Tuesday, April 26, 2016

IMAGINE! Italian Art in the 1960s at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice

Roof Terrace at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Imagine sipping prosecco and munching elegant nibbles while gazing at the Grand Canal. Imagine Italy back in the 1960s, after the war and during the economic boom. Imagine what the art world would be like today if Peggy Guggenheim had not scooped up the work of some of the best contemporary artists and sheltered them in her home. Imagine...

When the weather is fine, one of the most beautiful spots for a press conference in Venice is on the roof terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, once home to Peggy Guggenheim, and now home to her collection of modern art. That is where Luca Massimo Barberto, curator of IMAGINE, presented the Guggenheim's latest exhibition to the press.

Drive-In House by Fabio Mauri (1960)
IMAGINE. New Imagery in Italian Art 1960-1969 focuses on some of the leading avant-garde Italian artists of the 60s, and examines the origins and development of new kinds of figurative imagery in Italian art.

In Italy, the 60s were a time of the "boom," when the country transformed into an industrial power, and the art and culture scene radically shifted to reflect the changing times. Without categorizing the period into labels or movements, the exhibition presents a highly selective sampling of Italian artists working during this critical time.

Papal Crest by Franco Angeli (1964)
Each gallery of the exhibition presents different techniques the avant-garde artists experimented with. The first section is entitled "Matter and Screen," and features the use of a screen, where things could both appear and be hidden, and where images were fleeting.

Venus, after Botticelli by Giosetta Fioroni (1965)
Unlike British or American Pop Art, the Italian avant-garde artists bucked the international trend and looked, instead, to art history, creating a "New Mythology," featuring works by Tano Festa, Giosetta Fioroni and Mario Ceroli..

Body in Motion by Mario Schifano (1963)
Two rooms are dedicated to enfant terrible Mario Schifano, one of the greatest Italian painters of the post-war era and a central figure in the return to the image, featuring work he created in reaction to his stay in New York. Body in Motion and in Equilibrium was a key work, going against the world's stampede towards mechanization in media and photography, and instead celebrating the value of humanity.

In the early 60s, Schifano got a studio at 791 Broadway where Jasper Johns and the poet Frank O'Hara also lived. He caroused through the city with O'Hara. One of the results: Words and Drawings, words from the poet and drawings from the artist in a portfolio.

Schifano was part of the groundbreaking International Exhibition of the New Realists show organized by Sidney Janis in 1962, together with such artists as Lichtenstein, Warhol, Oldenburg and Jasper Johns.

Red Dress Collar by Domenico Gnoli (1969)
The next gallery contains samples of Domenico Gnoli's "strange universe:"

"I like America, but my ties are all to Italy. I am metaphysical insofar as I seek painting which is non-eloquent, still and atmospheric, fulled by static sensations. I am not metaphysical because I have never sought to stage, to construct an image. I always use simple and given elements, I want neither to add nor subtract anything. I have never even wanted to distort: I isolate and I represent. My themes are derived from actuality, from the familiar situations of daily life; since I never intervene actively against the object, I can sense the magic of its presence."

Self-portrait by Giulio Paolini (1968)
"Image, Photograph, Current Affairs" is a gallery that examines the relation of the Italian pictorial image to the world of photography and the media. Mimo Rotella experimented with photo-mechanical processes; Giulio Paolini was interested in the photographed image in relationship to the concept of time, asserting "Each of my works, by extension, is a photograph... it is from the experience of photography that the meaning of drawing is acquired, for that which is drawn to be true and thus, for ever, intact."

Burnt Rose by Michelangelo Pistoletto (1965)
The last rooms contain works by Pino Pascali, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Jannis Kounelli in "The Form of the Metaphor, The Forms of Nature," where the idea morphs into an object.

