Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Cosmos Captured in a Venetian Glass Bead - The Murano Glass Museum's Collection

Perle di vetro a lume soffiate, 19th Century
(Venice, Italy) The intricate beauty of Venetian glass beads has fascinated the world for centuries. Worn as jewelry and used to decorate fashion and tapestries, another aspect of the beads is not as well known: they were also used as currency, known as "trade beads."

We have all heard the story about how the Dutch bought the island of Manhattan from Native Americans for a mere $24 worth of beads and trinkets. There is an excellent article called Keep the Change: The Beads that Bought Manhattan by Aja Raden in the Huffington Post excerpted from her book, Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and how Desire Shapes the World. It's so good, I suggest you read the entire article. Here is a taste:

Perle di vetro a lume, 19th Century
"The fact that the Dutch paid for New Amsterdam in beads is not surprising or even unique. Venetians had used trade beads as currency in Africa and Indonesia for a very long time before any­one ever ventured to the New World. In fact, many of the bead makers in Holland were Venetians. Glass beads were not only lovely, but glass was a rare commodity outside of Europe.
In fact, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, beads were valuable and accepted pretty much as universal currency. They were actually created for that purpose and used kind of like Renaissance-era traveler’s checks. It was just as difficult to trade using unrecognizable foreign currency back then as it is now. And, sure, gold and jewels are welcome everywhere, but the jew­els were mostly coming from those distant lands in the first place, making them ubiquitous and far less valuable to their original sellers than to their European counterparts. And though every­body values gold, it’s heavy, difficult to transport in quantity, and easily stolen.
Glass beads, on the other hand, were easy to transport, easy to standardize for value, and most important, they were rare— and therefore valued—everywhere but in Western Europe. There’s a distinct advantage to trading something more valuable to your customer than it is to you. Glass beads were particularly valuable, one might even say invaluable, rare, and exotic, in the New World, where glassmaking technology didn’t exist and no one had ever seen anything like them."
Perle di vetro rosetta, 19th Century
Which brings us to the exhibition, The World in a Glass Bead, at Palazzo Giustinian, the Glass Museum on Murano, which has perhaps the largest collection of glass beads in the world, consisting of 85 sample cases containing 14,182 beads, plus a whole lot more.

In 1861, Abbot Vicenzo Zanetti, a historian and son of a master glassmaker was granted permission to create the glass museum on Murano inside Palazzo Giustinian. Zanetti had a passion and obsession for Murano glass, and did much to breathe new life into the ancient glassblowing profession, encouraging entrepreneurs and fighting for workers' rights. He also painstakingly collected glass beads produced in Murano and Venice between 1820 and 1890, cataloguing as many as he could find.

About 25 years after Zanetti's death in 1883, some "genius" had the "brilliant" idea to move the collection from the museum into a warehouse, losing the records of the history of the beads.

Perle di vetro a lume a inserzione di murrine, 19th Century
Enter Augusto Panini, who has traveled extensively throughout West Africa, deepening his knowledge of the ancient Mali culture, specifically focusing on glass beads and the role they played in commercial and cultural relations between Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Last month, I had the good fortune to attend a private dinner at which I met Augusto Panini, who presented the host with a beautiful book entitled Il Mondo in un Perla, or The World in a Bead -- all the gorgeous photos in this post were taken by Augusto Panini -- which provided an in-depth look at the exhibition that opened on December 8th at Palazzo Giustinian.

The World in a Bead by Augusto Panini
Panini spent five years researching and photographing the glass bead collection of Abbot Vicenzo Zanetti, gathering together the history that had been lost. Finally, more than 150 years after Zanetti's death, the glass bead collection is back at home inside Palazzo Giustinian, meticulously catalogued by Augusto Panini, as Venetian glass makes yet another comeback.

The World in a Glass Bead is curated by Augusto Panini and Chiara Squarcina, the Director of the Glass Museum. Squarcina says the title "stems from my own personal view of the bead as a multi-faceted cosmos in which skilled hands, particularly those of women, have communicated a concept of grace and perfection giving rise, each time, to a perfect and ideal world."

