Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Francesco Morosini - The Great Venetian Naval Commander and His Cat Who Went to War

Venice Campanile from Palazzo Ducale - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Happy Birthday to Francesco Morosini! One of Venice's greatest heroes is 400 years old today, and many of the most important institutions in town will be celebrating throughout the year. Morosini is known for his military campaigns in Greece against the Turks, especially for his victories in the Peloponnese peninsula, and was called Il Peloponnesiaco. He was the Doge of Venice from 1688 until he died on January 16, 1694. Today at Palazzo Ducale the celebratory program was announced to a room full of illustrious folks.

Portrait of Francesco Morosini by Bartomeo Nazari (detail) - Photo: Cat Bauer
Francesco Morosini was born on February 26, 1619 into a noble Venetian family, full of prestigious ancestors, including Giovanni Morosini, who founded the Benedictine Monastery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in 982, as well as doges and dogaressas.

Francesco's mother died under suspicious circumstances when he was an infant by drowning in the Brenta river while trying to save her husband, who was placed under investigation and eventually absolved. If we want to play armchair psychiatrist, perhaps this is why he was said to be a misogynist who never married. Instead, he fell in love with his cat, who was always by his side, including when he went into battle, which was much of the time. He loved his cat so much that he had her embalmed with a mouse between her legs when she died. We know this because the cat still exists. You can see her at Venice's Museum of Natural History.

Doge Francesco Morosini's Cat - Google Art & Culture
Athens had been under the control of the Ottoman Turks since 1458. As time went on, they began storing gunpowder in the Parthenon and the Propylaea on top of the Acropolis. In 1640, a lightning bolt struck the Propylaea and destroyed it, which should have been a warning that storing gunpowder in sacred structures displeases the gods. On September 26, 1687, when Francesco Morosini and his troops besieged the Acropolis during the Morean War, what Morosini described as a "fortunate shot" hit a powder keg and caused the Parthenon to explode.

Piraeus Lion at Arsenale - Photo: Didier Descouens
Morosini is also famous for looting the ancient (c. 360 BC) Piraeus Lion from the harbor of Athens, which you can see today in front of the Arsenale here in Venice.

Andrea Bellieni, Bruno Buratti, Luigi Brugnaro, Luca Zaia, 
Emanuela Carpani, 
Andrea Romani, Giuseppe Gullino
Photo: Cat Bauer
Many high officials were at the official presentation of the program at Palazzo Ducale today, including President Luca Zaia, Governor of the Veneto Region; General Bruno Buratti, Commander of the Triveneto Guardia di Finanza; Rear Admiral Andrea Romani, Commander of the Istituto di Studi Militari Marittimi e del Presidio Marina Militare di Venezia; and Sindaco Luigi Brugnaro, Mayor of Venice, along with many others.

There will be events celebrating Morosini 400 from now through next year, including concerts, lectures and exhibitions, etc. at the following institutions:

- the Civic Museums Foundation;
- the State Archives, Venice;
- The Veneto Regional Command of the Guardia di Finanza;
- the Military Maritime Studies Institute (Naval Museum in Venice) of the Navy;
- the Military Naval School "Francesco Morosini";
- the Marciana National Library;
- Fondazione Giorgio Cini;
- Querini Stampalia Foundation;
- the Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts;
- the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine Studies and Post;
- the Italian Castle Institute - Section of the Veneto;
- the Conservatory of Music "Benedetto Marcello";
- French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice.

General Bruno Buratti & President Luca Zaia - Photo: Cat Bauer
One of the most interesting events sounds like it will be an exhibition at Palazzo Corner Mocenigo, Headquarters of the Veneto Regional Command of the Guardia di Finanza in Campo San Polo. Francesco Morosini  in the Wars of Candia and the Morea opens to the public from June to October, when paintings, maps, historical documents and more will be on show.

General Bruno Buratti is the coordinator of the organizing committee, and he gave an amusing and fascinating rundown about Morosini (and his cat) and all the projects at today's ceremony. After his presentation, I had a new appreciation for the enormous amount of power the Republic of Venice once had, and how the decisions of a single man impacted history.

The Correr Museum is the major venue. It conserves the entire historical heritage from Morosoni's palace in Campo Santo Stefano, which is presented in Francesco Morosoni: The Last Hero of La Serenissa - Between History and Myth from June 28 to January 6, 2020. The impressive exhibition is packed with trophies and weapons seized from the Ottomans, personal records, coins, medals -- even his beloved cat. NOTE! The exhibition has been extended until May 3, 2020.

Francesco Morosini commemorative stamp
If you go to the Francesco Morosini 1619 - 2019 site there is a category called "Eventi," which tells you (in Italian) the entire program broken down by categories. For his 400th anniversary, Francesco Morosini even gets his own commemorative stamp!

