953, Hemingway wrote to Ivancich of his pain at having to shoot his cat, Willie, after it was hit by a car. "Certainly missed you. Miss Uncle Willie. Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs," wrote the author, also revealing the heartless behaviour of a group of tourists who arrived at his house the same day. "I still had the rifle and I explained to them they had come at a bad time and to please understand and go away. But the rich Cadillac psycho said, 'We have come at a most interesting time. Just in time to see the great Hemingway cry because he has to kill a cat.'"

Here are some recollections about Hemingway from Giuseppe Cipriani, the general founder of Harry's Bar, and Arrigo's father:

Mary & Ernest Hemingway with Adriana Ivancich
During the long, cold winter of 1949-50, Ernest Hemingway installed himself comfortably in the Concordia room. Hemingway practically dropped in on us that year, and divided his time between the Inn on Torcello, the Gritti, and Harry's Bar, where he had a table of his own in a corner. He was the only client with whom once during an outing to Torcello I had to drink a little myself – much, much more than a little, actually – just to keep up with him.

Hemingway was the only client, I was saying, because I have always believed that the client's place is on one side of the counter, and the barman's is on the other.  Everything in its place....but he had such an overwhelming personality that it was impossible to maintain any barriers. He was generous to a fault, and filled more pages of his check-book than those of a medium length novel. At the time, he was just finishing "Over the River and Into the Trees" in which he mentions Harry's Bar many times. Every time I hear someone say "Hemingway sure gave you a lot of free promotion!" I say: "You're all wet, Bud. It was me and my bar that promoted him. They gave him the Nobel prize afterwards, not before."

In 1954, the Hemingways went on an African safari. Ernest chartered a plane as a Christmas gift for Mary, which crashed in the wilds of Uganda. Then, 48-hours later, they boarded another plane to go to Entebbe to seek medical treatment and that plane exploded at takeoff. Several newspapers reported that the Hemingways were dead. From the New York Times archives:

January 26, 1954

Hemingway Out of the Jungle; Arm Hurt, He Says Luck Holds

Entebbe, Uganda, Jan. 25--Ernest Hemingway arrived in Entebbe today after having survived two plane crashes in the elephant country of Uganda.
His head was swathed in bandages and his arm was injured, but the novelist, who is 55 years old, quipped: "My luck, she is running very good."
He was carrying a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin. With him was his wife, the former Mary Welsh. She had two cracked ribs and was limping as Mr. Hemingway helped her from an automobile that brought them here from Butiaba, 170 miles away.

The Hemingways decided to recuperate from their injuries at the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice. The local papers announced their arrival with headlines like: Scampi e Valpolicella cura per Hemingway or "Scampi and Valpolicella Cure for Hemingway." From the Gazzettino-Sera: "Ernest Hemingway announced he will stay in Venice to recover from the injuries incurred in the well-known African accidents, with a powerful cure based on scampi and vapolicella."

In the 1958 edition of Writers at Work, interviews from the Paris Review, selected by Kay Dick, George Plimpton interviews Ernest Hemingway:

Fernanda Pivano & Hemingway
Dobbiaco, Oct 12, 1948
Benetton Foundation
Photo: Ettore Sottsass
Interviewer:  How complete in your own mind is the conception of a short story? Does the theme, or the plot, or a character change as you go along?

Hemingway:  Sometimes you know the story. Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come out. Everything changes as it moves. That is what make the movement which makes the story. Sometimes the movement is so slow it does not seem to be moving. But there is always change and always movement.

Interviewer:  Is it the same with the novel, or do you work out the whole plan before you start and adhere to it rigorously?

Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls was a problem which I carried on each day. I knew what was going to happen in principle. But I invented what happened each day I wrote.

Interviewer:  Were the Green Hills of Africa, To Have and Have Not, and Across the River and Into the Trees all started as short stories and developed into novels? If so, are the two forms so similar that the writer can pass from one to the other without completely revamping his approach?

Hemingway:  No, that is not true. The Green Hills of Africa is not a novel but was written in an attempt to write an absolutely true book to see whether the shape of a country and the pattern of a month's action could, if truly presented, compete with a work of the imagination. After I had written it I wrote two short stories, 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' and 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber'. These were stories which I invented from the knowledge and experience acquired on the same long hunting trip one month of which I had tried to write a truthful account of in The Green Hills. To Have and Have Not and Across the River and Into the Trees were both started as short stories.

Interviewer:  Do you find it easy to shift from one literary project to another or do you continue through to finish what you start?

Hemingway:  The fact that I am interrupting serious work to answer these questions proves that I am so stupid that I should be penalized severely. I will be. Don't worry.

Ciao from Venezia
Cat Bauer