IMAGINE. NEW IMAGERY IN ITALIAN ART 1960-1969 runs through September 19, 2016 at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Images courtesy the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Viennese Architects Wow at Rooms of Glass in Venice

Glass of the Architects - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Human beings love glass, a magical substance created when sand meets fire. Blown glass has been a long Venetian tradition, which has famously produced exquisite objects both beautiful to behold and practical to use over the centuries.

But glass is not limited to Venice. Pasquale Gagliardi, Secretary General of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, said that although the project LE STANZE DEL VETRO was originally intended to showcase twentieth-century Venetian glass, he realized that exhibitions from other countries could be usefully compared with the art of glass in Venice.

THE GLASS OF THE ARCHITECTS. VIENNA 1900-1937 does just that. At the dawn of the 20th century, a group of young architects -- students of Otto Wagner at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna -- developed a special interest in glass, which, at the time, was also considered to be the most modernist medium in architecture.

In the first half of the twentieth century, in three different places: Austria, Finland and Italy -- especially Venice and Milan -- glass played a prominent part in the renewal of the decorative arts and the creation of modern taste, although similar developments were taking place in Britain, France and Belgium.

The Viennese architects worked with designers and radically transformed the industry, even working at the glass factories themselves.

The result was a treasure trove of fantastic glass objects, over 300 of which are on display here in Venice at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio. Most of the works come from the collection of the MAK (the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art) in Vienna and private collections.

The exhibition celebrates the birth of modern Austrian glassmaking in the period between the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Republic of Austria, and contains some truly remarkable works of art and craft.

I don't know if it's because my last name is Bauer, but I felt a special affinity to the glass from Vienna.

The Glass of the Architects. Vienna 1900-1937 runs through July 31, 2016, and is free to the public.

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Helmut Newton - Erotic and Provocative Photo Exhibit at Tre Oci in Venice

Bergstrom over Paris
from the series Sleepless Nights
© Helmut Newton Estate
(Venice, Italy) Helmut Newton was a naughty boy who became a legend when he published his first photography book White Women in 1976, paving the way for the visual eroticism of fashion. Newton was 56-years-old when the book came out, which shocked and seduced the world by revolutionizing the standard of how the female image was viewed.

Rue Aubriot
from the series White Women
Paris 1975
© Helmut Newton Estate
Newton was born Helmut Neustädter on October 31, 1920 in Weimer Republic Berlin into a wealthy Jewish family. He bought his first camera at age 12, and started working with German theatrical photographer Yva in 1936. As the sultry world of the Weimer Republic morphed into Nazi Germany, and Jews became increasingly restricted, his father lost his business, and was briefly interred in a concentration camp. His parents fled to South America; Newton went to Singapore in 1938. When Germany invaded France, German Jews were considered enemy aliens, and Newton was sent to an internment camp in Australia in 1940.

Tied Up Torso
from the series Big Nudes
Ramatuelle 1980
© Helmut Newton Estate
Newton became a naturalized Australian, served in the army and, in 1948, married the actress June Brunell, who used the nom de plume Alice Springs as a photographer. June was constantly by his side and shared his social and professional life, enjoying such antics as posing for him nude while doing household chores. Newton would remain married to her for the rest of his life.

Self-Portrait with Wife and Models
from the series Big Nudes
Vogue Studio, Paris 1981
© Helmut Newton Estate
We can only imagine how it was to grow up with a background like that, but Newton chose to respond with an ironic sense of humor, crossing fashion with transgression, and worked with professional models and friends who were in on the joke. At the time Newton arrived on the fashion scene, the image of the female in magazines was compliant and subservient. He flipped that image on its head. Newton's models were bold, strong and in charge of their own sexuality.

Dummy and human III, Paris, 1977
Over the course of his career, he worked for such fashion designers as Chanel,Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent; celebrities like Ava Gardner, Charlotte Rampling, Sigourney Weaver and Raquel Welch; and major fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and Marie Claire.