The World in a Glass Bead runs through April 15, 2018. Go to the Venice Glass Museum for more information.

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8: The Madonna of the Sun and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Harley's Ninth - illustrated by Philippe Lardy
(Venice, Italy) When I created the teen-age protagonist, Harley Columba, in my first novel,  Harley, Like a Person, I wanted her to have a deep connection to John Lennon, so I made her birthday the same day that John Lennon was assassinated, December 8th. At that time, I had no idea what  the significance of that day was in terms of Christian history, nor in the history of many other religions.

In my second novel, Harley's Ninth, Harley, who is an artist, has an idea for a goddess of her own creation, and decides to capture her idea in a sketch for an oil painting. She calls her goddess, The Madonna of the Sun. I think Philippe Lardy, a Swiss artist who lives in Paris, and who illustrated the cover, caught the image beautifully. From Harley's Ninth:
I flip open my sketch pad and take a piece of charcoal out of its case. I prop my sketch pad on the ledge of the building. I sketch a woman reclining in the hollow of a mountaintop. Her hair is long, and shaped as if it is the veil of the Virgin Mary. She has wings, Indian-feather wings. The bottom half of her body is nude. Her knees are bent up in the air. Her feet are bare -- with spindly, elegant toes like fingers and semi-circular arches. Suspended between her thighs is a glowing sun; yellow beams shoot out between her legs and into the atmosphere. Inside her womb is a golden egg. The woman's eyes look sideways, right at the viewer. Her eyes are mysterious and wise. There is a tiny smile on her lips, serene and confident. I will call my painting The Madonna of the Sun.
Meeting at the Golden Gate by Giotto (section) - 1305
Years later, after moving to Venice, I learned that December 8th is a national holiday here in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is one of the most important Marian feast days in the Roman Catholic Church, and is celebrated world-wide. It celebrates the day that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was conceived.

Some scholars think that the great artist Giotto di Bondone captured the moment of the Immaculate Conception in his Meeting at the Golden Gate, when Mary's parents; Joachim and Anne, who were long-married but childless, first met each other after receiving the news from an angel that they would have a child who would grow up to be the mother of God. You can read more about the moment in a post I wrote about Giotto:

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


These days, with so many women speaking out against those that abuse their power, and with Time Magazine naming their Person of the Year: "The Silence Breakers -- The Voices that Launched a Movement," I hope that the creative female energy will finally have her moment in the Sun.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, December 4, 2017

Contemporary Art in Venice: Biennale Closes - V-A-C Foundation Opens + Gianni Berengo Gardin

Christine Macel & Paolo Baratta - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) The 57th Art Biennale, Viva Arte Viva, curated by Christine Macel, ended last Sunday, November 27, and was a huge success, with over 615,000 visitors, a 23% increase over 2015. In addition, more than 23,500 visitors attended the three preview days on May 10-12 alone. At the Open Meeting with the Italian and international press, President Paolo Baratta also expressed his satisfaction with the number of young people who attended -- more than a third of visitors were under the age of 26.

Last day of Viva Arte Viva - Photo: Cat Bauer
One journalist asked what the reason for the rise in attendance was. Baratta offered several theories. The Biennale does not advertise except for some local banners in Venice, so perhaps the increase was due to word of mouth and social media. But perhaps it was due to some deeper phenomenon, a growing thirst for first-hand knowledge. Contemporary art has grown more familiar to the public. And many students came to the Biennale on organized trips with their teachers, an activity to which the Biennale dedicates a lot of resources.

Opening for Daniela Delfina Dell'Orto - Photo: Cat Bauer
Personally, I think that young people -- at least here in Europe -- do have a growing interest in contemporary art, a real-life respite from the bombardment of the cyber world. On November 10th, I was at the opening for Daniela Delfina Dell'Orto at the Andrea Tardini Gallery and a group of 20-somethings bounded in, full of energy and curiosity. I asked, "Where are you from? How did you get here?" It turned out they were from Belgium, a group of friends who had come to Venice for the weekend specifically to visit Art Biennale, and were wandering around the city visiting galleries. They had just stumbled into Daniela's opening by chance --which I loved, by the way -- it's on through January 7, 2018.

