Presentation on theme: "Venice Lights Impressions at Many Times By Richard Barnet."— Presentation transcript:
Venice Lights Impressions at Many Times By Richard Barnet
Venice and travel are intimate. People from everywhere travel to and in Venice. Venetians are often great travellers—think of Marco Polo! A Prayer For Travellers May you always have a good idea where you are, A means to figure out where you are going, Strength for the journey, A good visit, And the courage to leave when its time.
Our wanderings have brought us to this pretty little backyard in Guidecca. There are many, many gardens tucked away in Venice. But a relatively small place such as this might have reminded our Irish visitor of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of how crowded with people much of Venice was, and of how hard it could be to find big, open spaces. He wrote: The quality folk of old Venice Are fully addicted to tennis. But with no place to play They can only display Their elegant rackets, to menace. Was he mocking his new friends, or sympathizing with them? Or perhaps both? ( Venice is less crowded today—it has a declining population.)
Santa Maria della Salute and Venice Basin from San Giorgio Maggiore
San Marco and Venice Basin from San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore and Venice Basin from San Marco
Venice is a city, like all cities, of stories, legends, and dreams. There is a story that a wealthy visitor in the sixteenth century—the great age of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, in music the Gabrielli’s—spent three months in Venice and enjoyed himself immensely. He swore he would always return to Venice, as long as God gave him breath, and perhaps even after that. He told his friends and acquaintances that he could hardly enumerate all that he come to love and enjoy about Venice. He praised the people he had met, from he most humble socially to the most exalted—the people of power, including those with the power of art: writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, architects, actors.
He praised, the food, the drink, the grand public celebrations, the many beautiful and noble public places, the private celebrations—masques, parties, dinners, orgies, gondola expeditions through the thousand waterways of the city at all hours, but especially at sunset, night, and dawn. Venice is, he said, a city before all others he knew, in which it is possible to be on the one hand most in company with other people, and on the other hand most alone. And he praised the women—ah! The women of Venice! But, he said, one thing troubled him: that in all these joys and wonders—and in some sorrows, too—he had never been able to be sure what and where was the heart of Venice. But later he did come to understand where is the true, and universal, and ageless heart of Venice, as my pictures will show. And as you, too, will come to know.
But first, let’s look at some places that our visitor to Venice in the sixteenth century considered might just be the true, the real heart of Venice. Venice, city of art, history, and magic has changed so little in the four centuries since then, that many places appear today almost exactly as they did four or five hundred years ago. The paintings and drawings of many Venetian masters, including Canaletto, Guardi, and Canelloni attest to that. So marvellously, as we look at Venice right now, we see it very much as our visitor did—not so long after the Americas were “discovered” by Westerners! The first place we will look at is Piazza San Marco. The West front of the cathedral Is where now everybody poses for photos. Standing there, you are in the Piazza—Napoleon Bonaparte called it the finest drawing room in Europe. If you go into the Cathedrale, and look down and around, you will see in front of you the Piazza. Its big, right? T
If you look hard left, you will see on a balcony on the front of the Cathedrale the bronze horses of St. Mark (San Marco), the patron saint of Venice. Past the horses, you see “”Little” Piazza San Marco, then the Venice Basin, and San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. Everywhere are famous and grand views—but do you think Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice? Perhaps it’s a little too big and public? Then maybe we should consider Rialto Bridge? After all, it connects the two most important land masses of Venice. Or how’s about the interior of San Michele, the cemetery island (cimetario on the vaporetti boats}—after all so many famous people are buried here, including the great composer Stravinsky and his wife—but, that’s a bit grim! Or how about Lido—the beach—that could fun! Ah well, I guess none of those will quite do, anymore they did for our sixteenth century friend! So, let’s keep looking, my friends.
Piazza San Marco, in front of the Cathedrale, Todd and me, July, 2000. We’re brothers. We’re also friends.
Piazzetta San Marco, looking from Cathedrale balcony towards Grand Canal (piazzetta means “little place”—so this “Little San Marco—but its pretty big—right? Indeed, it is one of the great places of the world!)