Charlotte Rampling, Hotel Nord-Pinus I Arles, 1973
On view at Tre Oci are images from White Women, Sleepless Nights and Big Nudes, the first three legendary books that Newton published in the late 1970s, and the only ones Newton himself curated. Newton juxtaposed pictures he had been commissioned to take with kinkier ones he took for himself, like Sie kommen, where he had four models dressed in fashion, then had them strike the same pose completely nude except for shoes.

Sie kommen
(dressed & undressed)
from the series Big Nudes
Paris 1981
Though his photos pushed the edge, Newton's personality was said to be warm and sweet, open and generous. Helmut and June were known as a fun couple who deeply loved life, and each other.

Helmut Newton died in Los Angeles at age 83 when he lost control of his car while leaving the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Boulevard -- the Newtons wintered there when not in Monte Carlo. He had suffered a heart attack. June was in the car with him, but is still going strong in her nineties. 

Garden of Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa - Photo by Cat Bauer
Garden of Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa - Photo: Cat Bauer
After viewing the photos with Matthias Harder, the Curator of the exhibition and chief Curator at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, and Denis Curti, Co-curator of the exhibition and Artistic Director of Casa dei Tre Oci on Friday, we enjoyed a Venetian lunch with pizzazz in the enchanted garden of the Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa, a collaborator of the project, surrounded by spring flowers.

Helmut Newton Fotografie runs through August 7, 2016.

White Women
Sleepless Nights
Big Nudes
April 7 to August 7
Casa dei Tre Oci
Fondamenta delle Zitelle, 43
30133 Giudecca - Venice
Zitelle boat stop, lines 4.1, 4.2, or 2
Daily 10am to 7pm, closed Tuesday
+39 041 241-2332
Full price tickets €12; reductions for students and over 65
#newtonvenezia #treoci

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Villa Barbaro - Paradise on Earth - Palladio & Veronese in the Veneto

Villa Barbaro - Photo Cat Bauer
Villa Barbaro in Maser
(Venice, Italy) On Monday, I visited Paradise on Earth when I went to Villa Barbaro, also known as Villa di Maser, a masterpiece designed by the great architect, Andrea Palladio, in about 1560. Villa Barbaro is a magical estate that was conceived to link the secular to the sacred -- to connect the human to the divine. It is Alice in Wonderland come to life.

Room of the Little Dog Photo Cat Bauer
Room of the Little Dog
Inside, the walls are decorated with astonishing optical illusions by another one of my favorites, the feisty artist, Paolo Veronese. Motifs of everyday life are connected to images of a sacred nature. What is real? What is illusion?

Veronese fresco at Villa Barbaro
This marriage of Palladio and Veronese came about because of the brothers Daniele and Marcantonio Barbaro, the two wise owners of the property, humanists who had a profound influence on art, literature and architecture in Venice and the Veneto during the Renaissance.

The Barbaro brothers were international representatives of Venice. Daniele, the older brother, was a diplomat and scholar; he translated and commented on Vitruvius, and was prominent in the Church, achieving the rank of Cardinal. Marcantonio was Venice's ambassador to France, Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire, and also used his position as a powerful Senator to influence public architecture.

Veronese ceiling fresco
If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I have become obsessed by the Renaissance in general, Venice in particular. It blows my mind that the Renaissance was actually orchestrated by a group of enlightened people. .

Veronese fresco at Villa Barbaro, Maser
Maser, Conversations in Villa will be an ongoing project presented by Villa Barbaro, the Veneto Region, and the village of Maser, just north of Treviso.

The first conversation was Paolo Veronese - The Triumph of Light with Irina Artemieva of The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Giuseppe Pavanello of the University of Trieste, and Denis Ton, of the Museum of Belluno, and it took place inside the villa with fantastic images by Veronese dancing all around us.

Elaborate frescoes depicting gods, time, justice, fame and fortune dazzled the senses. Frescoed people peered down upon real people from the ceiling: frescoed figures opened frescoed doors painted on real walls that led to whatever one could dream of lying beyond.