For months, the thought-provoking Viva Arte Viva was the most visited exhibition in Italy, evidence that it is not only the mindless masses that come to visit Venice, but also enlightened travelers who understand that the city contains a wealth of knowledge. Christine Macel declared that "Viva Arte Viva is an exhibition inspired by humanism."

Go to Biennale for more information.

The Individual is a Mirage by Erik Beltran (section) 2010 - Photo: Cat Bauer
Meanwhile, as Art Biennale came to a close, the opening reception for the new exhibition at the V-A-C Foundation on the Zattare was on November 25. Taking its title from Shannon Ebner's installation The Electric Comma, the exhibition examines the ways in which the distinction between artificial and human intelligence is becoming less clear. From the press notes: "As the majority of our collective histories, memories and imaginations are being digitized, the effects of this on the human condition and on our planet as a whole remain underestimated."

What makes the exhibition even more interesting is that the V-A-C Foundation was founded in Moscow in 2009 by Leonid Mikhelson, said to be the world's richest Russian, and whose mission is cultural diplomacy through contemporary art. With so much uproar in the world these days over the extent to which Russia is influencing other countries, it's nice to have the opportunity to stroll over to Palazzo delle Zattare and see for oneself the image they choose to project.

Inside Diane by Valia Fetisov (2017) inspired by Twin Peaks
"Warning! If you choose to enter, your voice will be recorded, 
anonymized and published" 
Photo: Cat Bauer
V-A-C is dedicated to the development and international presentation of Russian contemporary culture, and has international ties with the New Museum in New York, the Tate galleries in the UK, and the Whitechapel Gallery in London. A version of the premiere exhibition that launched here in Venice, Space, Force Construction, is now at the Art Institute of Chicago with the new title Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test until January 15, 2018.

The current V-A-C exhibition, The Electric Comma, was developed together with KADIST, a French-American private foundation based in San Francisco and Paris, and contains works from both collections. I thought it was intriguing, and they seem to have a sense of humor.

I included the V-A-C Foundation in the "Things to DO" section of the current fall/winter issue of LUXOS Magazine entitled "Art has no passport."

The Electric Comma runs through March 31, 2018. For more information, visit the V-A-C Foundation.

Gianni Berengo Gardin - Photo: Cat Bauer
I finally had the opportunity to meet the acclaimed photographer, Gianni Berengo Gardin, at the inauguration of Gianni Berengo Gardin & Sergio Del Pero - Venise '55/'65 at the Wilmotte Foundation on Friday evening, December 1.

Berengo Gardin has been called, "the most important photographer in Italy in the latter part of the 20th century," and at age 87, is still going strong. In 2015, he caused a lot of commotion when his exhibition about the cruise ships in Venice was banned from Palazzo Ducale, only to open at Olivetti Showroom in Piazza San Marco, a building designed by the renowned architect, Carlo Scarpa, just a couple hundred meters away.

I wrote a post about the whole shebang, which you can read here:

Venice and the Cruise Ships - Blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Exhibition Opens in Piazza San Marco

It turned out that there were a bunch of outside forces in play during that period in time, which were trying to control the narrative. Judging by some of those in attendance at the current inauguration, I don't think those outside forces have learned anything at all. 

Venise '55/'65 runs through May 18, 2018. For more information go to the Wilmotte Foundation

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Guess who I ran into Today? All the Saints & All the Souls on the Island of San Michele, Venice, 2017

Micromega Arte e Cultura - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) I do not usually go to San Michele, the island where Venice buries her dead, on October 31st. I usually go on November 1, All Saints Day. With astonishing synchronicity, most times I have run into Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, whom I first met up in her castle in Tyrol.

I have written about this phenomenon before, which you can read here:

Island of the Dead - San Michele, Venice - All the Saints and All the Souls

It is uncanny how often I run into Mary de Rachewiltz on All Saints Day on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. This year, I was far away from the tomb of her famous parents, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, when Mary arrived in the afternoon -- usually I get there earlier, and so does she. I was in a completely different section of the cemetery at the tomb of my Venetian nonni trying to light a candle that the wind kept blowing out. After about ten attempts, I decided to go to the florist at the front of the island and buy a wind-resistant candle. I literally almost ran into Mary as she was heading in.