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Blame the Moon - Venice Carnival 2019 & Things to Do

Blame the Moon - Venice Carnival 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) It's Carnival time in Venice! This year's theme is "Blame the Moon," that celestial body responsible for all sorts of chaos here on earth, from love affairs to ocean tides. The festivities kicked off with the water show on the Rio di Cannaregio on Saturday evening, February 16, with fanciful floats featuring acrobats and lights dancing along the fondamenta, topped off by an enormous moon-faced balloon, giving the real-life moon some competition for the star of the night.

Venetian Festival on the Water - Photo courtesy Carnveale di Venezia
On sunshiny Sunday, a parade of 130 boats and 800 masked rowers flexed their oars on the Grand Canal for the "Venetian Festival on the Water," starting from Punta della Dogana and arriving at Rio di Cannaregio where more than 10,000 cicheti were offered by 60 eateries on the banks of the canal, serving up lots of traditional Venetian food.

Caffè Florian art director, Stefano Stipitivich with artist Adrian Tuchel - Photo: Cat Bauer

Adrian Tuchel at Caffè Florian 

Inside the world-famous Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco, a hub for Carnival adventurers, is an exhibition of Adrian Tuchel's extraordinary watercolors. Adrian lives and works in Cambridge, but has chosen Venice as his favorite place. With a career as a graphic designer and architect, Adrian has invented a unique form of expression. He creates long watercolor panoramas of Venice painted on scrolls of specially designed paper. You know how you can switch your camera to take a panoramic photo? Like that, only Adrian does it by hand. Which means he has to draw with pencil on a flat surface, roll up the completed section, then continue for five or six lengths, unable to see the entire drawing until it is complete. Imagine the concentration!

The result is a series of delightful Venetian landscapes. That they are on show at Caffè Florian is especially meaningful, for Adrian is also a romantic, smitten by Venice. In his own words:

"...It was in 1982 that I first managed to realize my dream and savour what it means to taste a cup of coffee at Florian: a journey through history!

In this heady intoxicating atmosphere coalescing the sounds of the bells, the melody of the strings and the voices, a dream was born that I am continuing to live with my wakened eyes. After a romantic dinner with an attractive foreign girl I had only just encountered, on the steps next to the Caffè I kissed my future wife cradled in the background by Florian's eternal melody: it was the evening of Saturday, September 18, 1993."

Twenty-five years later, Adrian's lovely and vibrant wife, Barbara, was with him at the inauguration on Valentine's Day at the Caffè Florian, evidence that Venice still works her magic charm. You can see the watercolors through March 14. Go to Adrian Tuchel's site for more information.

Big Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer

Big Venice 

It is surreal to see elephants walking through the narrow streets of Venice. A camel crossing a bridge is a strange sight. Cars in Piazza San Marco are a bit disconcerting. The photographic exhibition Big Venice at the Wilmotte Foundation over by Misericordia in Cannaregio is a fun trip to a less touristy part of town. Many of the photos were taken in 1954 when the Togni Circus was in town. The exhibition runs through May 5. Go to the Wilmotte Foundation for more information.

Marco Forieri aka Furio

Music is Back in Piazza San Marco

Starting from February 23, there will be DJ sets and live bands in Piazza San Marco during Carnevale, just like the good old days. On Saturday, March 2 the beloved Furio and his band Ska-j appears on stage, sure to draw a huge crowd. The former lead singer of the Venetian band Pitura Freska performs with The Star and "their energetic African American sound."

Arianna Fontana - Photo courtesy Carnevale di Venezia

Flight of the Eagle 

On Sunday, March 3, when the Marangona bell in Piazza San Marco strikes noon, the Eagle will fly from the top of the Campanile, soaring over the square. This year's Eagle is Olympic champion Arianna Fontana, winner of eight Olympic medals. The Italian short track speed skater is the youngest athlete to have won a medal at the Winter Olympic Games, and was the Italian flag bearer at the last Olympic games. It is a move to publicize Italy's desire to win the Winter Olympic bid for Milan-Cortina in 2026.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says, "We want the whole mountain region to feel at home in Venice... Cortina, in particular, is the jewel of our mountain region, which represents our history and identity..."

Sergio Boldrin, owner La Bottega dei Mascareri - Photo: Cat Bauer

Mask Maker Sergio Boldrin revamps La Bottega dei Mascareri 

Over by Rialto, my good friend and veteran mask maker, Sergio Boldrin, has spruced up La Bottega dei Mascareri, his tiny shop that adjoins the Church of San Giacometto, redoing the window display, opening up the ceiling and exposing the centuries-old wood beams. We figured that the beams that adjoined the church were probably built around 1512 when the Rialto district was destroyed by fire and the entire zone rebuilt.

Eighteen years ago, back in 2001, I wrote an article titled A Brief History of Mask Making for the International Herald Tribune - Italy Daily, to which I own the copyright, and which I republished on this blog in 2008 and again in 2017 -- an excerpt in italics is below.