Diamante Luling Buschetti (in turquoise)
Can you imagine living in such a place? Well, Diamante Luling Boschetti and Vittorio Dalle Ore actually do. Diamante is the granddaughter of the wealthy industrialist Count Giuseppe Volpi, who bought the villa in 1934, and brought the neglected estate back to its current prime condition. Diamante -- which means Diamond -- was born there, and later inherited the treasured property.

Inside Villa Barbaro
During the Venetian Republic, Villa Barbaro was a working farm, complete with vineyard. Under the care of Diamante and Vittorio, the villa continues to flourish, producing high-quality wines created with strictly-regulated grapes grown for the ancient winery. The visit to the villa also included a sampling of cheeses and meats, washed down with the Nectar of the Gods.

Nymphaeum at Villa Barbero
Villa Barbaro is also remarkable for the Nymphaeum in its garden. The Archaic Greeks worshiped waterways as gods and goddesses that gave life. Rushing rivers were masculine; gentle springs were feminine; two rivers of equal size that flowed together were man and wife. Nymphs were divine spirits that animated nature, and a nymphaeum was sort of like a shrine to a nymph.

In other words, there was a spring. Next to the spring was a cave. The cave, or grotto, became a shrine to the particular nymph who protected the spring.

Grotto at Villa Barbaro - Photo by Cat Bauer
Grotto inside the Nymphaeum at Villa Barbero - Photo: Cat Bauer
There was a natural spring on the Barbaro property when the brothers inherited the country estate, which was believed to have been a place of worship in earlier times, and it was decided to create the Nymphaeum, complete with grotto, in the design. With true synchronicity, it turned out that the current owner, Diamante, is the cousin of a friend of mine, and I was given the rare opportunity to snap a photo of the inside of the grotto.

Tempietto Barbaro
Tradition says that Palladio died in Maser in 1580 while working on the building of the tempietto, the last structure he designed (along with the Teatro Olimpico, a Renaissance theatre in Vicenza), and the first religious structure to be attached to a Palladian villa. Designing the tempietto was a dream come true for Palladio, allowing him to combine a circle and a Greek cross, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The Temple served the Villa Barbaro, and was also the church of Maser, located at the foot of the hill where the villa stands.

The Little Dog at Villa Barbaro
To get to Villa Barbaro without a car from Venice is a matter of coordinating public transportation. I took a train to Treviso, then transferred to a train to Montebelluno. I got off and asked the station how to get to the villa, then took the #162 bus that passed through Maser; it was about a 10 minute walk to the villa. (You could also take a taxi from the Belluna train station.) It took just under two hours to get there from Venice.

More synchronicity: after the lecture, I ran into a friend from Treviso, who drove me straight to the station, and got back to Venice in about an hour.

Villa di Maser, Villa Barbaro, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is open to the public. Check the website for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, March 26, 2016

MUST SEE - Aldo Manuzio - Renaissance in Venice

Aldo Manuzio at the Accademia Gallery
(Venice, Italy) Have you ever read a book? If so, you can thank Aldus Manutius, the wizard who invented the modern book and the concept of publishing itself, for that. Thanks to his innovation, Manutius helped to transform Venice into the publishing capital of the world during the Renaissance, revolutionizing the access of knowledge to the masses, similar to what the digital revolution has done for humanity today.

The long anticipated exhibit Aldo Manuzio - Renaissance in Venice opened to the public last Saturday at the Accademia Gallery, and it is spectacular. After years of preparation, Renaissance in Venice focuses on some of the important players in the Veneto at a decisive moment in the development of humanity during the time of Aldo Manuzio. Woven throughout the rare volumes of Aldine editions in the freshly-restored ground floor section of the Accademia are masterpieces and works by Manutius's contemporaries like Giorgione, Titian and Giovanni Bellini.

Le Cose Volgari by Petrarch - illuminated by Benedetto Bordon - published by Aldo Manuzio 1501
Two centuries before Aldo Manuzio arrived in Venice, Petrarch, inventor of the sonnet and the Father of Humanism himself, was in the lagoon from 1362 to 1367, invited with the specific intent of turning Venice into the greatest center of art, culture and spirit of modern Europe.