"Mary!" I cried. "I'm so happy to see you!"

"Cat Bauer!" she exclaimed. "I'm running into everybody today."

Now, we are in 2017. I had no plans to go to San Michele today, but I ended up in the general vicinity, and thought I might as well go a day early. Guess who was there? Yes! Mary de Rachewiltz! I said, Mary, you never come the day before All Saints Day, and neither do I. Yet, here we are both again, in the same place, at the same time. It is too much! Mary said something like, well, it is meant to be. We chatted, and caught up on some trials and tribulations, chuckling all the time. Mary is now 92-years-old, and is an Angel-on-Earth, completely in possession of all her clever wits. I really can't explain this phenomenon, but if I had gotten there 10 minutes later, I would have missed her.

Back in 2010, I wrote about how many people felt that Halloween did not have a place here in Italy, and how much I had enjoyed it when I lived in the States. Every year I see the influence grow stronger. This year, out on the Lido, they seemed to be embracing the festival, with little witches everywhere, and candy being handed out at all the shops. Hhhmm... Here's an excerpt from the old post; click the link to read the entire thing:

The Island of the Dead - Venice, Italy

 (ANSA) - Vatican City, October 29 - Halloween is pagan and against the spirit of Christianity, an influential Catholic Church group said Friday. Chiming in with the Vatican's annual warnings on the festival, the (Pope) John XXIII Association said: "Halloween was born as the perpetuation of a pagan cult which evolved over time and linked up with esoteric and occult practices". "We are faced with a sort of revival of neopaganism which, as such, is in open contrast with the spirit of Christianity". 

"Does our society really need all these messages exalting horror," asked the association's head, Giovanni Paolo Ramonda.

"At a time which should be devoted to the holy memory of our saints and souls, people unthinkingly set up 'noir' banquets, crime dinners and afternoons for children in macabre masks. "Everyone should be reminded that Halloween comes from an ancient pagan ritual in the British Isles practised by the Druids, the Celts' ferocious priestly caste".

The Northern League also disapproves:
The Northern League party, which jealously guards northern Italy's Celtic past, also came out against the feast this year, accusing it of being "inauthentic". "Halloween is not part of our identity," said the Northern League's mayor of the town of Calalzo di Cadore, Luca De Carlo.

Personally, speaking as a witch and a pagan, a self-declared Hindu (back when I was a teen) -- a Catholic and Protestant (with strong empathy for Jews, Muslim & Buddhists) -- not to mention the offspring of Freemasons -- as well as an "Angel With Teeth" in the New York City Village Halloween Parade -- I feel that Halloween is not something organic here in Venice, but is a sly attempt to penetrate the culture by outside forces. Good luck with that.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Venice Handles Migrants Who Go Wrong: Through the Eyes of Children and "Fish of Peace"

Kids Swarm Palazzo Ducale for Pesce di Pace - Photo: Cat Bauer

(Venice, Italy) What a great idea! Nadia De Lazzari, of the Pesce di Pace or "Fish of Peace" organization here in Venice, gave 501 sheets of paper in the shape of the earth to children on three different continents: Europe, Africa and America.

Fifteen hundred primary school children from Italian, Tunisian, Moroccan and American schools illustrated the globes divided into three equal parts with colorful messages of hope, joy, peace and friendship. On the back, they wrote messages to their peers in their own languages -- Italian, English, Arabic, Berber, Hebrew, and French -- which were translated into Italian by male inmates in prisons in Venice and Trento, many of them immigrants and refugees, with the hope that the childrens' words and images will help transform the prisoners into new men.  

"hi my name is Austin.
I live in Waco texas.
I drew what Chrismas looks like for us In texas"
And today kids from 25 schools in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia-Giulia swarmed into Palazzo Ducale to see their exhibition hanging inside the Doge's Palace, which will run through November 5. Have a look and listen to what all that inspiring kid energy sounds like on a mind-blowing field trip:

There were multicultural speakers: Imam Yahya Pallavicini, Rabbi Scialom Bahbout, Patriarch Francesco Moraglia, Tunisian Ambassador to Italy Moezeddine Sinaoui, and our own Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, to name a few.