Piazza San Marco, seen from the Cathedrale balcony. Napoleon called this wonderful place “the finest drawing room in Europe”—and he knew most of them well, having seized them at the cost of about three million soldiers killed, and who knows how many more millions of civilians?
San Michele—cimiterio. a beautiful, quiet place. This is one of the old parts. Some parts of San Michele are rather crowded. And I’ve heard it isn’t so easy to get buried there at all! The composer Igor Stravinsky and his wife are buried side-by-side in this garden. People place stones (a mark of respect) and flowers on their graves. Stravinsky’s music is always fresh!
Rialto Bridge (over the Grand Canal). We only see half of the central and oldest bridge in Venice here. We see plenty of the old, leaning prison, at the edge of the canal. Legend tells us that it leans because the prisoners always crowded trowards the windows on the water. This was to get cooler air, and especially to view the passing boats and people— always a favorite Venetian pastime. Another legend tells that prisoners went to that side to see the prostitutes on the quay, and maybe carry on with them a bit, even through the bars. But this is a false legend—because so many of the ladies of that persuasion were in prison with the men—not to mention the hookers who were at least nominally male— or transsexual. Interesting place—old Venice! One Venetian cleric, hearing that the Archbishop of Canterbury had referred to Venice as “a modern Sodom and Gomorrah, a cesspool of every sexual vice and license”, replied: “It is not Sodom and Gomorrah. Compared to our beloved Venice, those were boring. But I’m sure the honored Archbishop of Canturbury knows very well about sexual cesspools.”
Let’s not get totally carried away with this quest to find some place that feel to us unequivocally like the best choice for “the heart of Venice”—whatever that may mean! Let’s instead look around Venice via photo slides (transparencies) I’ve taken there during many visits over a period of twenty years !-- although I took most of them during the summers of 2000, 2001 and 2002. In them you’ll see once or twice my friends Laura Redmond and Todd Barnet (my brother). I was with them in Venice in 2000. The real subject of these slides is the beautiful lights of Venice in many different places in the city at may different times. We’ll often see light reflected off water, for example: sky, clouds, buildings and boats reflected in the canals and other waterways. The great (and lesser) painters of Venice for many centuries often depicted these reflection scenes, as have other painters from all around the world. Often we can compare scenes today in Venice, and find them uncannily like centuries’-old paintings. But there are many other views I’ll show you, including ones of some of the open public places, which are usually called“campi” (singular: campo), which translates literally as “fields”. ENJOY!
Doorway into courtyard near Giardini (the Gardens)—medieval Venice
Campo Santa Margherita (or maybe Campo Santa Maria Formosa) Visitors to Venice—like travellers and tourists everywhere—may see much of physical Venice, but not learn about the city’s wonderfully rich history, customs, and culture. Of course Venice is an Italian city, but like so many other places in Italy it has its own unique ways, too. There is still a unique Venetian dialect and accent, within the Italian language. Venetian is the language of command on Italian naval vessels. Throughout much of its history, Venice was a great naval power, sending its commercial and military ships over much of the world. It was the capital of the Republic of Venice— really, it was a Mediterranean empire with many outposts
Santi Giovani and Paolo, with statue of Colleoni by Verrochio In this church, as in many churches throughout Italy, there is an amazing wealth of great art. In many places throughout the world, art lovers go to museums to see the art. In Italy, they are at least as likely to see it where it was originally installed, in a church. The Italian cities that are probably richest of all in visual art, and therefore in art inside churches, are Florence, Venice, and Rome.
This is an oceanic research vessel at the marina at San Giorgio Maggiore. It is connected with the Univesity of Venice. Exploration has always been part of the Venetian spirit. Right now, we are explorers of Venice, like the couple stroling.
My friend Laura at the lighthouse, at San Giorgio Maggiore.