Thanks to her relationship with the Eastern Empire, Venice already had a solid foot in both Hellenic and Greek culture. In 1345, Petrarch had discovered the lost collection of personal letters from the Roman statesman Cicero to the Greek statesman Atticus dating back to 68BC. This discovery -- letters filled with a wealth of material between two distinguished men from antiquity, written in a deeply personal way -- blew Petrarch's mind, which many credit as kicking off the Renaissance. One passion the humanists had was to rediscover ancient Greek and Latin texts and apply the  knowledge to their own time.

De Architecture by Vitruvius edited by Giovanni Giocondo, published by Giovanni Tacuino 1511
For example, one book included in the exhibition is the first illustrated edition of Vitruvius's De Architectura, originally written around 15 BC. In 1414, the Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolini rediscovered the work without the illustrations in the Abbey of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and brought it to the attention of important Renaissance thinkers.

The world learned how the ancient Romans built stuff -- temples, civil and domestic buildings, aqueducts, central heating, etc., and how they planned their towns. Vitruvius declared that architecture should have three conditions: it should be sturdy, useful and beautiful. He also studied human proportions, inspiring Leonardo da Vinci to create Vitruvian Man, which is at the Accademia, but rarely shown to the public, and not part of the exhibition.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci (1490)
Giovanni Giocondo, who constructed the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in 1508 -- which is now in the process of morphing into a luxury shopping center at the foot of the Rialto Bridge designed by starchitect Rem Koolhass, due to open on October 1 -- edited the first illustrated edition of De Architecture published by Giovanni Tacuino in 1511, which introduced the knowledge of ancient temples to Venice.

The great architect Palladio (who would be deemed a super starchitect today) was deeply inspired by De Architecture, following the principles of classical Roman architecture based on mathematical proportions to construct his works. Palladio then wrote The Four Books of Architecture, published in Venice in 1570, which inspired architects all over the world, including Thomas Jefferson, who designed Monticello using the principles of Palladian architecture.

Accademia - Photo: Alessandra Chemollo Studio ORCH – courtesy Sop. per i Beni Ambientali e Architettonici di Venezia
That is just one example of how just one book can inspire a sampling of great thinkers thousands of years after it was written.

Books like that can inspire an entire exhibition in 2016 -- the event itself, Aldo Manuzio - il rinascimento di Venezia, is staged in a building designed by Palladio, the monastery of the Canonici della Carità, built during the 1560s, which is part of the Accademia Gallery. Books like that can inspire me to write a blog post on the Internet, which you are now reading, after I stepped foot into the Accademia and felt that mystical Palladian energy.

The printing press was invented in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, but Venice was where the publishing industry was born. The first printing press came to Venice in 1469, and soon hundreds of printers opened shop in Venice, an international, multicultural center of wealth, trade, literacy, banking and freedom of expression. And it was teeming with humanists.

Aldo Manuzio, Latinized to Aldus Manutius, was born in 1449 in Bassiano, part of the Papal States. He had studied the classics, and then tutored the princes Alberto III and Lionello Pio of Carpi.  His mission was to spread the Ancient Greek culture and its language.

Manuzio changed careers at the vintage age of 40, coming to Venice around 1490 at a time when the world was in crisis, with Europe at war with itself, believing that the power of books were a way out of the bedlam. He hooked up with Andrea Torresano, a wealthy and well-known bookseller, and together they founded the Aldine Press in 1495 with 50% of the start-up capital coming from Pierfrancesco Barbarigo, a Venetian nobleman who was the son of the former doge and nephew of the current doge; 40% from Torresano, and 10% from Manuzio's own funds.

The Aldine Press began printing ancient Greek manuscripts in book form, which were very expensive to buy, targeting professional scholars. Manutius stood above the other printers. To him and his associates, printing a book was an art form. He hired the best translators and copy editors; he created that semi colon I just typed. The top craftsman illustrated his books.