In other parts of the world, refugees and migrants might seem like an abstract concept, but here in Italy it is a serious consideration. According to the BBC, last year, 171,000 migrants made the trip across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa into Italy. Almost 5,000 died at sea. With war, terrorism and poverty wracking many regions, people risk their lives to provide a better one for themselves and their families -- as did many immigrants from Europe to America during the World Wars. According to The Guardian, much of the chaos is due to the unrest in Libya.

There is also a beautiful book illustrated with the kids' artwork, with messages from different religious and governmental leaders (grownups) titled, 501 Disegni a Sei Mani per 500 anni Veneziani - Venezia, Tunisi, Rabat, Hewitt or "501 Drawings by Six Hands for 500 Years of Venetians - Venice, Tunisi, Rabat, Hewitt." The very first book I ever wrote when I was six-years-old was titled, Children of Other Lands, so this was right up my calle.

From Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic of Italy: "The 501 works in this publication are the fruit of an imagination and mind that is free of any kind of prejudice, coming from children from different countries and cultures. Drawings and messages of friendship that offer an amazing testimony of dialogue and reciprocal respect that these young children have wanted to give to the adult world, using colours."

"Hello my name is Gabriel
i'm in 3rd grade.
I lived in Mexico but I moved to Waco
My favrite color is Blue
My farite wepon is a sword"
From Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice: "'Make bridges, make bridges in a society that is used to making walls... Where there's a wall, hearts are closed. We need bridges, not walls!": these words by Pope Francis truly seem to be the most suitable to described the spirit and content of this highly appreciated initiative."

From Enrico Sbriglia, Regional Superintendent of the Penitentiary Administration (I wish I had the space to share his entire statement; he is like a poet -- no wonder the prisoners are participating in this project): "Drawings and words, symbols and memories, different languages and skin colours that express the plurality of the world and the thousand ways of smiling and playing, of embracing one's mother and waiting for one's father, of invoking the divine and relying on it -- they all create the web where we lay out our lives. We have to be grateful for the "Fish of Peace," and to the children from different countries who, together with prisoners from just as many different countries -- with the signs and words they are giving us -- remind us that, if we really want, hope and compassion will save the world."

Mohammed Sadiki, Mayor of Rabat, Morocco: "This friendship, which started at school, will help promote peace, solidarity, brotherhood and reciprocal respect between peoples all over the world. This book offers hope for the future and it will certainly be an example to us all."

From Scialom Bahbout, Chief Rabbi of Venice: "Children can be the real Teachers and show how one can live an honest life with simplicity and true faith."

From Abdelaaziz Aamri, a prisoner from the Kingdom of Morocco: "Dearest 'Angels,' for me it is a great honor to participate with you from afar in a project for peace in the world. With the wealth and light that you radiate, you are making space in the dark dominating the planet. We have the task of working hard to make the whole world understand the importance of brotherhood so that it becomes a place of living, co-existence, and reciprocal respect between cultures and religions."

Nadia De Lazzari and her Pesce di Pace are on Facebook.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

When Venice's Loot Came Back from France - Canova, Hayez & Cicognara at the Galleria Accademia

Horse of St. Mark's plaster copy - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) When Napoleon forced the Venetian Republic to surrender on May 12, 1797 and ended the 1000-year-old realm of La Serenissima, his soldiers hauled a lot of loot back to France -- the most cherished being the four bronze horses on the outside of Saint Mark's Basilica, dating from antiquity. In 1205, Venice herself had plundered the four horses from Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire and Christian civilization. Napoleon hoisted the horses up on the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris to commemorate his victories.

The French swiped many other precious works of art, and hacked to pieces five thousand winged lions, the symbol of St. Mark, Venice's evangelist. They also nabbed the prized Lion of San Marco that was on the column in Piazza San Marco.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Gallerie dell'Accademia in 1817, much of the plundered art has been gathered together in an outstanding exhibition entitled Canova, Hayez, Cicognara - The Ultimate Glory of Venice, curated by Paola Marini, Fernando Mazzocca and Roberto De Feo. The show offers not only a chance to see some exceptional works of art, but also an opportunity to learn some history about the tumultuous time.