Venice Carnival 2017 and A Brief History of Mask-Making

A Brief History of Mask Making
Cat Bauer

In a city where there seems to be a mask shop on every corner, it may be surprising to learn that the ancient Venetian craft of mask making was only revived about forty years ago.

Sergio Boldrin is one of the senior mask-makers in Venice, as well as an accomplished artist. When he was a child, there were no mask shops in the entire city. There was no Carnival. During the terrorism and political upheavals in Italy in the 1970s, the wearing of masks was discouraged.

Click here to read the entire article.

Incredibly, I have discovered that my article has been plagiarized! Many people have written about Venetian masks, in their own words. But someone named Filippo Merlo republished my article on a site called Venice Tours on July 18, 2018 with his name as the author, stealing nearly every word, omitting the part about Sergio, adding subheadings and leaving out some sentences -- he even titled it Venice Carnival Mask: a Brief History. I also discovered that in addition to claiming to be an "author," Filippo Merlo says he is a "social media expert" and "web-marketing manager." Not only is Merlo's handiwork unethical, it pops up in search engines and is a red-flag for Google as duplicate content.

You cannot "Blame the Moon" for that!

Go to the official Carnevale di Venezia site for all the goings on during Venice Carnival 2019.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Giorgione's Painting "La Vecchia" Gets a Facelift Before Traveling from Venice to the USA

Before & After restoration: Giorgione, La Vecchia (particular) © Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venezia
(Venice, Italy) The portrait that the mysterious Venetian artist Giorgione painted of his mother, La Vecchia (The Old Woman), around 1508-1510 is heading to the States after a fresh nip and tuck.

On Thursday evening, February 7, we had the opportunity to see La Vecchia in her new splendor before she takes center stage at the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio from February 15 to May 5. After that she is going on the road again to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut from May 14 to August 4. Quite a journey for a painting that is over 500 years old.

La Vecchia by Giorgione - Photo: Cat Bauer
Normally the haunting image of La Vecchia resides at the Accademia Gallery here in Venice, still in its original frame. Unlike the idealized female images of the Renaissance, her face reflects the passage of time. Her soulful eyes connect to ours with a melancholic gaze. Her finger points to her chest. A message written on a scroll is tucked into the cuff of her sleeve: "Col Tempo" -- "With Time." That message from 500 years ago reaches us here in the present and still makes us think.

Giorgione is the rock star of Venetian artists, intriguing because little is known about him, yet his paintings were ground-breaking for the time. Born in 1477 or 1478, he died young, at age 32 or 33, probably a victim of the plague. He was already notable enough at age 23 to meet Leonardo da Vinci, when the great artist came to Venice. And when we contemplate La Vecchia... what young artist paints a portrait of his mother looking like that?

The evening at the Accademia was a chance to see three paintings of Giorgione that were once part of the collection of Gabriele Vendramin (1484-1552); the collection was one of the "marvels of Venice." Gabriele was member of a Venetian family that rose to the aristocracy after helping the Republic during the war against Genoa to recapture Chiogga in 1381. Gabriele commissioned works from both Giorgione and Titan, the founders of the Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. Gabriele was a descendant of Andrea Vendramin, Doge of Venice from 1476 to 1478.

The Tempest by Giorgione (detail) Photo: Cat Bauer
The restoration of La Vecchia was financed by the Foundation for Italian Art & Culture, a non-profit, US incorporated organization established in New York City in 2003. According to its website, "FIAC's main purpose is to promote the knowledge and the appreciation of the Italian cultural and artistic traditions from the classical period to modern times in the United States and it works in closely with the Italian Ministry of Culture to accomplish this mission." There are some heavy hitters on its Board of Directors, including the Italian writer Alain Elkann, and Armando Varricchio. the Italian Ambassador to the United States, who happens to be Venetian.

We know that La Vecchia was part of the collection of Gabriele Vendramin because an inventory was recorded of his assets after his death, and one entry read: "The portrait of the mother of Zorzon by Zorzon's own hand supplied with a painting of the arms of the house of Vendramin."

The Concerto by Giorgione - Photo: Cat Bauer
The other two paintings from the Gabriele Vendramin collection are The Concerto, generously loaned to the Accademia for five years by its owner, and the elusive The Tempest, a painting that has puzzled humanity for centuries, and is part of the permanent collection of the Accademia. When you look at the dates, it would seem that at around age 23, whiz kid Gabriele had commissioned the evocative The Tempest by Giorgione, who himself was only around 30-years-old! It is astounding that 500 years ago, a young nobleman was commissioning works by young artists -- his peers -- so powerful that they are still considered masterpieces today.

La Vecchia draws a crowd - Photo: Cat Bauer
The crowd at the Accademia was standing-room-only for the event, with many disappointed visitors turned away. So, if you find yourself in Cincinnati from February 15 to May 5, or in Hartford from May 5 to August 4, be sure to take the rare opportunity to see La Vecchia with your own eyes before she comes back home to Venice in August.

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