Boats at marina at lighthouse at San Giorgio Maggiore To visitors today, Venice often seems calm, even strangely quiet for a modern city—unless of course, one is caught up in the bustle of the tourist crowds around San Marco! In past times, however, and even today at gathering places for native and adopted Venetians, there is a typically Italian—and specifically Venetian—love of conversation and music. Also, there is a great Venetian tradition of satire, including through composing verse—poetry. Thus, aspects of the very institutions that Venetians love and depend on—including family, neighborhood, city, and even Church, may be teased and satirized. This is all seen so well in that great Venetian and Italian gift to the theatre of improvisation, the Comedia del Arte. Our somewhat Irish visitor to Venice, noted earlier, paid tribute to this Venetian tradition of creating loving satire by doing something that came rather natually to him as an Irishman—writing limericks! Himself a Catholic, in some of his limericks he pokes fun at the sometimes foibles and excesses of persons in and around the Church. It is an Irishman’s way of being Venetian!
La Dogana di mare—that means the customs— duty—collection place for all goods arriving in Venice by sea. It is at the end of the sestiere of Dorsoduro, that is, jutting out into the Venice Basin almost between San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore. It is no longer used as a customs house. But when you go there, the experience is that you are between sea and sky. Smell the sea, feel the eternal wind, rejoice in the views of Venice and water all around you, love the changing hours of the day and night. Go in different seasons.
Let’s continue rambling around Venice, sometimes by foot and sometimes by boat. We’ll ride the vaporetti-the “water buses”—just like the Venetians. Of course we’ll get lost at times—that’s part of the fun! We’ll navigate—bring a map and a compass.
Rio San Barnaba. The great American painter John Singer Sargeant worked here. He painted the church of San Barnaba—you see it peeking out like a Greek temple. He loved to paint the reflections in the water, in Venice.The scene probably looks as it did in Sargeant’s time – about a hundred years ago. I took this slide from the Ponte dei Pugni—”the bridge of fists”. It was so nicknamed for the fistfights that took place here, between rival factions of men. The fighters were tough men, and they would knock each other right into the water. That created problems for men who were unconscious, and/or couldn’t swim! There was so much loss of life and limb, that the authorities banned these fights in 1705.
Morning on the Grand Canal—”where shall we go today?”
its nice to stroll right over to the Guidecca Canal. Maybe the church called Gesuati—after the Jesuit order—on the right will be open. It has wonderful paintings—like most of the churches in Venice! Some of its paintings are about the travels and works of the Jesuits all around the world.
Or perhaps we should just keep walking around the “streets”. We’re bound to come upon many beautiful places. Some of them will be very quiet, because far fewer people live in Venice now than did in earlier centuries. Perhaps that’s part of what makes it so hard now to feel that we have contacted “the heart” of Venice—that so much of its bustle for the many centuries of its glory is gone! Some people deride it as “a museum city”! Does it really have a heart now that it is no longer the center of an empire—no longer the center of empires political, and intellectual, and artistic? Did many families once live in this very quiet “street” in sestiere San Marco?
Back on the Grand Canal we see such a common sight: tourists taking a rather expensive gondola ride on the Grand Canal. Is Venice then only a gigantic museum, indoors and out? Everywhere? A ghost—perhaps a sad ghost—of its former self? Can a ghost even have a heart? But isn’t sort of a Venetian undertaking to wander and think? To muse, to reflect on what we see even as the water of the canal or lagoon reflects the boats and buildings, the people and the sky? Are we then becoming a bit Venetians ourselves? A bit perhaps as did that visitor in the seventeenth century—or was it in the sixteenth century? I believe he was Irish, at least in part. Did the Moorish-style building on the right inspire him to write this limerick?: An Imam decidedly urban Fell under the spell of good bourbon. Though forbidden the thrill, He sucked up his swill, Until he had drowned in his turban.
That’s the back of my friend Heather, walking in sestiere Canareggio. This part of Venice actually has lots of people living in it. You can see that some have hung their washing out to dry! So take comfort, and stop feeling so lonely and forlorn in old Venice!
Here’s a Baroque church with a wonderful façade! Look at the play of sunlight and shadow on the façade! Shouldn’t we stop and look inside? Or shall we just keep walking in this beautiful light outdoors?
Here is almost a crowd of strollers and shoppers in Campo Santi Apostoli. In earlier times in Venice, as in much of Italy, so many places were named after Christian saints, and there were so many clergy about, that many people engaged in a generally good-natured “ribbing” of members of the clergy. In that spirit of wholesome fun, our somewhat Irish visitor wrote the following limericks: The Episcopal Bishop of Lister Is really a rare human twister. He seems so upright, And even uptight, ‘Til you see him in bed with his sister. and A clergy name of O’Hammel Is deeply involved with a camel. He pursues this romance From Egypt to France, And vows he will marry his mammal.