One quibble with the exhibit is that although the history might be familiar to Europeans whose ancestors were used to their lives being disrupted at the will of emperors, kings and queens -- many of whom were related to one another -- those in the English-speaking world might feel a bit bewildered. The timeline is in both Italian and English, as are the descriptions of the art, but the excellent catalogue published by Marsilio/Electa is only in Italian. And at the time of this writing, there is no information about the exhibition on the Accademia's website in either Italian or English, so I'm going to attempt to guide you through it.

Self-portrait by Antonio Hayez - Photo courtesy Accademia
To greatly simplify a complex timeline, after Napoleon's conquest, Venice was put under Austrian domination from October 1797 until December 1805, when the Treaty of Pressburg thrust it again under the French. Napoleon created the Kingdom of Italy -- in addition to the one under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, in existence since 800AD -- titling himself the "Emperor of the French and King of Italy." The French scattered Venice's heritage willy-nilly, suppressing convents and parishes, and dispersing works of art, hauling much of it off to the Musée Napoleon in Paris -- aka the Louvre.

Museum headquarters for Napoleon's new Italian kingdom was established in Milan at the Pincoteca di Brera, the main building of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera.

During all this commotion, in 1807 a commission was set up in Venice to conserve works of art. Venice already had an Academy of Fine Arts, which had been founded on September 24, 1750. Napoleon changed the name of the Veneta Academia di Pittura, Scultura e Architettura to the Accademia Reale di Belle Arti, or the "royal academy of fine arts" and decreed that it be reorganized along the lines of the art academies in Milan and Bologna, creating three national academies in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Weeks earlier, Alvise Almorò Pisani had been appointed president of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice.

The headquarters of the Academy was moved from the Fonteghetto della Farina, next to where Harry's Bar is now and where flour was sold, to its present location at Carità at the foot of the Accademia bridge, which had been the Scuola Grande della Carità and the Church of Santa Maria della Carità, but was one of the religious complexes that had been targeted by Napoleon and disbanded. Napoleon himself showed up in Venice in November 1807 and stayed through December to visit his handiwork.

Then Alvise Pisani, the president of the Academy, died on February 12, 1808, and one of the heroes of our story, Count Leopoldo Cicognara, a theoretician, scholar and historian of international fame, was appointed president. Cicognara was great friends with the neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova, who was considered the pre-eminent living artist, celebrated through all of Europe, and who had already been commissioned by Napoleon.

Rinaldo e Armida by Franceso Hayez (1812-13) Photo courtesy Accademia
The Academy decided to give its top students a three-year scholarship to study art in Rome under the tutelage of Canova. The talented young Venetian painter Francesco Hayez was one of the first winners. Canova and Cicognara were determined to cultivate Hayez into an artist who would renew Italian painting and bring Italy back to its ancient glory -- hence the name of the exhibition, Canova, Hayez, Cicognara - L'ultima gloria di Venezia.

Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815, and then the Habsburg Emperor Franz I of Austria stepped up to the plate.

Things moved swiftly after that. Emperor Franz I demanded that the Louvre give back the plundered artworks in his territories. Canova was instrumental in getting most of Venice's stuff returned, and wrote to Cicognara on October 2, 1815 that "I have the consolation of telling you that our Venetian paintings have been returned and are already being crated for Italy."

One of the next things the Emperor did was give Venice back her beloved horses, which arrived on December 13, 1815 in Piazza San Marco with much pomp and circumstance, to the joy of the Venetians.

Re-situating Ceremony - Horses on the Pronaos of St. Mark's Basilica by Vincenzo Chilone (1815) Photo: Cat Bauer
On March 22, 1816, six crates of art from Paris arrived at the Accademia di Belle Art, all but one piece in good condition. In April, Emperor Franz I arrived with his daughter, Marie Louise for Holy Week, and to watch the prized Lion of San Marco, which had been damaged, be placed, fully restored, back up on its column in Piazza San Marco. The Accademia then put on a show so the public could view the returned artworks. When it was over, all the works with known original positions went back to their places, and the Academy kept the rest.