Then Manuzio had the radical idea to produce smaller pocket-sized books that appealed to a broader audience, and to add punctuation marks, making books more user-friendly. He transformed the bulky handwritten codex into a mass-market pocket book that readers could carry with them wherever they went, allowing reading to become a pleasurable occupation. 

The Aldine Press pocketbooks were a huge success, so much so that everybody started ripping off his idea despite the copyright protection that had been granted to him by the Venetian Republic. So he branded his books with a logo, the famous diving dolphin wrapped around an anchor, which was inspired by a Roman coin given to him by his friend Pietro Bembo, and meant "hasten slowly" or festina lente (and you can thank Manutius for inventing those italics). To this day, anyone involved in the publishing business understands what that means; it means quality.

Flora (Lucrezia Borgia?) by Bartolomeo Veneto (1505-10)
Pietro Bembo, who was a Venetian aristocrat, scholar and poet, was greatly responsible for reviving the works of Petrarch. He had a passionate love affair with the thrice-married Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, while she was married to her third husband, the Duke of Ferrara. Lord Byron deemed the love letters between the two "the prettiest love letters in the world." The eye-catching Flora portrait is plastered all over Venice right now as advertisement for the exhibition.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
The star of the show is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a book that has fascinated mankind for centuries, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful Renaissance book. Published by Manutius in 1499, the hero, Poliphilo, falls asleep and dreams of finding his beloved Polia. According to the stunning catalogue published by Marsilio that accompanies the exhibition, 'In a quest full of dangers and "labors," he flees from monsters and fierce beasts, sees marvelous architecture, takes part in occult rituals and is forced to choose between three doors with descriptions in Greek, Hebrew and Latin.'

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili illustration
There are 170 top quality woodcut prints that complement the text, whose author is not explicitly referred to in the book, but if you join up the first letters of each of the 38 chapters, it says "Francesco Colonna greatly loved Polia." Colonna was a Dominican monk who lived in Venice and Treviso, but much like the real identity of William Shakespeare, the authorship of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is a topic of debate. Nor is the identity of the artist of the woodcuts known, and has been attributed to a variety of celebrated artists, or a team of illustrators.

Portrait of Eramus by Quinten Massys (1517)
The renown of Manuzio prompted Eramus of Rotterdam, one of the greatest European humanists, to make the trip to Venice in 1507 to have his Latin translations of Euripides' Ihigenia at Aulis and Hecuba printed by the Aldine Press, which was promptly done.

Portrait of a Gentleman (Jacopo Sannazaro?) by Titian (1514-18)
Reading became all the rage, and the nobility started having portraits of themselves painted holding a book. The "pocketbook classic" became a status symbol and anybody who was anybody in the Italian and European elite had to have them. Small and easily transportable, you could read them anywhere; it was an exciting novelty, much like owning an iPhone is today.

In his introduction to Aristotle in November 1495, Aldo Manuzio wrote: "It is our lot to live in turbid, tragic and tumultuous times when men more commonly turn to arms than books; and yet I shall have no rest until I have created a plentiful supply of good books."

Five hundred years later, we can be sure that Aldus Manutius achieved his goal.

Aldo Manuzio. Il rinascimento di Venezia runs through June 19, 2016 at the Gallerie dell'Accademia.

This post is dedicated to the spirit of Christopher Cooley, who would have loved the exhibition and brought home lots of postcards and brochures. For those of you who knew him, his death is in the New York Times. May all the truth come out. The world has lost another good man. Rest with the angels, my friend.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, March 13, 2016

When Noah Got Drunk - Giovanni Bellini at Correr in Venice

Drunkenness of Noah by Giovanni Bellini (c.1515)
(Venice, Italy) When I first saw Giovanni Bellini's painting, the Drunkenness of Noah at the Correr Museum last week, I had never heard of the pivotal Biblical story about Noah getting drunk. My knowledge of Noah was from childhood Bedtime Bible Stories, and stopped when the Ark hit dry land and God sent in the rainbow.