Do you like these limericks? So what? Here’s another one: Some boys were skate- boarding in Venice And quite unaware of the menace, Of lewd-minded priests, Who look at them as feasts, And are wicked as Dennis the Menace.
That’s Rialto Bridge seen through a crowded section of the Grand Canal. Notice the play of light reflected back from the Canal on the boat nearest to us. Is it like the play of our thoughts as we wander, and look, in this beautiful—and confusing—city? Is perhaps the experience of all really good thought also the experience of some degree of confusion? Yes, but only for the brave. Small minds know certainty, better minds know options and doubt. If Rialto Bridge is “the heart of Venice”, does that mean the heart of Venice is a crowded shopping strip?
Back by the church of the Gesuati, at sundown, after a day of wandering, and exploring, and thinking, perhaps we can relax from our questions, and enjoy the peace of the evening. Enjoy the broad, peaceful sidewalk of the Zattere, and a good cappucino or two at my favorite café that you see by the steps in the distance, and even the hope that the good people you see here are not vexed by questions that have no answers, or sorrows that have no solace, or nightmares beyond the reach of comfort, even if they are not on skateboards.
Yes—but to have a story we need our refections— whether they are on water or on our souls.
The church of San Zeccaria in sestiere San Marco, with its wonderful paintings inside, including one of Bellini’s greatest. Is it the heart of old Venice?
A canal near the church of San Zeccaria, with a leaning church tower. Why isn’t it famous as the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Why? If you ask a Venetian that, the most polite answer you’re like to get might be something like: “Who washes your underwear?” Could this very spot be the true heart of Venice???
So, we’ll continue wandering around Venice through these pictures—just about as if we were really there. Where shall we look next? How about THE VENICE BIENNALE? YES! It’s the famous international art show that’s held every year. Some of it is intenational pavllions in and around Giardini (“the Gardens”). The part that I’m going to show you is mainly from Arsenale, which is the now unused shipyards where the Republic of Venice built her warships until Venice was conquered by Napoleon. What great spaces are there for showing art! But how quiet and deserted—even desolate—were some of them when I was there in 2001.
But first, here’s an installation in a pavillion at Giardidni
And here’s another installation at Giardini. Its an image from the Russian pavillion. I believe it refers to Russian monks, perhaps sleeping.
Here’s the poetry bicycle from an outdoors pathway at Arsenale
Abortion Boat at the 3001 Venice Biennale Maybe this strikes you as odd, but here it is: a tribute to a woman doctor who organized a ship that goes to the coasts of countries where abortions are illegal and/or unavailable. The ship stays offshore (I guess beyond the 3-mile limit), and then women who want an abortion somehow get out to this ship, and get a safe abortion. I believe the doctor is Dutch, and is known as a person of great energy, principles, and courage— although, obviously, many people disagree with both her convictions and her actions. By the way, isn’t this a wonderful industrial setting—the old boatslip?
Here’s a last slide of the Venice Biennale It doesn’t show any art that’s been placed at the show, but just a corridor. That’s why I’m showing it to you— to show you how dramatic Arsenale itself is—that this show is not only the works of art on exhibit, but this haunting place itself!
Now that we’ve seen something of the Venice Biennale, we are more than just tourists who make a visit of a day of two to Venice. Let’s now take what we may call a gondola ride of the mind, and see if we can find the “real heart” of Venice—or at least get closer to it! By the way, this canal is one of the oldest parts of old Venice: either sestiere San Marco, or Castello
Let’s start a that place which many persons assume to be the heart of Venice, anyhow—Piazza San Marco. Let’s start with some people, including some very serious children, feeding the pigeons.
Here’s another slide of the kids feeding the pigeons, at Piazza San Marco.