In August, the bequest of Girolamo Ascanio Molin (a renowned Venetian Senator, writer and historian, with a precious collection of assorted goodies -- but that's another story) arrived in the Accademia. Then the crafty Cicognara managed to transport Titian's Assunta, considered the most beautiful painting in the world, from the Frari Basilica to the Accademia.

When I heard this, I thought, What? I found one of the curators, Roberto De Feo, during the inauguration, and tried to have a conversation with him even though all of Venice seemed to be there, and we were constantly interrupted. De Feo said Cicognara had moved the painting to protect it from the "humidity." I said that after living in Venice for nearly 20 years, and writing about her culture, I didn't believe that story for one second. (Needless to say, the Assunta has since been placed back up on the high altar inside the Frari, where she belongs.)

Ideal Head of Helen by Canova (1811) Photo: Cat Bauer
In November, Lord Byron, the greatest living poet, showed up on the scene, and added some brilliance, romance, scandal and a lot of wild gossip to a city already throbbing with excitement. He would move into Palazzo Mocenigo on the Grand Canal along with his with 14 servants, two monkeys, a fox and two mastiff dogs. Ah, those were the days!  One of the rooms of the current exhibition is dedicated to Lord Byron, and includes Canova's sculpture of the Ideal Head of Helen, of which Byron wrote:

In this beloved marble view
Above the works and thoughts of Man
What nature could, but would not, do
And beauty and Canova can!

In June 1817, Hayez returned to Venice. Then, on August 10th, Count Cicognara inaugurated the first five rooms of the Gallerie dell'Accademia and the museum was born, while still maintaining its role as an art academy. It is this anniversary that we are celebrating today (give or take a month or two).

Polyhymnia by Canova
By this time, Emperor Franz I had married his fourth wife, Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, who was 24 years younger than he was, and he asked the Venetian provinces to pay a heavy contribution. Our wily Cicognara negotiated a deal where part of the tribute would include works by top artists and artisans in the Veneto, together with young students from the Accademia, for the new empress's rooms -- but only because he threw the magnificent statue of Polyhymnia created by Canova into the deal.

Before the works went off to Vienna, the Accademia exhibited them in the great hall, all dominated by Titian's Assunta -- which was there to ostensibly recover from the extreme humidity of the Frari at the much drier environment at the Accademia, just a couple of campi away.

The group of works were later divvied up by the heirs of the imperial family, but have been almost completely gathered together again for the first time in 200 years for the current exhibition (with the exception of Titian's Assunta:-) in a room dedicated to "The Tribute of the Venetian Provinces to the Court of Vienna."

Altogether there are more than 130 works displayed in ten thematic rooms:

1. The glorious and controversial return of the works of art requisitioned by Napoleon: the Horses of St. Mark and the Jupiter Aegis 
2. Cicognara - patron and promoter of the arts. Friendship and collaboration with Canova. Common trust in young Hayez
3. The Homage from the Venetian Provinces. An extraordinary collection of contemporary artworks for the Vienna court
4. The legacy of Giuseppe Bossi. The arrival of Leonardo and Raffaello's drawings in Venice
5. Masters and students of the Academy between Venice and Rome
6. Byron in Venice and the fascination for Helen by Canova. Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi and Giustina Renier Michiel, queens of intellectual salons
7. The myth of Canova - national glory and universal icon
8. Hayez, the true heir to Canova, creates Romanticism and leaves Venice for Milan
9. The antique molds in the collection of the Gallerie dell'Accademia
10. An interactive "hypertext" of the history of the Accademia
That is a brief summation of all the ultimate glories in store. There is much, much more to absorb when you visit the exhibition.
Practically every private international committee in town has also participated in this project: Venetian Heritage, Save Venice Inc., The Venice in Peril Fund, The Venice International Foundation, Friends of Venice Italy Inc. and the Comité Francais pour la Savegarde de Venice.

Canova, Hayez and Cicognara - The Ultimate Glory of Venice runs through April 2, 2018, so you've got six months to see it.

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