I found the painting riveting and disturbing. It inspired me to study up on the event, which is recorded in Genesis 9:20-23. Apparently after surviving the mass extinction of mankind because God had decided His creation was too evil and decided to destroy it -- all but Noah and his family, and the animals -- one of Noah's sons, Ham, started the whole thing up again.

Noah gets drunk and passes out, naked in his tent. Ham sees the naked Noah, and dashes out to find his two older brothers, Japheth and Shem, who bring a garment to cover their father while averting their eyes. Ham, however, thinks the whole scene is hilarious. Noah comes out of his drunken stupor and learns what his youngest son had done to him. Noah then curses his own grandson, Ham's son, Canaan, declaring that he shall be the lowest of slaves to his brothers.

All sorts of Biblical scholars have all sorts of theories about what this means. Did Ham sodomize his father in order to become the alpha male of the family? Did he castrate him? Or did he just think seeing his father naked was funny? And why did Noah curse Canaan, not Ham? If Noah and his family were the best bunch of humans that God could find to save mankind, it really makes you wonder what evil-doings the rest of humanity was up to!

The passage takes place right after God makes the rainbow covenant and the family exists the ark:

[9:18] The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan.
[9:19] These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.
[9:20] Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard.
[9:21] He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent.
[9:22] And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.
[9:23] Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness.
[9:24] When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,
[9:25] he said, "Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers."
[9:26] He also said, "Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.
[9:27] May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave."
[9:28] After the flood Noah lived three hundred fifty years.
[9:29] All the days of Noah were nine hundred fifty years; and he died.

According to the press notes, "This family drama is interpreted as the reinstatement of a hierarchical order among the survivors of the purifying flood, the cause of and justification for inequality among the descendants of the three sons."

The Bible says all the people of the earth descended from Noah's three sons. Biblical scholars disagree about almost everything, even the order of birth of the sons, but very simply, Shem was the father of the Semitic people, the people of Asia; Japheth was the father of the Japhetic people, the people of Europe; and Ham was the father of the Hamitic people of Africa. Throughout history, Noah's curse on Canaan was used to justify slavery.

Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie© Jean-Louis Dousson, Ville de Besançon
Bellini's Drunkenness of Noah is considered a masterpiece, but even the painting itself is shrouded in mystery. Painted in Venice around 1515 when Bellini was 85-years-old, the work was first mentioned in 1895 in the inventory compiled after the death of Jean Gigoux, the collector who had discovered it and bequested it to the to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology in Besançon, France's oldest public museum. Where it had been for the previous four hundred years is not known, nor were scholars sure it was by Giovanni Bellini. It is now believed to be his last painting, and, in 1956, was called by the art critic Roberto Longhi "the first work of modern painting."

Even though Bellini was very old, he assimilated the revolution of the younger painters in the Venice at the time, particularly his pupil Giorgione, who had died young in 1510. The Drunkenness of Noah was a rare theme, and the only one from the Old Testament to inspire the elderly master.

A Masterpiece for Venice: The Drunkenness of Noah is the first project in a series this year that celebrates the 500th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Bellini, and can be seen in the Salle delle Quattro Porte inside the Correr Museum, where it is on loan from the Musée des Beaux-Arts until June 18.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, February 29, 2016

News from Rialto - Gondoliers of Venice Go Global

Emilio Ceccato - Gondolier Headquarters at the Rialto Bridge
(Venice, Italy) In this rapidly spinning world, it is difficult to maintain a presence when your business has existed for more than a 1,000 years. Really, it gets exhausting, trying to keep up with contemporary trends when your origins began more than a millennium ago! But the gondoliers of Venice are giving it a shot.