And here’s still another slide of kids feeding pigeons at San Marco—the Piazza. Again, kids feeding pigeons at Piazza San Marco. And may this slide of these serious children, children serious yet at play, help us to understand in our own time what our somewhat Irish visitor to Venice finally came to understand in his time. He came to understand a truth about “the heart of Venice”, and thus by extension of our understanding, a truth about he human heart—our heart—itself. He came to understand that once you fall in love with someplace, or something, or someone, you carry it or them with you. And if it, or they, return your love, then your hearts are always in the same spiritual place, wherever you go.
He came to understand that you may find the heart of Venice in so many places, even in these empty chairs at a café in Piazzetta San Marco (do ghosts of old Venice—or of tourists—sometimes linger at them?). By the way, that’s a bit of Sansovino’s famous Library in the background.
Or, you may dream the heart of Venice while loafing with your friends by the Grand Canal, or sleeping there because you are all to broke to afford a rented room to sleep in, and still get something to eat!
Or, you may fine the heart of Venice in the Ghetto Nuovo, while contemplating the memorial to the Jew of Venice who were murdered in deportation by the Nazis, in World War II
You may find the heart of Venice to be Campo Santa Margherita, or these children in it! By the way, in 2002 a group of us stayed for 9 days at the Hotel Antico Capon, there. We were there on a course/trip offerred by the College of Mount Saint Vincent, and taught by my friend Fr. John Vigilanti, and by myself.
Or maybe for you, the heart of Venice is to be back with your family at Piazza San Marco, feeding the pigeons. Remember the secret: once you love Venice, the heart of Venice is where you are. It is wherever you are. Where you are is Venice, and Venice is where you are. Wherever you go, you take Venice with you. You don’t have to try—it just happens. That is what love is.
Venice is where you are, and where you are is Venice. ( Those are two different things,,although they are connected.)
Here are Todd and Laura in Piazza San Marco, in front of the Cathedrale. But by as much as they love Venice—and by no more—they are in Venice right at this moment now, and wherever they are is Venice.
I guess for me, often I feel the heart of Venice—my heart— when I am thrilled by light. And often for me, that happens when I see beautiful light reflections (are they ever anything but beautiful?) on water. Do you wonder why,like that man of the seventeenth century I keep mentioning, I love Venice?!
Here’s a summer storm over San Michele—the Isle of the Dead.
Here’s very delicate, silver light on the Grand Canal. That’s the great church of Santa Maria della Salute across the way, with its magnificent treasures of paintings by Tintoretto, and so many other artists— and its amazing inlaid stone floor.
Here’s my friend Laura at Santa Maria della Salute
Here’s that storm over the Isle of the Dead, seen through boats and a pier.
The clear daylight of Venice allows us to see well these reliefs of Nazi cruelty, at the Ghetto Nouvo
The beautiful light inside Cathedrale San Marco
Venetians and NYU art students in the shadows— but seeing the light—at Punta della Dogana Venice is a universal city; it is known all around the world, and visited by people from everywhere. Like other universal cities—New York, Paris, Paris, Berlin, London, Beijing, Kyoto, Moscow—it is, finally, incomparable. For example, one might call Bruges, in Belgium, with its canals, “the Venice of the north”, but one would never refer to Venice as “the Bruges of the south”! Venice travels well! For those who love Venice— Queen of the Sea—are often there in their thoughts, though elsewhere in body. Or they are thus in multiple places, in spirit, at the same time! Perplexing? Amusing?
Two gondolas in the morning light on the Grand Canal
Laura pets a cat near Ghetto Nuovo Laura, woman of Venice. Cat of Venice.
Love in a Venetian Apse Our Wonderful, possible imaginary Irish visitor to Venice so many years—centuries—ago, penned this (an apse, incidentally, is an architectural part of a church). It reflects—as does water the sunlight—his enduring fascination with the Venetian love for composing light, satirical verse: The holiest of acolytes may lapse When tweaked in the right, wrong synapse. And though it sounds rotten, They so often have gotten In trouble, right here in the sunniest apse. Venice, love it and leave and it, you can’t. You are it! May you find your own Venice, if you haven’t already, even if you never set foot-- or boat-- in mine!
Venice Lights Venice is where you are, and where you are is Venice Dedicated to Nell Maslin