Thanks to Emilio Ceccato, a Venetian clothing brand that has been around since 1902, the gondoliers of Venice now have their own official line of clothing -- which you can buy, too. A percentage of all the proceeds is invested in supporting the ancient gondolier tradition, ensuring that one of Venice's most-beloved symbols remains alive and well.

Although Venice's gondoliers have been around for more than 1,000 years, they never before had their own official line of clothing. Now, each gondolier will receive one full uniform each year for free from Emilio Ceccato.

The logo incorporates the symbols of Venice in one unique design: the winged Lion of San Marco holds an open book, which symbolizes peace. On either side is the ferro, the metal design found on the prow of the gondola that represents the six different sestieri, or districts, of Venice. .

On Thursday, February 25, the Emilio Ceccato Group presented the Gondoliers Association, which represents Venice's 433 gondoliers, with a check for €1,500, a deposit towards the first project they are undertaking together -- they will build two new "Gondolone" to transport people across the Grand Canal. Not only will the Comune of Venice get a couple of much-needed boats, it will also provide work for the squero, the shipyard where one gondola is already under construction.

Traghetto at the Rialto Vegetable Market
The Gondolone, or barchetta da parada, is broader and flatter than a traditional gondola, so that up to 14 people can ride across the Grand Canal at the same time. The public service is extremely convenient, especially when you simply do not have the time or energy to go all the way to one of Venice's four bridges to cross the Grand Canal. Instead, you hop into the traghetto, and let the gondoliers whisk you across the canal. The boat is steered by two gondoliers, one in the front, and one in the back. Most people ride standing up, but you can perch along the edges if your sea legs are wobbly.

Even the Americans are showing their support. This is from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend:

Emilio Ceccato's photo.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Emilio Ceccato Facebook page
"The Gondoliers are the symbol of #Venice -- heroic, able to master the winds, the tides, the tiny canals, and the masses of tourists --all with skill, talent and grace. Each Gondolier -- handsome in his striped shirt -- makes each visitor feel that they could have been part of the magnificent Venetian past which brought treasures from across the globe on fast ships, created a culture which stood up to Rome, and made science and art its mark.

Now the Gondoliers Association will continue to contribute to the city of Venice through this first of its kind bond with the Emilio Ceccato group. These special Venetians will help their magical city not only through their trade but by directing the brand royalties toward projects which safeguard their trade and those artisan trades which surround the gondola and the Venetian rowing style, traditions which keep Venice vibrant."
Gondola Greg's photo.
Gondola Greg at Emilio Ceccato on Facebook
Greg Mohr, President of the Gondola Society of America (did you know there was such a thing?) and author of The Gondola Blog, has draped his staff in official Emilio Ceccato striped shirts:

Ciao Alberto!
As President of the Gondola Society of America,
and host of the 2015 US Gondola Nationals,
I support the Associazione Gondolieri of Venezia.

During the awards ceremony of the US Gondola Nationals, I had the opportunity to tell all fifty competitors about your association.
In addition, I presented an Associazione Gondolieri patch to the owner or representative of each of the twelve gondola companies participating.

Thank you for producing high quality clothing for gondoliers – all my staff in Newport Beach and Texas wear Emilio Ceccato striped shirts.
Saluti from California,
Greg Mohr

The Emilio Ceccato shop is located at the foot of the Rialto Bridge on the San Polo side, and has been completely restored, with original brick and piles. There is even a column inside that seems to be holding up the Rialto Bridge(!) They sell official, high-quality gondolier-wear -- T-shirts, sweatshirts, the famous straw hats, wool caps, baseball caps, winter vests, sweaters, pants and more, and the royalties from each item will be invested in projects that safeguard the gondoliers, as well all the artisan trades that that support the gondola and Venetian rowing, like the people who make the oars, the ferro, and the forcola, or oarlock, as well as investing in apprenticeship programs.

If you can't make it to Venice, you can always shop online at Emilio Ceccato. Not only will you have your own unique piece of Venice, you will be helping to keep one of Venice's oldest traditions alive. 

Ciao from Venezia, 
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog