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Cat Bauer has lived in Venice since 1998. She was a regular contributor to the "International Herald Tribune's" Italian supplement, "Italy Daily," and is the author of the novels "Harley, Like a Person" and "Harley's Ninth," published by Knopf.
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1. Longest Marriage in History: Venice and the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2015

Festa della Sensa 2015
(Venice, Italy) Venice and the Sea have been married now for more than 1000 years. Yesterday, Ascension Day, Venice once again renewed her vows to her watery husband. I spent the weekend out on the Lido, and, for the first time, really appreciated the significance of the ceremony, which was first instituted by Doge Pietro II Orseolo more than a millennium ago.

Festa della Sensa 2015
On May 9, 1000, Ascension Day -- the day on which Jesus Christ had zoomed up to heaven 1000 years before -- the dynamic Doge Pietro Orseolo II sailed a fleet across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia to crush the irritating Dalmatian pirates who had been a thorn in Venice's side -- and everyone else who was trying to do business in the Adriatic Sea -- for far too long. From Venice - The Rise to Empire by John Julius Norwich:

...the Doge heard Mass in the cathedral of S. Pietro di Castello, and received from the Bishop of Olivolo a consecrated standard [a banner believed to depict the famous Venetian emblem, the winged lion with an open book in his paws, for the first time]. Thence he proceeded in state to the harbour where the great Venetian fleet lay waiting for him, boarded his flagship and gave the signal to weigh anchor. After a night at Jesolo, the fleet came the next morning to Grado, where the Patriarch... ceremonially greeted them and invested the Doge with relics of St. Hermagoras [friend and disciple of St. Mark].

Festa della Sensa 2015
Doge Pietro Oreseolo II succeeded gloriously in his mission, and returned in great triumph to Venice. This was a victory that needed to be commemorated. Norwich again:

...it was decreed that on every succeeding Ascension Day -- the anniversary of the fleet's departure -- the Doge, with the Bishop of Olivolo and the nobles and citizens of Venice, should sail out again by the Lido port into the open sea for a service of supplication and thanksgiving. In those early days the service was short and the prayer simple, though it asked a lot: 'Grant, O Lord, that for us and for all who sail thereon, the sea may ever be calm and quiet.'

Policeman patrolling on a Jet Ski
Apparently the Lord was listening this Ascension Day, because the sea was calm and quiet, the sun was blazing, and the temperature was pleasant and warm. Venice doesn't have a Doge anymore -- right now, we are even without a mayor -- but we still have a Patriarch after all these centuries. Francesco Moraglia was installed as the Patriarch of Venice on March 25, 2012 -- Venice's birthday. That the Patriarch should still travel out to the Lido to celebrate Mass in the Church of San Nicolò (where some of the bones of St. Nicholas himself are stashed) on the Feast of the Ascension when Venice marries the sea illustrates the importance of the festival.

Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice - Festa della Sensa 2015
I have written about the Festa della Sensa before, detailing how it was ramped up into a proper marriage ceremony by Pope Alexander III in 1177 after the Venetians succeeded in coaxing Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to calm down and come to Piazza San Marco where he prostrated himself in front of the Pope and received the kiss of peace. It seems it is always a beautiful sunny day on the Festa della Sensa. Click the links below to revisit 2012 and 2013.

Venice Marries the Sea and the America's Cup!!!

The Ancient and the Contemporary, the Sacred and the Profane merge once again in Venice. Today is Ascension Day, the day that celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. In Venice, it is known as the Festa della Sensa; "sensa" is the word "ascension" in the Venetian language. Whenever Venetians get their hands on a special day, they like to pack as much power into that day as possible. So, in the morning there is the traditional Festa della Sensa celebration, and in the afternoon -- the America's Cup!

Festa della Sensa 2015

Venice Renews her Vows to the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2013

In one of the world's longest marriages, today Venice once again tossed her ring into the Sea, cementing a relationship that has endured for more than a thousand years. Oh, sure, there have been some quarrels, as in any intimate relationship, but Venice and the Sea have managed to endure century after century. Despite a few storms, floods and other shows of temper, Venice and the Sea always work out their differences and arrive at a state of equilibrio. It is a beautiful day here in La Serenissima, full of sunshine and good feelings -- perfect weather for a wedding. 

Fort of Sant'Andrea
With the flag of San Marco flying in the distance on the Fort of Sant'Andrea, a fortress built in 1543 on the island of Sant'Andrea century to defend Venice, it felt safe and snug to be inside the arms of La Serenissima on her wedding anniversary.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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2. The Art Invasion of Venice - Biennale 2015

Bruce Nauman - Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain
(Venice, Italy) The World of Art tornadoed into Venice last week for the preview of ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES, flinging colors throughout the city like a giant kaleidoscope released from its cylinder. Arsenale and Giardini were the center of the storm, where Okwui Enwezor, curator of the Biennale's 56th International Art Exhibition has gathered together a montage of artists to monitor the state of the planet.

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee (1920)
Enwezor was inspired by Angelus Novus by Paul Klee, and the writing of German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who owned the painting. The Angel of History is the seed of the show. Benjamin wrote:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Everything will be taken away by Adrian Piper
I love it when the artists come to town with their divine offerings. Private palaces wake up, shops stay open late and the air is sprinkled with refreshing conversations. Creative people arrive from all over the globe to witness the birth of the exhibition. It is impossible to be everywhere you are supposed to be; you can be spirited away to someplace you never intended to go. I went to the wrong party, which was so much fun that I skipped the right one. I stumbled into Rock & Roll Private Library over at Santa Maria Della Pieta, a hodgepodge of cool stuff collected for decades by Punk rocker Mick Jones of The Clash. Since Mick and I are the same age, he's got a lot of perfectly preserved relics from the last century that brought back personal memories -- life was so much fun!

Mick Jones & Cat Bauer - Opening of Rock & Roll Public Library, Venice
Inside Biennale, my three favorite installations were:

1. In addition to her Everything will be taken away series, Golden Lion winner Adrian Piper created the Probable Trust Registry. Three young women perched behind three corporate office desks, armed with iPads. Over their heads were three statements: I WILL ALWAYS MEAN WHAT I SAY, I WILL ALWAYS BE TOO EXPENSIVE TO BUY and I WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT I SAY I AM GOING TO DO. After reading The Rules of the Game, I signed a Personal Declaration for the first two statements, which will be sealed in Piper's archive in Berlin for 100 years. I didn't sign the last statement because I thought, what if I say I am going to do something that involves other people and they don't want to do it?

2. Oscar Murillo debuted Frequencies, his ongoing project, which I absolutely loved. Students aged 10 to 16 around the globe have canvases fixed to their classroom desks and can doodle whatever they want on them for an entire semester. The difference in the sizes of the canvas and the wealth of the countries was impressive. Some kids shared a desk, and a line was drawn down the middle of the canvas. Some countries had lots of colors; some countries only pen and ink. A website will archive each canvas and make it searchable by country, school and age, as well as subject matter and style, illustrating both the dramatic differences and astonishing similarities across continents, races, and social status.

France national pavilion

3. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's installation for the French national pavilion is revolutions, three living trees that sing and dance while humans lounge on cushions and absorb the magic. The three Scotch pines (two outside; one inside) are mobilized by the electricity generated by the conversion of data drawn from their metabolisms -- variations in their sap flow and their sensitivity to light and shade. Part of Boursier-Mougenot's inspiration was Francesco Colonna mysterious book, The Dream of  Poliphilus, when trees morph into trans-human creatures, freed from their roots to the ground. It was so peaceful and relaxing, I could have spent all day in there, listening to the music of the trees.

ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES runs to November 22, 2015

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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3. War Paintings by Jenny Holzer - 56th Venice Biennale Collateral Event

RIGHT HAND DOD-044403 by Jenny Holzer (2007)
(Venice, Italy) War Paintings by the renowned American artist Jenny Holzer at the Correr Museum packs a powerful emotional punch. Holzer has spent more than a decade researching the behavior of the United States government after 9/11, using declassified and other sensitive government documents written by U.S. politicians, CIA and FBI officials, members of the U.S. Department of Defense, detainees captured by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and civilian victims of war. She then transformed what she learned from the heavily redacted documents about the War on Terror into haunting oil-on-linen paintings, writing with her own hands the words from the actual government documents she accessed. "I wanted the paintings to show time and care. I wanted the hand work to be an indicator of sincerity and attention. I wanted it to be human."

Gabriella Belli, Jenny Holzer, Walter Hartsarich
Thomas Kellein, the curator from The Written Art Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany, said it was fitting that the exhibition was in Room 32, the Sala delle Quattro Porte of the Correr Museum, because he always thought of it as "a secret city hall," and said how much he admired and respected Jenny Holzer's work.

But the words... the words... those heartbreaking words on linen... Because of the direct, personal experience I have had as an American writer living overseas targeted by our government, perhaps I know better than many civilians how horrific the behavior of the US government can be, and how extremely difficult it is to communicate such darkness to the people who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Jenny Holzer has done it. She feels: "the material speaks for itself; having torture seemingly normalized is not a positive development."

in (JIHAD) time by Jenny Holzer (2014)
The exhibition is accompanied by a weighty catalogue, also created by Jenny Holzer and published by Walther Konig in Cologne, Germany, which I strongly recommend. It includes some of the redacted documents, the material that, as Hozler says, "speaks for itself." For example, a document dated July 10, 2001 from the FBI in Phoenix to Counterterrorism illustrates that they were aware long before September 11th that radical Muslims were training as pilots...

Even more than the words of those who had been tortured, what struck me were the words of the Americans themselves. Many, many Americans who love their country, and everything it stands for, tried to stop what was going on. They bravely filed official sworn statements and other documents.

After members of the special forces terrified a redacted prisoner while an interrogator had stepped outside for a break, on February 13, 2002, the interrogator wrote a sworn statement by hand: "I was very upset that such a thing could happen. I take my job and responsibility as an interrogator & as a human being very seriously. I understand the importance of the Geneva Convention & what it represents. If I don't honor it, what right do I have to expect any other military to do so?"

Another redacted document that broke my heart was a letter dated September 26, 2003 from a father "To Whom it May Concern." It starts: "I am writing this letter for my wife and myself. The purpose of this letter is to appeal to you, as a parent, for relief for my son 1st. Lt. ______ in his current situation. I understand that the U.S. Army wants to court martial him and send him to prison."

The father goes to describe himself as a basic, upstanding US citizen, in education for 30 years, appointed by Jeb Bush (?!) to a post that was... redacted. He has friends who are Congressmen. He knows the former governor of Florida. His wife had just retired after spending 17 years as the business manager of their 1000 member church.

His son had led an exemplary life, and wanted to be a career officer. On July 12, 2003, the redacted son wrote to his parents: "Needless to say the Army has made a decision, or helped me make a decision, that I will only serve for 4 years. I still love my country and have faith in her virtues, though she has none in mine. If this goes to court martial it will be broadcast over the news and my name, and yours, will be tarnished forever. You didn't sign up for that, but I did. If this happens I apologize in advance. All I ever wanted to do was to serve and protect those who loved me, and spread freedom to others less fortunate... I have brought hundreds of criminals to prison, captured countless weapons, saved lives of coalition and civilian personnel, have my life threatened on a daily basis from insurgents and criminals alike. Yet all I ever wanted was to be left alone with my platoon so I could continue doing what I love the most..."

Those words struck a deep chord. If they could do that to a soldier who obviously loves his country....

Phase IV Operations pewter Text: U.S. government document © 2007 Jenny Holzer
Prisoners were starved, left shackled in a freezing room, left shackled in a sweltering room, sleep deprived, suffocated and beaten to death. Only the names have been redacted on several of the prisoners' autospy reports, so we can read in cold medical terminology over and over the cause of death: Homicide. After reading the actual descriptions of the harsh interrogation techniques condoned by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney -- that Cheney publicly declared he would "do it again in a minute" -- I can assure you that policy cannot be classified as anything other than torture to any civilized human being.

War Paintings at the Correr Museum
War Paintings is a project between the Musei Civici and the Written Art Foundation, and a Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Festival, ALL THE WORLD'S FUTURES, which opens to the public on on May 9th and runs through November 22nd. President Paolo Baratta stated: "We know that evoking the dramatic facts and occurrences that characterise the present also means admitting history. The present, after all, demands to be understood through the signs, symbols, and recollections that history accords us and from which we draw a sense of desperation but also of illumination. It also means evoking fragments of our recent and remote past, which must not be forgotten."

Jenny Holzer is not the only artist at the international Biennale looking at the past behavior of her country in order to be present and move forward into the future, but because I am American and have personally experienced the shock of how frightening our government can be when it is out of control, it affected me profoundly.

The Dreamer by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen
To get to the Jenny Holzer exhibition at the Correr, you must pass through another incredible exhibition called NUOVA OGGETTIVITA brought here to Venice by the vibrant genius of Stephanie Barron, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. NEW OBJECTIVITY addresses the Weimar Republic, the period in Germany after WWI and before WWII, which is eerily similar to our own times, and must have its own post.

Go to the Correr Museum

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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4. Jackson and Charles Pollock - VISIBLE ENERGY in Venice

Charles Pollock
Jack [Jackson Pollock], 1935
Smithsonian American Art Museum
(Venice, Italy) Before Peggy Guggenheim proclaimed that Jackson Pollock was "the greatest artist of the 20th century," his oldest brother, Charles, sketched him strumming a banjo at age 23. For it was Charles who first left the family of five brothers to head East to New York City to study painting, inspiring his siblings to follow in his footsteps.

Pollock family, Chico, California, ca. 1918
Sanford LeRoy, Charles Cecil, LeRoy, Stella, Frank Leslie, Marvin Jay, Paul Jackson.
Private collection
There is a Pollock Party going on over at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection with three exhibitions here in Venice -- JACKSON POLLOCK'S MURAL: ENERGY MADE VISIBLE, CHARLES POLLOCK: A RETROSPECTIVE and ALCHEMY BY JACKSON POLLOCK: DISCOVERING THE ARTIST AT WORK -- zapping the walls of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni with the visible energy of a mid-western American family that wrote poignant letters to each other as they struggled through two World Wars and a Depression, and rocked the art world to its core.

Jackson Pollock
Going West, ca. 1934-35
Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Charles Pollock Retrospective puts his kid brother, Jackson, in an entirely different light. Charles was born on Christmas Day, 1902; he died in 1988. Jackson was born on January 28, 1912; he died in 1956. In between there were three more brothers, Marvin (1904-86), Frank (1907-94) and Sanford (1909-63). Whenever he was asked what he would like to be, Jackson would reply, "I want to be an artist like brother Charles."

Charles Pollock
Self-Portrait, 1930s
Private collection
LeRoy Pollock, their father, was born a McCoy whose mother and sister died when he was an infant, and whose father gave him to local farmers named Pollock. LeRoy supported his family with odd jobs: farming, working as a land surveyor and a dishwasher. Stella, their mother, was a talented seamstress and weaver. Both parents were amazingly encouraging and supportive of their sons; Charles described them both as "gentle" people. Touching letters and personal photos are sprinkled throughout the exhibit. Some of Stella's potholders are on display.

Stella Pollock’s potholders
I would suggest visiting the Charles Pollock Retrospective first, which winds its way through his life from figurative works to the abstract -- including what he worked on before and after Jackson crashed and died --and concludes with a video installation of how the haunting Alchemy by Jackson Pollock was restored, and new revelations about how the artist worked.

Jackson Pollock
Murale / Mural, 1943
The University of Iowa Museum of Art, gift of Peggy Guggenheim
Then head over to the main palazzo where you will find the famous Mural that Peggy Guggenheim commissioned for her townhouse in 1943 -- the largest painting that Jackson Pollock ever created -- which "has exerted a seismic impact on American art down to the present day" in the same room as the real-life Alchemy blazing with restored colors. 

Jackson and Charles Pollock, New York, 1930
Private collection
After visiting the excellent exhibitions, I think there would have been no Jackson Pollock without brother Charles first hacking down the brambles along the path. 

April 23 – November 16, 2015
Curated by David Anfam

April 23 – September 14, 2015
Curated by Philip Rylands

February 14 – September 14, 2015
Curated by Luciano Pensabene and Roberto Bellucci

Go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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5. Two Venetian Artists in Paris - Paolo and Marcello Leoncini

Malamocca by Paolo Leoncini (2012)
(Venice, Italy) Paolo Leoncini paints because he loves the raw, natural world of the Venetian lagoon, finding inspiration from the original Architect of the Universe. When he was just a small boy, he would go on fantastic adventures with his father, the artist, Marcello Leoncini, as he captured images of Venice on his sketchpad.

Paolo remembers the first solo exhibition his father had in at the Opera Bevilacqua La Masa in Piazza San Marco in August, 1947. Paolo was not yet seven-years-old, but the excitement of the opening left an indelible memory. As soon as he could hold a brush, Paolo, too, began to paint. It seemed that artistic talent ran in the family.

Cupola of San Simeon Piccolo by Marcello Leoncini (1956)
Marcello Leoncini was born in Florence on December 9, 1905. He grew up in Sulmona in Abruzzo, Ovid's hometown, where he got his degree at the Istituto d'Arte. After his beloved mother died in 1929, Marcello made his way to Venice where he found a job working for the Water Authority as a designer. He quickly established himself on the local artistic scene, participating in a group exhibit at the Bevilacqua La Masa in 1933, where he would remain a vital presence until 1950.

La Spiagga (The Beach) by Marcello Leoncini (1948)
In October, 1942, Marcello qualified as an art teacher and immediately quit his job working for the Water Authority. After WWII, he became an active member of the cultural association, "Gruppo dell'Arco," a group of Venetian intellectuals who sought to revitalize the cultural climate, exhibiting in the Galleria dell'Arco at the Palazzo delle Prigione. The visionary film director Pier Paolo Pasolini praised Marcello's Ritratto d'uomo (Portrait of a Man), which won the Premio Mogliano at the Triveneta in Udine in 1947. As an artist initially from the regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo, Marcello was winning acceptance in the Veneto -- not an easy achievement.

The year 1948 started off with a bang -- Marcello was invited to participate in the 24th Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Exhibition, as well as the Quadrennial in Rome, and the National Exhibition of Contemporary Art, "April in Milan." On November 28, 1949, the Minister of Education bought Marcello's Natura morta con i pesci (Still Life with Fish) for the Ca' Pesaro museum, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art.

Maternità by Marcello Leoncini (1956)
In the 50s, Marcello disagreed with the direction the creative community in Venice was taking, and withdrew from exhibiting, concentrating instead on his students, and working in seclusion. It would not be until 1975 that he would again exhibit his work, nearly 30 years after his first solo exhibition.

In 1992, two years after Marcello's death, the City of Venice mounted a retrospective entitled, Marcello Leoncini. Works from the '30s to the Postwar.

Paesaggio con mezzaluna (Landscape with Half Moon) by Paolo Leoncini (1978)
Paolo Leoncini was born on December 7, 1940, two days before his father's 35th birthday. He began painting as a young boy, guided by the hand of Marcello. But Paolo was more interested in nature than in the human figures that inspired his father.

Instead of going to art school, Paolo got his degree in Humanities and became a respected critic and professor of contemporary Italian literature, while still focusing intensely on his art. Diego Valeri, the poet and literary critic, wrote about Paolo Leoncini: "in his double-act" -- artistic and critical -- "there is no trace of amateurism because his commitment is the most serious and profound of those working in these difficult fields."

Spaccato collinare (Hillside cutaway) by Paolo Leoncini (1979)
Paolo began exhibiting in 1971. Henri Goetz, the acclaimed French American artist and engraver, delighted the crowd at Paolo's first solo exhibition in April, 1974 by making a surprise appearance at Galleria Segno Grafico. In the same circle as Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Gonzalez, Picabia and Max Ernst in Paris, Goetz had invented carborundum printmaking, opening up another universe to artists, and Paolo had studied his method.

Lunar Carnival by Paolo Leoncini (2004)
Throughout his life as an artist, Paolo has traveled through different mediums and methods -- black and white, colored inks, mixed, tempera, oils and engraving -- as he expanded his voyages throughout Italy and Europe, visiting hills, mountains, forests and streams, and capturing nature on his canvas.

Girasole (Sunflower) by Marcello Leoncini (1973)
Fifteen years ago, father and son began exhibiting together for the first time. In 2010, the Galleria Perl'A in Venice presented an exhibit entitled A Family of Artists: the Leoncini, featuring the work of both Marcello and Paolo Leoncini. In 2012, the National Museum of Oradea in Romania presented 100 works by the duo called, Two Venetian Artists: Marcello and Paolo Leoncini. In 2014 Effata published a volume called I due Leoncini a Venezia, which literally means "two lion cubs in Venice" -- "Leoncini" is Italian for "lion cubs" and, fittingly, the symbol of Venice is a winged lion. The volume featured 50 works by both Marcello and Paolo Leoncini, with a text by Domenico Carosso.

Now Paolo's journeys have led him to Paris where he will once again share the stage with his father, Marcello, at La Capitale Galerie, a gallery that also represents the work of Henri Goetz. From April 28 to May 23, 2015, La Capitale presents Marcello et Paolo LEONCINI, deux vénitiens à Paris, or Two Venetians in Paris. The vernissage is on Tuesday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m.

April 28 to May 23, 2015

La Capitale Galerie
18 Rue du Roule
75001 Paris, France
Tel:  +33 1 42 21 03 26

This is a sponsored post.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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6. VOTE FOR THE WONDERS OF VENICE! Virtual Treasures of San Marco

Lion of San Marco
(Venice, Italy) A super-cool new 3d interactive website called the Wonders of Venice, or Meraviglie di Venezia, Sacred and Profane Treasures in St. Mark Area launched yesterday, April 15, 2015. In 10 languages, it is the first virtual museum that zooms in on some of the stash that Venice has collected over the centuries. You can go on virtual tours, view nearly 400 virtual objects, go backstage and watch the camera drones buzz over Piazza San Marco, and visit 2 museums that no longer exist but have been reconstructed in cyber space. You can spin round and round, or fly up to the ceiling and examine an object in minute detail. They even put the statues back in the Tribuna of Palazzo Grimani!

The Triumphal Quadriga - The Horses of San Marco (detail)
The Treasure of San Marco is the most important treasure in the world in terms of rarity and type of objects it contains. Just the four Horses of San Marco are priceless beyond imagination. Even France returned the beloved Triumphal Quadriga, the imperial symbol par excellence, after Napoleon had plundered the astonishing horses and put them on top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Of course, Venice herself had looted the horses from the Hippodrome when she sacked Constantinople in 1204 during its realm as the capital of the Roman Empire. The Venetians mounted the powerful quadriga on the facade of the Basilica in Piazza San Marco; there are copies there today. The original ancient horses are now inside the Basilica, which protects them from pollution and makes them a bit more difficult to loot:)

Leda and the Swan
And now to the VOTE. Europa Nostra, "the voice of cultural heritage in Europe," has chosen WONDERS OF VENICE: VIRTUAL ONLINE TREASURES IN ST. MARK’S AREA as a winner in the Research and Digitization category. Venice wants to win the Public Choice Award. That's where you come in. It's relatively easy to vote if you remember it is a European contest:) For instance, it says you "can" vote for 3 winners. In reality, you "must" vote for 3 winners. Just be sure that one of your votes is for Wonders of Venice, which is about three quarters of the way down the page. You can't vote for the same country twice. After the third vote, click "complete." Next fill in your name, country and email, and then confirm the email. The deadline is May 31.



Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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7. Designer Glass from Finland - the Bischofberger Collection at Stanze del Vetro, Venice

Designer: Tapio Wirkkala
Jääpala (Chunk of Ice) - Bowl, 1950
Company: Iittala

(Venice, Italy) Finland is a land of the Midnight Sun, covered with lush forests and more than 180,000 pristine lakes born from glaciers. Lapland, in the north, lies within the Artic Circle, where the reindeer roam. Helsinki is the second most northern capital in the world after Reykjavik, Iceland. In ancient times, Finns believe that each tree was ruled by a spirit, and that certain wise old trees were sacred. So it is no wonder that much of the glass designed by the Finns was inspired by ice with a touch of whimsy from the woodland nymphs.

Designer: Alvar Aalto
Vase, 1937
Company: Karhula
Bruno Bischofberger, the Swiss art dealer and gallerist, and his wife, Christina, collect glass art objects from the most important Finnish designers of the 20th century. On display for the first time in Venice are over 300 works of art that reflect the soul and spirit of the collectors -- the Bischofbergers are passionate about magical, mystical Finnish glass.

Rågåkern / Ruispelto (Rye Field)
Vase, 1937
Company: Karhula
In the early 1920s, after becoming independent from what was about to become the Soviet Union, Finland used design as its manifesto in an attempt to establish its autonomy and cultural sovereignty. Some of the country's greatest designers began to use glass to create works of art that blended tradition, experimentation and technique. Unlike Venice, Finland had no tradition of glass blowing, but it did have one important element needed to create the blaze that melts glass -- wood, and plenty of it. Finland is the most forested nation in Europe; 76% of the land area is covered with trees. The decision to concentrate on the production of glass was pragmatic for a country rich with wood but without fossil fuels and other natural resources; to hire artists, architects and graphic designers to design the glass was divine inspiration.

Pitcher, Mug, Tumbler 1932
Company: Karhula
Finnish glass came on the international scene in the 1930s, after five top Finnish names designed glass objects for the first time. The impulsive Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was Finland's most widely known architect; his realistic wife, Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894-1949) was also an architect, and worked in her husband's office -- the two opposites balanced each other. Arttu Brummer (1891-1951) designed furniture and glass, but was more influential as a highly-regarded teacher of design, spawning a pack of uber-cool future designers like Goran Hongell, Kaj Franck, Gunnel Nyman, Timo Sarpaneva and Tapio Wirkkala. Goran Hongell (1902-1973) was an interior designer before becoming a pioneer in Finnish glass design. He was the very first designer hired by a Finnish glassware company, Karhula-Iittala, to give the everyday piece of glass a lift. Gunnel Nyman (1909-1948) majored in furniture design, but started working with glass in her student years, and would become the most widely known Finnish glass artist in the late 1940s. These five designers would put Finland on the map when it came to visionary Scandinavian glass design.

Finnish troops during the Winter War
Then came World War II. Once part of the Russian Empire, Finland had dicey relationships with both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany -- it did not declare war on Germany, its former partner, until March 3, 1945 when the war was winding down; it would lose 10% of its territory to the Soviet Union. After three personal wars during the Second World War: two with the Soviet Union -- the Winter War, which the vastly outnumbered Finns fought on skis with reindeer, and the Continuation War -- and one with Germany, the Lapland War -- Finland need good publicity to illustrate that their sympathies were with the West, and they decided to use glass as the medium. Glass was beauty; glass was hope; glass was peace.

After the war, Finnish glass design had two different perspectives: as high quality art objects and as industrial products. During the press conference, the curators, Kaisa Koivisto and Pekka Korvenmaa, said that Finns are a practical people, and an object must be useful, so a glass sculpture that served no useful purpose was greeted with skepticism. While Italy has "always appreciated beauty for beauty's sake," in Finland, "first you take care of your basic needs."

Designer: KAJ FRANCK
Pitchers, 1954
Company: Nuutajärvi
The 1950s saw the beginning of the Golden Age of Finnish glass. Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), Timo Sarpaneva (1926-2006), Kaj Franck (1911-1989) and Oiva Toikka (1931-) burst on the scene, creating beautiful glass sculptures that served no useful purpose, as well as industrial objects such as practical drinking glasses, but with a flair. In Finland, glass designers were considered artists; the companies they produced for used their names to market the glass; they achieved cult status. You already know who Tapio Wirkkala is because he designed this bottle:

Wirkkala began his career as a commercial artist, and served at the front during the war. After the war, he married artist Rut Bryk. In 1946, he entered the Iittala glassworks design competition and won first prize.The international Milan Triennial in Italy was the Olympics of design, attracting top designers from all over the planet, and in 1951, Wirkkala won three Gran Premios, putting himself and Finland firmly on the globe. He and his wife loved Lapland in the north, and acquired a summer residence there; the magic of Lapland had a profound influence on his work. A highlight of the exhibition is Pilkkiavanto, or "Hole in the Ice," which the city of Helsinki commissioned in 1970 for the 70th birthday of Urho Kekkonen, the President of Finland. Wirkkala was inspired by the chunk of ice cut to form the hole for ice fishing.

Pilkkiavanto (Hole in the Ice)
Plate, 1970
Company: Iittala
Long before Apple started making iThings, Timo Sarpaneva created the i-glass collection for Iittala division of Karhula-Iittala, which focused on Art glass, while the Karhula division of the company focused on mass production. The i-glass logo turned Iittala into a coveted brand. Like Tapio Wirkkala before him, Sarpaneva won the Gran Premio for glass design at the Milan Triennial of 1954, transforming him into an internationally known glass artist. The Finns were the rock stars of glass design just about the same time Elvis became a rock star. Both Timo Sarpaneva and Tapio Wirkkala would go on to work with the renowned Venetian glass company, Venini, here on Murano.

Designer: Timo Sarpaneva
Kajakki (Kayak) - Bowl, 1953
Company: Iittala
During the 60s and 70s, Finnish glass focused on color and energy, like most of the rest of the world. The last designer of renown, who is still working today, is Oiva Toikka, whose fanciful Birds became popular gift items and collectibles, and kept the Nuutajärvi glassworks in operation for several extra years.

Designer: Oiva Toikka
Kiikkuri (Red-throated Diver) - Sculpture, 1975
Company: Nuutajärvi

The Bischofberger Collection ends in 1973, when Finnish glass ceased to flourish due to international reasons. The energy crisis hit the glass industry hard, Finland and the Nordic countries in particular, which were known for handcrafted art and glass design.

Bowl with lid, 1936 
Company: Riihimäki
Personally, I would love to see a time when glass designers were rock stars once again and our everyday glassware had a little touch of soul.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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8. A Castle in Venice? San Pietro di Castello

Basilica of San Pietro di Castello
(Venice, Italy) The Basilica of San Marco is Easter headquarters here in Venice, but it wasn't always that way. Before there was a basilica in Piazza San Marco, Venice's cathedral was located on San Pietro di Castello, an island off the eastern tip of Venice, orginally called Olivolo. Castello means "castle," and there once was a castle on the Island of Olivolo, which then morphed into the Island of San Pietro di Castello.

Castle of Olivolo by Francesco Nardo (2014)
The first church on the island was built way back in the 7th century and was dedicated to the Byzantine saints Sergius and Bacchus, officers in the Roman army on the Syrian frontier who refused to sacrifice to the pagan god Jupiter because they were Christians, and were martyred for their defiance. The new church dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle was built in the 9th century; the one that stands today dates to the end of the 16th century.

Many years ago, when I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, I wrote a sidebar about the church, which was first published on November 8, 2002. Here it is again, slightly edited:

San Pietro di Castello by Francesco Guardi (1712-93)

By Cat Bauer

Once the cathedral of the Republic, this church played a central role in Venetian history. San Pietro is situated on the island of Olivolo, a name that, perhaps, originated from the numerous olive trees that once stood there. Doge Pietro Tribuno (888-912) built a castle there for the defense of the city; hence the name "di Castello."

Olivolo was the first settlement in the lagoon and was once the center of religious, commercial and political life in the city. From 775 to 1451, San Pietro was a Diocesan Church under the patriarchy of Grado, a town on the Adriatic Sea north of Venice.

In 1451, the Grado patriarch merged with the Episcopal see of Venice, and Venetian nobleman Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381-1456), who is buried in the church, was named the first Patriarch of Venice. Back in 1433, Pope Eugene IV, who was also Venetian, had made Giustiniani the Bishop of Castello. Pope Alexander VIII (1689-91), who was also Venetian, then made him a Saint.  

St. Lawrence Giustiniani adoring the Baby Jesus by Luca Giordino (17th C)
The current building was started during the time of Patriarch Vincenzo Diedo, dating to 1594-96, and is the result of Andrea Palladio's project, realized years after his death by his follower Francesco Smeraldi. The architect incorporated a family chapel from the late Gothic period that had been commissioned by Bishop Marco Lando (c.1425), who is buried in a tomb in the floor. The Lando Chapel boasts an impressive ensemble of sculpture and decorative elements spanning an entire millennium. The oldest work of art (dated to between the second and fifth centuries) is a decorative Roman mosaic embedded in the floor in front of the altar. The large marble slab supporting the top of the altar, carved on both sides, is from the ninth century. Other examples of Veneto-Byzantine architecture are two freestanding columns from the 11th century that were probably part of the old baptistery, flanking a bust depicting San Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first Patriarch of Venice (1381-1456). The mosaic "All Saints" altarpiece is by Arminio Zuccato from a cartoon by Tintoretto. Near the entrance to the Lando Chapel is an altarpiece attributed to Paolo Veronese, "St. John the Evangelist, Peter, Paul."

Madonna and Child with Souls in Purgatory by Luca Giordano (1650)
The prolific Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano painted the brilliantly colored "Madonna of the Carmelites with Souls in Purgatory" inside the Vendramin Chapel. The painting was stolen in 1994, but found six weeks later in a garage in Mestre on the mainland.

Throne of St. Peter, Venice
The "Throne of St. Peter" made of marble with decorations in Arabic patterns and writing from the Koran was probably assembled in the 13th century, and incorporates an Arab funerary stele. Also in the right aisle is Tizanello's "God the Father Eternal in Glory." To the right of the presbytery is Pietro Liberi's masterpiece, "The Plague of Serpents," painted in 1660.

Campanile San Pietro di Castello
The impressive campanile, the bell tower in Istrian stone, was almost completely rebuilt between 1482 and 1488 by Mauro Codussi, who also built the Clock Tower in Piazza San Marco.


Well, I just learned something new when I wrote this post based on an article I had written almost 13 years ago. Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first patriarch, who is buried in the church and was made into a saint, was in power when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. Giovanni Giustiniani (1418-1453) part of the Genoa branch of the family, personally financed, organized and led 700 professional soldiers to Constantinople to help defend the city, but he died after being wounded by an Ottoman cannon. Almost overnight, the Eastern capital of Christianity turned into the Islamic capital of the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople morphed into Istanbul -- and dramatically altered the core of a major Venetian trading partner. Interesting.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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9. Venice International Literary Festival - Incroci di Civiltà 2015

James Ivory
(Venice, Italy) James Ivory was the inaugural guest at Crossroads of Civilization, Venice's International Literary Festival, which kicked off on March 25, 2015 at the Goldoni Theater. Ivory was a unique choice since he is, of course, a film director, responsible for such stellar films as A Room with a View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day which he created with his long-time partner, the producer Ismail Merchant and the Booker Prize-winning author, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Just those three Merchant-Ivory films were nominated for 25 Academy Awards, and won six.

Watching a Merchant-Ivory film is like having a weighty work of literature transformed into something more digestible, and Ivory gave the credit for that to Ruth. According to Wikipedia, "Of this collaboration, Merchant once commented: 'It is a strange marriage we have at Merchant Ivory... I am an Indian Muslim, Ruth is a German Jew, and Jim is a Protestant American. Someone once described us as a three-headed god. Maybe they should have called us a three-headed monster!'"

James Ivory has such vibrant energy that I was stunned to discover he will be 87-years-old on June 7th. He is also a screenwriter; he would first write the screenplay and then give it to Ruth, who was a novelist as well as a screenwriter. Ivory said he never read  the classics he should have read when he was a teenager, and that he had to read Howards End by E.M. Forster three times because he "didn't get it." Ruth pressured him to make the film, insisting, "Let's climb that mountain."

The evening opened with a half-hour documentary called Venice: Theme and Variations that Ivory wrote, photographed, produced and directed in the winter of 1952-53 for the thesis for his masters degree in cinema at USC with money his father gave him. He had no crew; he was just one person with a camera shooting wherever he could in Venice, and didn't include Titian or Veronese because the paintings were "too big."

He said he always had wanted to make a feature in Venice. He had the idea to set the Aspern Papers by Henry James not in the 1880s but the 1950s, and to use the papers of Ezra Pound. He had already completed his first draft and sent it to Ruth when he fell down the stairs and broke both his legs. Then Ruth became ill. Unfortunately, the film never happened, but that is one movie I would have loved to see!

Incroci di Civiltà 2015 presented 29 authors from 21 different countries, making Venice the literary Crossroads of Civilization from March 25 to 28. Inviting international writers to share their singular perspectives of the world adds zesty ingredients to the rich stew that is Venice.


Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, Korea, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Jamaica, Great Britain, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, United States, and Taiwan.


Sergio Álvarez from Columbia
Mathieu Amalric from France
Ana Luísa Amaral from Portugal
Li Ang from Taiwan
Sascha Arango from Germany
Antonia Arslan from Italy/Armenia
Jerry Brotton from Great Britain
Roberto Costantini from Italy
Francesco Cataluccio from Italy
Patrick Deville from France
David Foenkinos from France
Stefan Hertmans from Belgium
James Ivory from the United States
Billy Kahora from Kenya
Hanif Kureishi from Great Britain
Lucio Mariani from Italy
Shara McCallum from Jamaica
Kim Min-jeong from Korea
Mahsa Mohebali from Iran
Mark Mustian from US/Armenia
Vladislav Otrošenko from Russia
Víctor Rodríguez Núñez from Cuba
Tatiana Salem Levy from Brazil
Morten Søndergaard from Denmark
Agata Tuszyńska from Poland
Ludmila Ulitskaya from Russia
Tommy Wieringa from Holland
Wu Ming 1 from Italy
Xu Zechen from China

Click to go to Incroci di Civiltà 2015

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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10. Indian Music in Venice - IICMS at the Giorgio Cini Foundation

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
(Venice, Italy) Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the virtuouso Indian musician, plays the mohan veena, a modified slide guitar he invented himself that sings the music he hears from the heavens. Vishwa believes that "music is the language of God for the benefit of mankind." On Thursday evening at the Giorgio Cini Foundation, God sang to the enthusiatic audience through Vishwa's mohan veena, accompanied by Krishna Mohan Bhatt on the sitar and Nihar Metha on the tabla, the drums.

The Beatles in India
Classical Indian music first hit the Western world big time in 1965 when the Beatles recorded John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood" for Rubber Soul, and George Harrison played his newly-acquired sitar. In 1966 George Harrison studied sitar with the legendary Ravi Shankar, and then in 1968 all the Beatles and their women went off to India to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi. During their stay, they wrote a bunch of songs which made it onto the White Album and Abbey Road. A spiritual craze for all things Indian set the planet on fire, affecting me deeply on a personal level -- I listened to Indian music to the point of obsession, had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on my nightstand and wrote my high school term paper on reincarnation. So when I heard that the Intercultural Institute for Comparative Music Studies, the IICMS, which is one of the Giorgio Cini Foundation's institutes, was featuring the mohan veena and sitar, I had to go.

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is a pandit, which is a wise or learned man. He, too, is a disciple of Ravi Shankar, as is sitarist Krishna Mohan Bhatt (I have not confirmed how they are related; I think they are cousins). Vishwa explained that a raga -- the musical structure -- in classical Indian music is connected to nature and human emotions, and associated with different times of day. The musicians improvise the notes within the raga as they play. Since it was evening when the concert began, Vishwa, Krishna and Nihar Metha played an Evening Raga, which left the audience transfixed.

Someone said the mohan veena was "dobro meets sitar," and that is just what it sounds like. I thought it was amazing that Vishwa created an instrument to express the music he feels inside, a kind of blues guitar with Indian zest. (I just discovered we share the same birthday, July 27; it feels like music made by a Leo.) Here's a YouTube clip so you can hear the mohan veena yourself:

From the Giorgio Cini Foundation:

Founded in 1970 by Alain Daniélou, and subsequently directed by Ivan Vandor and Francesco Giannattasio, the Intercultural Institute of Comparative Music Studies (IISMC) promotes knowledge about some of the finest forms of expression in various musical cultures by organising courses, workshops, concerts, seminars, conferences and publications.

Fondazione Giorgio Cini
One of the magical things about living in Venice is that you can visit another world, another time and space, just by taking the boat across the canal. 

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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11. There's a New Book in Town - MY PRETTY VENICE

My Pretty Venice
(Venice, Italy) My Pretty Venice was created by three pretty smart ladies: Isabella Campagnol, Elisabeth Rainer and Beatrice Campagnol. Classy and sassy, My Pretty Venice is published in three languages with three different subtitles --  La Venise exclusive des Vénitiennes, La venezia vera delle veneziane and A Girl's Guide to True Venice -- for out-of-towners of any gender who want to know where real Venetian women get their goodies. The book was launched in the top-floor bookstore/exhibition/cultural Espace at Louis Vuitton Maison, which, to me, is like a little oasis off Piazza San Marco. 

Beatrice Campagnol, Isabella Campagnol, Elisabeth Rainer, Luigi Casson, Nicoletta Mantoan at Louis Vuitton
Isabella Campagnol is part of a rare breed: a scholar who can communicate with earthlings. She's Venetian, a historian specializing in textiles and fashion, who lectures throughout the land. I first met Isabella at Palazzo Papadopoli aka Aman Canal Grande where she entertained us with the research she had compiled about the risque habits of Venetian nuns that resulted in a book called, Forbidden Fashions - Invisible Luxuries in Early Venetian Convents.

Forbidden Fashions
Now, together with her sister Beatrice, who did the very-cool illustrations, and communications whiz Elisabeth Rainer (who is actually from Merano, which rivals Venice for my heart's affections), Isabella has turned her talents to guiding travelers where to find the good stuff in Venice -- clothes, food, perfume, art, everything -- in My Pretty Venice. Sprinkled throughout the shops and restaurants are tasty bits of history and information that, amazingly, has not been gathered together before. 

My Pretty Venice
Just when you think it is not possible to write anything new about Venice, someone does. It's nice that this time they're actually Venetian.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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12. Rousseau's Reality - An Angel in Venice

Merry Jesters by Henri Rousseau (1906) Philadelphia Museum of Art
(Venice, Italy) Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) never traveled to the lush jungles of Mexico except in his own mind, although he claimed he had fought during the French invasion of Mexico under Napoleon III in 1863. Rousseau was called Le Douanier, which means customs officer, although he was not a customs officer -- for nearly 22 years he was a lowly municipal toll collector on goods that came into Paris. Wilhelm Uhde, the art collector and critic who would become a significant figure in Rousseau's career said, “Rousseau had been next to worthless in the service. ...His job had been to hang around the quai like a watchman, keeping an eye on the barges.”

Girl with a Doll by Henri Rousseau (1904-05) Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
Henri Rousseau was an ordinary man who had Walter Mitty dreams of becoming an famous artist. He had a wife, Clemence, whom he adored, and six children, only one of whom survived childhood. After nearly 20 years of marriage, Clemence, too, died of tuberculosis. During Rousseau's lifetime, he was mocked by the critics, and shunned by the establishment, but finally embraced by Picasso and the avant-garde the way young people adopt an eccentric old man, like a pet -- his naive ignorance made them laugh. Unlike most critics, real artists look at the world through the eyes of heaven, and the young avant-garde appreciated the primitive spirituality that radiated from Rousseau's work.

The Snake Charmer by Henri Rousseau (1907) Musée d'Orsay, Paris
What Henri Rousseau had was an obsessive belief in his own great talent. He once told the young Picasso: "You and I are the two most important artists of the age - you in the Egyptian style, and I in the modern one." He never achieved the success he craved during his lifetime, but after viewing Henri Rousseau - Archaic Naivety at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, home to Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, his astounding declaration of assurance rings true.

Black Spot by Wassily Kandinsky (1912) Hermitage, St. Petersburgh
It was only after he died that Rousseau became the leader of a school of art, his "Archaic Candor," paving the way for magic realism. The mostly self-taught artist became known for his naive, childlike depiction of reality. It was not possible to stick a label on him and file him into a category -- there was no one like him. Wassily Kandinsky, the influential Russian painter and art theorist, whose work is represented in the exhibition Henri Rousseau - Il Candore Arcaico thought that Rousseau's spiritual greatness and strength derived precisely from his formal limitations. Kandinsky bought Rousseau's The Poultry Yard and exhibited it in the first Blaue Reiter show in Munich in 1911, after Rousseau was dead.

The Poultry Yard (1896-98) Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
I have been pondering for days who Rousseau reminds me of, and it finally hit me: the angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Clarence is an Angel, Second Class who has been passed over for his wings for more than 200 years. Clarence's boss, Joseph, says to the head angel, Franklin, that Clarence has "the I.Q. of a rabbit," and Franklin replies, "Yes, but he's got the faith of a child -- simple." To me, the enormous faith that Henri Rousseau had in his own artistic ability made him an Angel, Second Class; his paintbrush earned him wings. Even though he claimed to have fought in the Aztec jungles, in reality he found his inspiration at the botanical gardens in Paris, the stuffed wild animals at the natural museum, pictures in magazines and the zoo.

Myself, Portrait-Landscape (1889-90) Prague National Gallery
Although Rousseau excelled at art and music as a young boy, he started painting later in life, quitting his government job as a toll collector at the age of 49 to devote his life to art. He was born in Laval on May 21, 1844, a medieval town with a castle, lush woods and rivers, the first boy in a middle-class family of two girls and two boys. Rousseau's father ran a hardware store, as did his grandfather; his mother's grandfather was a major in the Marching Regiment with Napoleon in Spain, and was later knighted; his mother's father was a captain in the Third Battalion. His father had lifelong financial problems, and lost their home when Rousseau was eight-years-old.

The Carriage of Father Junier (1908) Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
At age 18, Rousseau worked for a lawyer in Angers, where he had moved with his parents, a town about 45 miles away from Laval. Together with two younger friends, he was caught stealing 15 or 20 francs and some stamps from his employer. He joined the army, hoping to avoid a jail sentence, but still ended up behind bars for a month. (We can imagine that even back then young men who got into trouble were urged to join the army, especially if their grandparents had been in the military.) Two battalions of his regiment did go to Mexico under Napoleon III to set up Maximilian as the Emperor, but Rousseau never left France. The stories of the returning soldiers set his imagination on fire, but he led an ordinary life, playing the saxophone in an infantry band. When he was 23-years-old, his father died. Rousseau left the army and moved to Paris; his widowed mother was still in Angers. He found a job as a bailiff's assistant.

In 1869, Rousseau married his landlady's 19-year-old daughter, Clemence, whose father, too, had recently died after gambling all his money away; her mother was a seamstress. When Prussia invaded France in 1870, he signed up to be a simple soldier, but was soon exempted. His first child died in infancy during the Siege of Paris in 1871when people were starving; in fact, only one of his six children would survive childhood.

The War - The Ride of Discord  (1894) Musée d'Orsy, Paris
The devastation of Paris and the effects of war left a deep impression on Rousseau which would later be expressed in his paintings. In February 1872, at age 27, Rousseau began working for the customs office, collecting tolls on goods that came into Paris, a government job he would keep for almost 22 years. About that time he started painting in his spare time, certain he had the talent to become an academic painter without studying at an academy. He tried to enter a painting in the official Salon in the Palace of the Louvre, but was rejected. In 1884, his friend and neighbor, Auguste Clement, got him a permit to study and copy in museums like the Louvre, and Rousseau taught himself to become an artist.

Carnival Evening by Rousseau (1886) Philadelphia Museum of Art
In July 1884, in response to the rigid control and requirements the government exercised over the official Salon, a group of artists, including Georges Seurt and Paul Signac, whose work is represented in Henri Rousseau - Il Candore Arcaico, created the Salon des Indépendants -- the motto was: "No juries, No prizes." Any artist could enter their paintings -- it cost 10 francs to show four works. After trying in vain to be accepted by the official Salon, in 1886, Rousseau exhibited four paintings at the Salon des Indépendants, including Carnival Evening.

Rousseau then became an annual fixture at the Salon des Indépendants despite receiving cruel reviews from the critics who called it the work of a "10-year-old child" and "the scribblings of a 6-year-old whose mother left him with colors." For the 4th Salon des Indépendants in 1888, he entered five paintings and five drawings. That same year, Vincent van Gogh, who had moved to Paris in 1886, entered three. Four days after the 4th Salon des Indépendants closed, Rousseau's beloved wife, Clemence, died on May 7, 1888 of tuberculosis.

Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised) by Henri Rousseau (1891) National Gallery London
In 1891, Rousseau exhibited his first jungle painting at the 7th Salon Indépendants Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised) (which is not part of the current exhibition) supposedly inspired by his combat adventures in the Aztec jungle under Napoleon III, but actually drawn from the Parisian botanical gardens and the zoo. Again, the critics laughed -- it had become a popular pastime to laugh at Rousseau -- however one young artist, Felix Vallaton, recently arrived from Switzerland, did not. He wrote:

“Monsieur Rousseau becomes more and more astonishing each year, but he commands attention and, in any event, is earning a nice little reputation and having his share of success: people flock around his submissions and one can hear the sound of laughter.  In addition he is a terrible neighbor, as he crushes everything else.  His tiger surprising its prey ought not to be missed;  it is the alpha and omega of painting  .   .   .   . As a matter of fact, not everyone laughs, and some who begin to do so are quickly brought up short.  There is always something beautiful about seeing a faith, any faith, so pitilessly expressed.  For my part, I have a sincere esteem for such efforts, and I would a hundred times rather them than the deplorable mistakes nearby."

The Salon Wars continued in Paris. In 1903, Felix Vallaton was part of group that created yet another new Salon, the Salon d'Automne in opposition to all other Parisian exhibitions, which caused all sorts of uproar in the art world. Henri Rousseau was sucked into the vortex of the Salon d'Automne, and in 1905, the 61-year-old struggling artist found himself in the same room as the 35-year-old Henri Matisse and 25-year-old André Derain along with his Hungry Lion -- and Fauvism was born.

The Hungry Lion by Rousseau (1905) Beyeler Foundation, Basel
Rousseau was not a Fauve, which is French for wild beast, but his Hungry Lion probably inspired the term "Fauvism" after the art critic Louis Vauxcelle saw a classical statue in the same room as the works of the avant-garde artists at the 1905 Salon d'Automne and decried: "Donatello chez les fauves" (Donatello among the wild beasts)." Rousseau wrote a long subtitle for his painting:

The lion, being hungry, throws itself on the antelope, [and] devours it. The panther anxiously awaits the moment when it too can claim its share. Birds of prey have each torn a piece of flesh from the top of the poor animal which sheds a tear. The sun sets.

Horse Attacked by a Jaguar  (1910) State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
The Hungry Lion is not here in Venice, but a similar painting is, which is called Horse Attacked by a Jaguar. To me, the poor horse looks more like a bewildered unicorn.

Now Guillaume Apollinaire, writer, poet, art critic and guru of the avant-garde asked to meet Rousseau. Apollinaire then introduced Rousseau to Pablo Picasso, who had bought Rousseau's Portrait of a Woman on sale for five francs from a Paris junk shop, which was selling it for the canvas. In 1908, the 27-year-old Picasso held the famous banquet to "celebrate" Henri Rousseau, then 64, a lavish artisty kind of prank to play. Guillaume Apollinaire composed a satirical poem, praising Rousseau's adventures in the Aztec jungle, poking fun of Rousseau's long subtitles for his paintings. Also at the banquet were Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who recorded the event in her autobiography.

The images you paint you saw in Mexico,
A red sun lit the banana treetops,
And you, courageous soldier, have swapped your tunic
For the blue jacket of the brave douanier.

Even though the banquet began in jest, it morphed into a genuine celebration, a drunken chorus of the avant-garde shouting "Viva, viva Rousseau!"

Portrait of a Woman by Henri Rousseau (1895) Musée Picasso, Pari
The focus of Henri Rousseau - Il Candore Arcaico in the Doge's Apartments at the Palazzo Ducale is that "the artist was a point of reference for the great exponents of the historical avant-garde movements, for intellectuals like Apollinaire and Jarry, for great collectors like Wilhelm Uhde, and for many painters who preceded and went beyond the Cubist and Futurist movements. Artists such as Céanne and Gauguin, Redon and Seurat, Marc, Klee, Morandi, Carrà, Frido Kahlo and Diego Rivera, not to mention Kandinsky and Picasso. All these artists are present in the show."

The Grand Exhibit Henri Rousseau - Archaic Naivety runs from March 6 to July 5, 2015.
Please go to the PALAZZO DUCALE for further information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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13. Shocking Schiaparelli - MEETINGS AT THE PALACE - Venice

Elsa Schiaparelli
(Venice, Italy) Elsa Schiaparelli, the cosmic fashion designer who created the color Shocking Pink, was born into an aristocratic, intellectual family in Palazzo Corsini in Rome in 1890 -- her great-uncle, Giovanni Schiaparelli, discovered the canals on Mars; her father was a professor of Oriental literature; her mother was descended from the Medicis. Elsa Schiaparelli - Fashion Artist was the topic of today's inaugural conference of Incontri a Palazzo or "Meetings at the Palace," a series of lectures held in the piano nobile of Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice's Museum of Fabric and Costumes.

Miley Cyrus in Schiaparelli jumpsuit at Oscar parties Feb 22, 2015
Elsa Schiaparelli was a wild child. She liked to be called Schiap, not Elsa. Schiap ran away from home at the age of six and was found three days later marching at the front of a local parade. Criticized by her mother for her homely looks, she spent a lot of time with Uncle Giovanni, the astronomer, gazing at the nighttime sky through a telescope. In 1911, while at the University of Rome, Schiap published an mystical, overtly sensual poem, and her horrified parents sent her to a convent in Switzerland. Schiap went on a hunger strike and got out of the convent, then ran off to England and became a nanny. While attending a theosophical conference, she fell in love with the lecturer, Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor, who claimed to be a Polish count, theosophist and spiritualist, whom she promptly married. They spent several seasons in Nice, then went to NewYork in 1916 on an ocean liner where Schiap became friends with Gabrielle Picabia, the wife of the avant-garde artist Francis Picabia, who would tug her into their circle of famous friends like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. 

Elsa Schiaparelli - Photo: Man Ray
The couple produced a daughter whom they called Gogo, who contracted polio. But Count de Kerlor turned out to be a con man and a womanizer, and when he had an affair with Isadora Duncan, Schiap asked for a divorce, and in 1922, took Gogo to Paris.

Schiaparelli trompe l'oeil Bow Tie Sweater
Schiap quickly became part of the Paris scene, encountering fashion icon Paul Poiret, who supported her fresh ideas. Schiap considered herself an artist who channeled her creative energies into fashion, and since she was touched by the cosmos, there was an element of other-worldliness to her designs. Her rise to fame was due to a simple hand-knitted black pullover with a white trompe l'oeil bow tie that Vogue declared a masterpiece and was a huge hit in the US.

Marlene Dietrich wearing Schiaparelli
According to Bio.com: "For Schiaparelli, fashion was as much about making art as it was about making clothes. In 1932, Janet Flanner of The New Yorker wrote: "A frock from Schiaparelli ranks like a modern canvas." Not surprisingly, Schiaparelli connected with popular artists of the era; one of her friends was painter Salvador Dali, whom she hired to design fabric for her fashion house."

Shocking de Schiaparelli Perfume
Schiap became a success on the Place Vendôme, counting Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo among her clientele. She invented culottes, the evening gown, the built-in bra and dared to expose zippers. In 1937 she launched a fragrance, "Shocking," its pink glass torso bottle based on Mae West's body. She began collaborating with the Surrealists, especially Salvador Dali, with whom she created a lobster dress which was worn by Wallis Simpson.

Wallis Simpson in Schiaparelli lobster dress
Schiap closed her business in 1954, and published her autobiography Shocking Life. She died in her sleep in Paris in 1973.

Kate Blanchett in Schiaparelli
In 2007,  Diego Della Valle, CEO and President of Tod's, acquired the brand Schiaparelli. In addition to Miley Cyrus wearing the brand to the after-Oscars parties, Schiaparelli has been recently worn by such celebs as Kate Blanchett and Lorde.

Lorde in Schiaparelli
Like many originals, Elsa Schiaparelli's spirit continues on long after her body was laid to rest.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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14. Great Girls over Piazza San Marco - VENICE CARNIVAL 2015

Giusy Versace - Flight of the Eagle - Venice Carnival 2015
(Venice, Italy) Giusy Versace soared over Piazza San Marco during the Flight of the Eagle on Sunday, February 15, 2015, the personification of courage, determination and joy. The dynamic young woman with the famous last name lost both her legs in a horrific car accident in 2005. Did that stop Giusy Versace? (Giusy is pronounced "JOO-see;" there is no "J" in the Italian alphabet; "Gi" makes the same sound.)

Giusy Versace
A year and a half later Giusy was walking, then driving and then, astonishingly, running on her super-duper carbon prostheses, becoming a top Paralympic sport competitor, as well as a Save the Dream Ambassador, inspiring people all over the globe with her sunshine. And now Giusy Versace can fly.

Giusy Versace - Venice Carnival 2015
Another young woman who took flight at the 2015 Carnevale di Venezia was Marianna Sereni, winner of last year's Festa delle Marie, a contest which I have described many times before -- in fact, in 2007 I was the first straniera on the jury which selects the twelve most beautiful, or virtuous young women in the Veneto.

Marie 2015
La Festa delle Marie originated from a pirate raid in 943 a.d., according to Venetian legend. In ancient times, Venetians married on only one day each year. A water procession from the Arsenale on the canal “delle Vergini” started the festivities. All the brides-to-be were rowed across the lagoon in decorated boats brimming with dowries, while their future husbands waited at the Church of San Nicolò at the Lido.

That year, pirates raided the procession, kidnapping the brides and the booty. An enraged 

Venetian rescue party executed the pirates and brought the brides back to the ceremony. 
Marianna Sereni- Flight of the Angel 2015
To commemorate the victory in the past, every year twelve patriarchal families would present twelve virtuous young women from poor Venetian families with a dowry, and the designation “le Marie,” or “The Marys.”

Irene Rizzi, "Maria 2015," Marco Polo and the Doge
This year's winning Maria was Irene Rizzi, who was costumed in the style of the Orient when the Twelve Marie made their final appearance on the Grand Stage in Piazza San Marco, yesterday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Martedi Grasso. So next year Irene will leap off the bell tower and soar over Piazza San Marco during the Flight of the Angel.

Flag of San Marco in Piazza San Marco
The Venice Carnival 2015 closed with the Twelve Marie releasing an enormous flag of San Marco with its winged lion over Piazza San Marco. The Venetian flag fluttered slowly up to the top of the Campanile as the Gondoliers sang the Venetian anthem, and the sun gently set on Carnevale di Venezia 2015.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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15. TEMPTATIONS... TENTAZIONI... Venice Carnival Party in a Tower

Tentazioni dinner show
(Venice, Italy) There are many Carnival parties in palaces in Venice, but there is only one party in a tower -- the Porta Nuova Tower deep down inside Arsenale, where Venice once cranked out her ships. The tower was actually not built by the Venetian Republic. It was built in 1810 when Venice was under the domination of Napoleon, who used the Arsenale for the naval base of the imperial French fleet in the Adriatic.

Torre di Porta Nuova
But the Tower is now under the domination of City of Venice after having been restored by funds from the Republic of Italy, the Veneto Region, the Comune of Venice, and the European Union. The night I went to the Temptations Dinner Show there was an enormous Venetian flag projected on the side of the Tower.

Tentazioni dinner show
The show itself was excellent, sultry and seductive, performed by Nu Art, a company from Verona whose members slink around in astonishingly beautiful bodies and not much else. There was a blonde... maybe two blondes... we weren't sure... whose acrobatic feats on a lamppost... and a birdcage...and swinging from strands of silk... were, literally, breathtaking.

Temptations dinner show
The dinner itself was fine and plentiful, but not hot enough, though I imagine it was difficult to get the food from wherever it was being cooked to up inside the Tower. My party had been split into two tables; I was seated at a table in the center at the stage and was physically comfortable throughout the evening, but people closer to the walls of the Tower said they were cold. My personal quibble was that while I liked the idea of all the guests wearing the same simple mask -- black for men, burgundy for women -- that they were made out of plastic in a city famous for the quality of its masks was, to me, scandalous.

Tentazioni dinner show
The price of the evening is €200 per person, including wine, and I thought it was under-priced. Even if all the kinks have not yet been worked out, it is a unique experience. Splurge on a boat taxi, and dress warmly.

Go to Temptations Dinner Show for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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16. RODIN and CANDIDA HOFER Star at New Dom Pérignon Space at Ca' Pesaro, Venice

The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin at Ca' Pesaro
(Venice, Italy) The French city of Calais is on the English Channel, less than 25 miles away from England. When people swim the English Channel, they usually swim from around Dover, England to Calais, France. The English Channel is the water that separates Great Britain from continental Europe. It has caused all sorts of havoc over the centuries since, physically, Great Britain is not part of Europe -- although the British have certainly tried to bridge that gap on more than one occasion.

The Hundred Years' War between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France began in 1337 as a war between two cousins -- Edward III of England and Philip VI of France -- for the French throne, and ended in 1453. An important early battle was at Calais, which is so close to England that the port makes an excellent trading center for English goods. English Edward not only wanted Calais, he also thought he should be king of France, not French Philip. (I won't get into all the haggling over bloodlines, but they both had legitimate claims to the crown.) But the French aristocracy certainly did not want to be ruled by the King of England!

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington II, C-print by Candida Hofer
In 1346, English Edward attacked the city of Calais. French Philip told the citizens not to surrender no matter what. The people of Calais were besieged by Edward's soldiers for a long time -- some sources say 11 months; some say over a year -- but they finally surrendered. English Edward was so furious that it took so long to conquer the city that he said he was going to kill every inhabitant in Calais. Then English Edward changed his mind -- he said that if six prominent citizens surrendered, and walked out wearing nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the city and the castle, he would spare the townspeople. Six noblemen volunteered to be beheaded, one of them the mayor, Eustache de Saint Pierre, who lead the five other men to the city gates. It is this moment that Auguste Rodin chose to capture in his dynamic sculpture, The Burghers of Calais.

Musée Rodin Paris III C-print by Candida Hofer
However, Edward was married to Queen Philippa, who was kind and compassionate and beloved by the people of England for her good nature. When the queen found out that her husband was planning to behead the Burghers of Calais, she convinced Edward to spare their lives. So the story has a happy ending!

More than 500 years later, in 1884, the city of Calais commissioned the French sculptor Auguste Rodin to create a monument celebrating the act of heroism and identity of the city. The moment Rodin chose to depict was controversial, the public expecting something more classically glorious and heroic. Rodin insisted he had captured the heroism of self-sacrifice.

Place de L'Hotel de Ville Calais I, C-print by Candida Hofer
"PARADOXES" is a series of unusual encounters in the new Spazio Dom Pérignon inside Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art. The encounters in PARADOXES are between young artists and works from the museum's historic collection, which Dom Pérignon helps restore. The German photographer Candida Hofer is the contemporary star of PARADOXES, and the Auguste Rodin sculpture is part of Ca' Pesaro's historic collection.

Kunstmuseum Basel II, C-print by Candida Hofer
Ca' Pesaro owns a plaster mold of Rodin's Les Bourgeois de Calais, which it bought in 1901. However, there are only 12 existing bronze casts of the Burghers of Calais located around the world, and Candida Hofer, one of the most influential photographers on the international scene, was commissioned by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Calais to photograph all twelve. Selections from Douze-Twelve, Hofer's 2001 work are here in the Spazio Dom Pérignon at Ca' Pesaro from January 31 to March 29, 2015.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Official Carnival site
(Venice, Italy) The theme of the 2015 Carnival of Venice is, in Italian: La Festa più golosa del mondo! Which translates to: The Most Golosa Festival in the World! because there just is not an English word that means "golosa." If you ask Google to translate it, or if you look in an Italian-English dictionary, you will find it means "gluttony" or "greed." I have translated it to "tastiest;" the Carnevale site translates it to "most delicious." But golosa is more than that.

Carnival poster 2015 by Giorgio Cavazzano
I love Gorgonzola cheese, which also doesn't really exist in English; it is called "blue cheese" and is a distant cousin from genuine Gongonzola. In Italy, Gorgonzola is protected and can only be produced in certain regions according to certain methods. The result is something divine; an oozy center that is almost liquid, and a distinct taste... if you gob some Gorgonzola onto fresh warm bread... and sip some white wine... AH. It is something I cannot stop eating. If I buy two etti... (a unit of measure that also doesn't exist in English; there are about 4.5 etti in a pound:) I eat the entire two etti; it is impossible for me to control myself. I am GOLOSA for Gorgonzola. If I were male, I would be GOLOSO for Gorgonzola. Some people have this craving when it comes to chocolate. Or Girl Scout cookies. Or Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. It is something you crave, usually something decadent and delicious. So, the Venice Carnival is the most golosa festival in the world, and there will be plenty of goloso food to tempt you.

Official Carnival site
There is a new spirit of cooperation and comradery in the city (someone joked it's because we are still without a mayor, so politics are not involved). While Piazza San Marco will still be the center of the action when it comes to parading in costumes, in the evening the party moves down to Arsenale on February 7 and 8, and then again on February 12 through Fat Tuesday, February 17, complete with nightly fireworks.

Official Carnevale site
This year, many local foundations and organizations are contributing to the Carnival, with some dynamic collaborations. Women in Love or Shakespeare's Women written and directed by the Teatro Goldoni's own Giuseppe Emiliani will be performed inside two impressive Venetian palaces that are now part of Venice's Civic Museums -- Ca' Rezzonico and Palazzo Mocenigo -- with costumes by the renowned Venetian atelier, Stefano Nicolao.

Teatro Goldoni
The Civic Museums are highlighting The Art of Food, featuring cultural and social influences on traditional Venetian cuisine through the ages, keeping with the theme of EXPO 2015 in Milan: "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." Also, on Fat Thursday, February 12 there will be a theatrical and musical marathon at Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr, Ca' Rezzonico, Palazzo Mocenigo and Casa Goldoni -- for example, at Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice's museum dedicated to fabric, costumes and perfume, there will be a 10-15 minute performance entitled, "THE GOLOSO LIBERTINE," about the appetites and tastes of the infamous Venetian lover, Giacomo Casanova (now that you know what "goloso" means, you can imagine the show!).

Official Carnival site
There is so much going on that it would take me days to tell you everything. Luckily, the Official Carnival Site is well organized this year, once you understand how it works. At the very top of the Home page, up on the right, you will see five categories: Home, Events list, Parties, Venice Info, Multimedia and Language. Click the Events list. There you can search by day, or venue, or what type of event you would like to see: Traditional, Live Concert, Food, etc. You can see everything that is going on in Piazza San Marco, or everything that is happening on Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival.

The Most Golosa Festival in the World, the Venice Carnival, runs from today, January 31 to February 15, 2015.


Tweet your photos: #carnevalevenezia

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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18. Venice Carnival for Kids 2015 - The Biennale Lion Makes Music at Arsenale

6th Venice International Kid's Carnival
(Venice, Italy) For the first time, the Venice Kid's Carnival will be held inside the Arsenale in the artfully restored Sale d'Armi. Previous editions of the Carnevale dei Ragazzi were down at Giardini, but this year Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, has declared "Quest'anno si va all'Arsenale!" allowing kids and their grownups to romp around the enormous space that once contained the largest industrial complex in the world. 

The press conference was held in the Sale d'Armi, which means "Weapons Rooms." The word "Arsenale" is a Venetian word, morphed from the Arabic dar-as-sina, which means "house of construction." During the Republic, the Venetians enjoyed showing off their impressive Arsenal, which could whip out an entire ship in a single day. The efficient Venetian production lines made Venice the shipbuilding center of the world, and allowed Venice to control trade in the Mediterranean, which was the foundation of her great wealth.

Arsenale - Jacopo de' Barbari, 1500s
Around the year 1110, according to John Julius Norwich in Venice, The Rise to Empire: "An ambitious new shipbuilding programme was called for, and it was now that Doge Ordelafo made his most enduring contribution to the Republic. Hitherto the shipwrights of Venice had been scattered about all over the lagoon, many if not all of them running small private businesses of their own. Under his aegis shipbuilding became a nationalized industry. For its centre he chose two marshy little islands known as the Zemelle -- 'the twins' in Venetian dialect -- at the far end of the Riva to the east of the city; and here, over the next half-century, there grew up that mighty complex of dockyards, foundries, magazines and workshops for carpenters, sailmakers, ropemakers and blacksmiths that Dante described in the Inferno and that gave a new word to the English language and many others besides -- the Arsenal."

Arsenale today
Nowadays the Arsenale is shared by several powerful organziations, one of which is La Biennale. The Sale d'Armi houses several new national pavilions such as Argentina, South Africa and the Vatican with long-term rental agreements; each nation restored the space with genuine affection -- neither La Biennale, nor Italy, nor Venice spent a penny. The wooden beams that criss-cross the ceiling are original, as are the bricks that make up the walls. It is like an enormous SoHo loft, centuries before Manhattan existed, converted from industry to art.

Escalator - Sale d'Armi - Arsenale, Venice
Paolo Baratta joked that the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was jealous of the escalator outside the Sale d'Armi. Koolhaas was the Director of the 2014 International Architecture Biennale, and is presently turning the Fondaco dei Tedeschi at the foot of the Rialto Bridge into a shopping center for Benetton, who now owns the building. All hell broke loose a couple years ago when Koolhaas revealed his original plans, which included escalators, and outraged local preservation groups. The scandalous escalators inside the Fondaco dei Tedeschi were the Talk of the Town; the only thing worse was the proposed roof terrace. Koolhaas has since redesigned the plans, which no longer include an escalator in the center atrium. Baratta said that the escalator at the Sale d'Armi just happened to fit without altering the existing structure; as you can see, it is not part of the structure at all:)

So, Arsenale is the venue for the 2015 Kid's Carnival, one of my favorite events during Carnevale. Workshops and laboratories are open to everyone, and they are free. This year, students from 150 schools from all over the Veneto will participate in an international event designed to encourage creativity and original thought. Can you imagine what a fantastic class trip that will be?

The theme this year is:
Carnevale Internazionale dei ragazzi
which the Biennale translates into English as:

but I think a better translation might be:

So, making music and song is the theme, and there will be laboratories and spaces to inspire the kids scattered around Arsenale. The Biennale Music section will be here, as well as the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, the United Nations and Unicef. Young musicians who have composed their own music will perform their creations. There will be a treasure hunt, and the Gran Atelier di Sartoria will help kids create their own Carnival costumes and masks with fabric from Rubelli(!).

Five countries will participate in Kid's Carnival this year. Poland's event is called, Plastik is Fantastic! where kids will transform plastic materials into musical instruments, and also focus on creative ways to recycle. Theater Gong from Sibiu in Romania will bring a puppet show "The Almost Famous Cricket" inspired by a fable by the French writer Jean de La Fontaine. The German offering is MY STYLE, MY FASHION SHOW: PLAY WITH FASHION! The kids will design and create their own fashions, including eyewear, and then get their own cover of a magazine. The United States will present Intoniamo... i rumori?? -- Painting with sound, noise and smells -- and will present poetry and narration with those trilly alliteration sounds that kids love to make. Kecskemét is a city of art and culture in Hungary, made famous by its native son, Zoltan Kodaly, best known for the "Kodaly Method," a concept for teaching music education in the classroom, which the Hungarians will share during Carnival for Kids. 

That the world's first military industrial complex has transformed into a World of Art with pavilions that flow into one another and where borders are invisible is a wonderful thing. I think it's terrific that the Kid's Carnival has moved over to Arsenale; it feels right.

10:00AM to 6:00PM
Free admission and workshop activities
Info: +39 041 521.8828
Ciao from Venezia,

0 Comments on Venice Carnival for Kids 2015 - The Biennale Lion Makes Music at Arsenale as of 1/23/2015 4:19:00 PM
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19. Humans as the Heart of Industry - America and LEWIS HINE at Casa Dei Tre Oci in Venice

Worker on the Empire State Building (1931) - Photo by Lewis Hine
(Venice, Italy) Lewis Hine (1874-1940) was one of the first American photographers to use his camera to impact society. His revealing photos of children toiling in mills in the early 1900s were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States. He captured the frank expressions of bewildered immigrants arriving on Ellis Island, and the blackened faces of workers in the coal mines. His dramatic images of death-defying workers dancing like acrobats across steel girders during construction of the Empire State Building were awe-inspiring. By using photography to capture the human beings who were the engines of the industrial machine, Lewis Hine was a knight armed with a camera.

Addie Card, 12-year-old spinner (1910) - Photo: Lewis Whine
Nina Rosenblum grew up with the photographs of Lewis Hine, which she used to stick on the wall with a thumb tack because back then nobody thought they were worth anything. The Academy Award-nominated documentary film director is the daughter of the photographer, Walter Rosenblum, and the photographic historian, Naomi Rosenblum. Nina was here in Venice with her husband, Daniel Allentuck, who is the son of Maureen Stapleton. They are partners in life and work, founding Daedalus Productions, a non-profit film and television production company in 1980. On Friday, November 28, 2014, they screened their 1984 family-affair documentary, "America and Lewis Hine," at Casa Dei Tre Oci here in Venice, where Lewis Hine's photos are on show until December 8.

Lewis Hine was an early faculty member of the prestigious Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a private independent school in New York City whose core value is the respect for human dignity, and which has produced such diverse members of society as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Barbara Walters and Jeffrey Katzenberg. In the early 1900s, Hine took his students to Ellis Island and encouraged them to use photography as an educational medium. He documented the masses of immigrants fleeing an impoverished Europe, hoping for a better future in an America that was booming.

Ellis Island (1905) Photo: Lewis Hine
Hines then worked as a staff photographer for the newly-established Russell Sage Foundation, one of America's oldest foundations, whose mission is for the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States. In 1907, Hines documented living conditions in Pittsburgh, which was then the prototype of an industrial city, helping to influence public opinion about the harmful effects industry was having on society and the environment.

Child labor (1908) Photo: Lewis Hine
He next worked for National Child Labor Committee, using different guises to gain entry to mills, mines and factories to document the savage effects the grueling labor was having on America's children. He documented the efforts of the American Red Cross in Europe during and after WWI, and was the official photographer for the construction of the Empire State Building, recording the fearless men who worked at dizzying heights without safety harnesses.

Empire State Building (1931) Photo: Lewis Hine
Walter Rosenblum, Nina's father, who was interviewed during the film, met Lewis Hine when Rosemblum was 17-years-old and Hine was in his 60s. By then, Hine had lost his governmental and corporate contracts, as well as his house. Rosenblum was instrumental in preserving Hine's photos, and followed in his path. Walter Rosenblum recorded the D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944, was the first Allied photographer to enter the liberated Dachau concentration camp, and was a Purple Heart recipient.

By coincidence, I happen to be reading "Waterworks" by E.L. Doctorow, historical fiction set in New York City in 1871. From the back cover:

"In a city where every form of crime and vice flourishes, corruption is king, fabulous wealth stands on the shoulders of unspeakable want, and there are no limits to larceny."

Photo: Lewis Hine (1916)
The film reminded me that the current inequalities and extreme greed the planet is experiencing is nothing new under the sun, and it gave me hope: there are genuine photographers and filmmakers such as Nina Rosenblum and Daniel Allentuck who follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, recording social conditions in order to bring these issues into the public awareness and effect change. We have made progress since children in the United States were no better than slaves, and miners labored under horrific conditions in the coal mines. Lewis Hine fought with his camera to improve conditions for the working-class human beings that were the heart and soul of the industrial machine, allowing those with disposable income to spend it on Black Friday today.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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20. Get Ready for VENICE CARNIVAL 2015! Masquerade Balls at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava

Intrigue. Romance. Splendor. Seduction. The Carnival of Venice tempts travelers from all over the globe to don a mask, slip into a costume, and step through the door to a different time. The mysterious grandeur of the Gothic Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava is the sumptuous setting for some of the most charming galas of the season.

The Grand Balls take place in the piano nobile of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava, a genuine 14th Century palace with an exclusive water entrance and Gothic windows overlooking the magical Misericordia canal. Gondoliers serenade guests upon arrival, along with a welcome cocktail. During the gala dinners, flickering candlelight and classical music illuminate the ancient rooms, whisking guests back to a time of enchantment. Traditional Venetian food is served, and wine is included. For dessert, a chocolate fountain oozes decadent delights, accompanied by traditional Carnival sweets. Live entertainment starts at 11:00PM, featuring something for every taste: arias from operas, burlesque and cabaret, minuets and gavottes -- and, of course, love songs on St. Valentine's Day. At midnight, it's time to hit the dance floor and rock the night away.

For those colorful couples who prefer to arrive after dinner, Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava also offers entrance to the live entertainment at 11:00PM, together with a bottle of Prosecco, the sparkling wine of the Veneto, and a bottle of Bellini, the Venetian cocktail made with Prosecco and peach nectar. Indulge at the dessert buffet, and dance to live music after the show.

Have a look below to find the ball that tempts you…


Saturday, February 7, 2015
"The Barber of Seville" and Homage to Gioachino Rossini
Gala dinner & live entertainment

Figaro! Arias from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," one of the most beloved operas of all time, is the entertainment for the first Saturday night of Carnival. A captive maiden, a salacious guardian, a handsome noble suitor, and Figaro, the barber, are the feisty ingredients for comic chaos.  

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias from Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening gown with mask
Cost: €365 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, "Barber of Seville," dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person 


Sunday, February 8, 2015
An homage to Placid Domingo, José Carreras & Luciano Pavarotti
Gala dinner & live entertainment

Years ago, The Three Tenors, Plàcido Domingo, José Carreras & Luciano Pavarotti, created a world-wide phenomenon as they toured the globe. As an homage, the Three Tenors at Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava perform favorite arias, Broadway hits and traditional Neapolitan songs.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias, Broadway hits and Neapolitan songs with the Three Tenors 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €320 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, the Three Tenors, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Thursday, February 12, 2015
Burlesque & Caffè-Concerto
Gala dinner and live entertainment

For the fourth year, La Dolce Vita Grand Ball dazzles with a naughty new burlesque extravaganza. Frolic at the caffé-concerto and enjoy the gaiety of the Belle Époque! 

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Burlesque show and caffé-concerto 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €325 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, burlesque show, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Saturday, February 14, 2015
Arias of love on St. Valentine's Day
Gala dinner and live entertainment

On Saint Valentine's Day, The Dogaressa Grand Ball features arias of love from the Bel Canto repertoire sung by the Three Sopranos, promising an evening full of romance, elegance and passion. There's poetry in the air!

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias of love sung by the Three Sopranos 
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €365 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, arias of love, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Sunday, February 15, 2015
St. Valentine's Day Continues
Chocolate fountain and live entertainment

Saint Valentine's Day continues with the Pomeriggio Cioccolata or Afternoon Chocolate, in the Sansovino salon of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava. The Pomeriggio Cioccolata is an ancient custom of the Venetian nobility, dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A chocolate fountain surrounded by a buffet of deliciously decadent Carnival sweets is the centerpiece, accompanied by hot chocolate and the Venetian bubbly Prosecco while a soprano sings arias of love. Dance masters and ballerinas introduce guests to dances of the Baroque period, offering instructions on how to dance the Minuet, Gavotte and Jigs in the ballroom of the ancient palace.

16:00: Elegant cocktail with traditional hot chocolate and typical Venetian buffet of pastries
Arias of love performed by the Soprano
Masters of dance offer Baroque period dance instructions
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Gown with Mask 
Cost: €95 per person


Sunday, February 15, 2015
"La Serva Padrona"
Gala dinner & live entertainment

The homage to Pergolesi highlights his comic operetta "La Serva Padrona," or "The Servant Turned Mistress" featuring the wily maid Serpina who plots to marry her aging master.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Arias from "La Serva Padrona" by Giovan Battista Pergolesi
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €320 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, "La Serva Padrona," dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person


Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Martedi Grasso or Fat Tuesday - The Last Dance
Gala dinner & live entertainment

The Minuet Grand Ball on Mardi Gras, the last night of Carnival, takes place in the piano nobile of Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava. The elegant Minuet was the favorite dance of European aristocrats. The masters of dance introduce guests to the Minuet, Gavotte and Jigs, and offer instruction in the ballrooms of the ancient palace. Join hands and dance the open-chain farandole throughout the palazzo -- a perfect way to end Carnival.

21:15: Welcome cocktail with gondoliers and traditional Venetian music
21:45: Seated candlelight gala dinner with Venetian cuisine, wine included
Chocolate fountain and traditional Carnival sweets
23:00: Minuet, Gavotte and Jig lessons by dance masters
Midnight: Live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €295 per person

After Dinner Arrivals
Bottles of Prosecco & Bellini, dance masters, dessert bar, live music and dancing; cash bar
Dress code: Costume and Mask, or Tuxedo and Evening Gown with Mask
Cost: €125 per person

Palazzo Ca' Pesaro Papafava
Calle Racchetta 3764
Cannaregio, Venice

The Palace is a 5-minute walk from the Ca D'Oro vaporetto stop, or can be reached by its water door entrance which faces the Church of the Misericordia, allowing guests to arrive by gondola or taxi boat.

For further information and to buy your tickets, please visit Venezia Segreta:
Tel. +39 041.520.18.55
Tel. +39 348.359.18.18
Fax +39
Email: ecgroup@tin.it
Venice Carnival 2015 at Palazzo Pesaro Papafava is from the event planners at Incentive Harmony

*This is a sponsored post.

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21. The United States Dazzles Venice with the POETRY OF LIGHT

The Palace; white and pink (1879/80) by James McNeil Whistler
(Venice, Italy) Andrew Robison, the effervescent curator of The Poetry of Light from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has finally achieved his dream of the past two decades: to present a great exhibition of Venetian drawings in Venice. The finest Venetian drawings that the National Gallery possesses are now on show at the Museo Correr until the Ides of March, 2015. More than 130 works are hung in elaborate frames chosen especially for each drawing in La Poesia della Luce: Disegni veneziani dalla National Gallery of Art di Washington.

Punchinello released from prison (1798-1802) by Giandomenico Tiepolo
Robison said most exhibitions about Venetian art stop around 1800 with Giandomenico Tiepolo, the last great artist from Venice before the collapse of the Republic after the Napoleonic invasion. However, Venice still continues today; the culture continues, and artists continue to be inspired by Venice. When Venice transformed from a state to a myth, it drew artists from all over the world who added another element to her image. Venice has always been an international city, so included in the exhibition are not only Venetian artists, but artists from abroad who traveled to Venice and were touched by the light -- which means artists such as the German Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Americans James Whistler (1834-1903) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) are represented. In addition, the Gallery considers all unprinted works of art on paper to be drawings, including watercolors and pastels, and considers not only the city of Venice in the term "Venetian," but all drawings made in the Veneto, not only by Venetians, but also by artists born and trained elsewhere.

An Oriental Ruler Seated on His Throne (1495) by Albrecht Darer
In 1937, Andrew Mellon donated his private art collection plus $10 million for construction to create the National Gallery of Art for the people of the United States, which is free of charge. He believed that the United States should have a national art gallery equal to those of other great nations. Mellon insisted that the museum not bear his name to encourage other collectors to donate their treasures. His foresight worked. Before the Gallery opened, other major donors were already giving their collections. To read more about the National Gallery of Art, click HERE

If I tallied correctly, there are works by 74 artists on show: Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio are there. Lorenzo Lotto and Titian. Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. No less than twelve works by Giambattista Tiepolo. The number and quality of artists inspired by Venice is astonishing. The National Gallery has been building its collection of Venetian drawings since before it opened its doors to the public on March 17, 1941, starting with the "ravishing" Rosalba Carriera pastel given by Samuel H. Kress in 1939.

Giovedi Grasso Festival Before the Ducal Palace (1765/77) by Canaletto
"the striking effects of light in Venice, the absence of any total darkness, soft light diffused by humidity in the atmosphere, brilliant light from penetrating sunshine, dancing light and shadow reflected from constantly moving waterways, and scintillating light shimmering off the water make the varieties and movement of light a special feature of the city, which deeply affected her artists and let to their feeling for the poetry of light."
---Andrew Robison
Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings,
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s by Giovanni Badile
The Poetry of Light is in chronological order beginning with Giovanni Badile's Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s, one of the earliest examples of an actual portrait of a specific individual -- not a ruler -- and ending with three of John Singer Sargent's brilliant watercolors from the early 1900s. Perhaps the most fascinating room is dedicated to the wild imagination of Giambattista Piranesi, who is represented by ten pieces of work. Piranesi said, "I need great ideas and I think that if someone were to commission me with the project for a new universe, I'd be mad enough to accept."

A Magnificent Palatial Interior (1748/52) by Giambattista Piranesi
Robison praised Gabriella Belli, the Director of Venice's Civic Museums for a "magnificent collaboration," and said that her energy and enthusiasm allowed the exhibition to become reality. During the viewing, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabriella Belli, and told her what a great difference there was in the Musei Civici under her leadership. Venice is collaborating with some of the most prestigious museums in the world. Nations that are at odds politically are still able to communicate through culture. Belli said that she "believes in culture, and the effect it has on humanity," and that she wanted to do something "for the people."

I also spoke with Andrew Robison, whose passion for culture is contagious. I told him how thrilled I was that the United States had brought such an exhibition to Venice, and what a pleasure it was to meet like-minded Americans. Robison said that it was important to show that the US does not only lead when it comes to the military, but that we can also be leaders in culture.

Gondola Moorings on the Grand Canal (1904s/1907s) by John Singer Sargent
To make the exhibition the finest it could possibly be, Robison said that the Gallery gave everything; they didn't hold back anything. "It's not everything we own, but it is the best. We have given the best, our all." He said that after the show was over in March, it wasn't going to Paris, Berlin or London, the works were going back to the States. "Not for Paris, Berlin or London would we do this, but for Venice, yes."

Venetian drawings from the National Gallery of Art, Washington
December 6, 2014 to March 15, 2015
Organized by The National Gallery of Art, Washington
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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22. DOUBLE ENTRY - How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance

(Venice, Italy) It was only a matter of time before someone like Jane Gleeson-White wrote a book subtitled "How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance." If you live in Venice long enough, you start to feel the echoes of ancient Venice reverberating throughout history straight up to the present day in nearly every aspect of life. Once the financial center of Europe, the center of international trade, and the capital of the publishing industry, Venice was the New York City of its day.

Double Entry is an engaging book about a seemingly boring topic: Accounting, and how the double-entry bookkeeping system rocked the world. The year was 1494, right around the time Christopher Columbus set his sights on America -- inspired, by the way, by the Venetian explorer, Marco Polo; a copy of The Travels of Marco Polo with handwritten annotations was found in Columbus' possessions. In Venice in 1494, a man named Luca Pacioli published a mathematical encyclopedia called Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportione et proportionalità, introducing Hindu-Arabic numbers to a wide audience in Italy for the first time thanks to new technology called the printing press. In Pacioli's encyclopedia was a treatise about the Venetian double entry system of accounting. Pacioli wrote in the vernacular, not Latin, and encouraged merchants to switch over from using Roman numerals and old arithmetic to the new system.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1494-98)
Gleeson-White describes Luca Pacioli as a "Renaissance mathematician, monk, magician and constant companion of Leonardo da Vinci." After Pacioli's Summa was published, it became a bestseller and he became famous. Leonardo da Vinci read it in Milan and asked Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of the realm, to summon Pacioli to his Court. So, off Pacioli went to Milan and met da Vinci, who was working on the Last Supper. The two men were obsessed with geometry and arithmetic. Pacioli's next book was called De divina proportione about the "divine proportion," or the golden ratio known as phi, with 60 drawings by his pal Leonardo.

In 1499, the army of Louis XII of France invaded Milan and destroyed Pacioli's mathematical models, believing they were the work of the devil. Pacioli and da Vinci escaped to Mantua where Isabella d'Este was taking refugees. Pacioli dedicated a book to Isabella called De viribus quantitatis ("On the Power of Numbers") which, to this day, has never been published and is in the Bologna University Library. Next, Luca and Leonardo went to Florence, where they shared a house.

Pacioli claimed to have written another book called De Ludo Scacchorum, the first book about chess. It was called "Mad Queen's Chess," because it made the queen the most powerful piece on the board. In 2006, after missing for five centuries, Pacioli's surviving manuscript was discovered in Gorizia in the 22,000-volume library of Count Guglielmo Coronini, who said he had bought it in 1963 from a "Venetian poet and bibliophile". It is believed that da Vinci could have done the drawings because Isabella d'Este was a known chess player, and, as we can see, the boys were quite an item at the time.

With these mystical, magical beginnings, how did we arrive to a place in the world where corporate greed and corruption has managed to warp a formula that began as a way to keep merchants honest? Jane Gleeson-White takes us on a fascinating journey through the centuries with a compelling style that entertains even the number-challenged among us. When we grasp the concept of the Gross National Product and how it can be manipulated, today's world of Enrons and Big Banks and Wall Street clicks into place.

What was new to me is the term "Natural Capital," something that is slowly being taking into account at meetings around the globe. It means that Nature is finally going to be worth something. Right now, Nature is not worth anything in terms of profit and loss. Look at it this way: a friend of mine owns some property in the country. On her property is a small forest full of trees. Those trees are not worth anything unless she chops them down and sells the wood, or uproots them. My friend wanted more trees closer to the house and bought three new trees, which cost her €1,000. With Natural Capital, those old, majestic trees growing in her small forest would add value to the property that is not being taken into account today.

Or what about the value of waters of the Venice lagoon versus the exploitation by the cruise ships? Has the "Natural Capital" of the Venetian lagoon and all the riches it provides been tallied into the equation? On her Bookishgirl blog, Jane Gleeson-White says, "The problem with our current accounting systems – both national and corporate – is that they don’t account for natural capital, they don’t value living nature, and so it is invisible."

Gleeson-White starts her book with a speech that Bobby Kennedy made on March 18, 1964 at Kansas State University, three months before he was assassinated:

"Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion a year, but that Gross National Product... does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

Happy Holidays from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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23. Midnight Mass in Venice - Bring on the New Year!

Pala d'Oro - Basilica of San Marco, Venice
(Venice, Italy) The Basilica of San Marco is one of the most stunning places of worship in the world; to me, it is the most beautiful and awe-inspiring. The gold mosaics that enhance the enormous interior sparkle with celestial light. The image of Jesus Christ in the center is one of kindness, compassion and wisdom. Many stories are emblazoned across the walls and ceilings of the Basilica; you can tumble into another world just gazing at the images. Angels in the alcoves seem almost real; the air is wispy with the scent and smoke of incense.

On the high holy days, the majestic golden panel, the Pala d'Oro, is turned toward the congregation. I have had the great honor and privilege to kneel directly in front of the Pala d'Oro, and I can tell you what it feels like... it feels as if I am in front of one of the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only more divine because it is gold and studded with precious gems... As if it was created with high intelligence and omniscience... I come away pulsing with star dust.

The Pala d'Oro feels as if it was designed according to a sacred plan. As I wrote for Gems of Venice, "According to Mons. Antonio Niero, author of La Pala d'Oro e il Tesoro di San Marco, 'the use and arrangement of the gems and precious stones suggest that the 13th century restorers followed the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelations, which speaks of 12 precious stones when describing the new Jerusalem; some of the stones used in the pala are identical to those described in that chapter.'"

Last year I wrote about the magical feeling of Christmas in Venice, which you can read here:

Christmas Magic in Venice 2013

For two thousand years Christians have been celebrating the birth of a Jew from Galilee whose profound, simple message rocked humanity, which comes down to us in the words of Mark, who wrote the first Gospel, and is the patron saint of Venice: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Best wishes to all for the New Year.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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24. Do you want to be an Art Curator? Open Call for Summer School 2015 in Curatorial Studies - Venice

(Venice, Italy) I often have the good fortune to view art exhibitions here in Venice with the curators themselves, and witness their passion for their subjects. Whether it is contemporary or ancient art, an exhibition comes alive through their eyes and energy.

One of my favorite curators is Luca Massimo Barbero, who has a gem of a show on right now called AZIMUT/H - Continuity and Newness over at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and was the host of the conversation with Heinz Mack on September 19, 2014, which I wrote about here:

Creative Earthquake at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice - AZIMUT/H and HEINZ MACK

Luca Massimo Barbero is one of the instructors at the Summer School in Curatorial Studies this year, which will take place during the 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition. The School sent over a press release, which will give you all the information you need if you follow the links, or you can go to their website. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2015, and the price for the course is €3,900.

At the 56th Venice Art Biennale: Open Call for the Summer School in Curatorial Studies


Open call


8th June – 30th September 2015

The School for Curatorial Studies is an ambitious and challenging project promoted since 2004 and conceived as a school committed to experimentation and interdisciplinary thinking. The main goals are to spread the knowledge in the field of visual arts and to introduce the students to the professions related to the art world, focusing on contemporary curatorial theory and practice and contemporary museology.

The School’s activities are meant for all those interested and passionate in art, graduated students or professionals who want to deepen their knowledge and improve their practical skills.

The School’s teaching staff is formed by Italian and international professionals, scholars, historians and art critics of recognized experience. Among them: Agnes Kohlmeyer (curator), Angela Vettese (art critic), Luca Massimo Barbero (Peggy Guggenheim Collection), Francesca Colasante (Foundation Pinault), Andrea Goffo (Found. Prada), Tommaso Speretta.

Download here: Program, Information and Application deadline.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog  

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25. JE SUIS CHARLIE Banner at top of Rialto Bridge, Venice

JE SUIS CHARLIE banner - Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy
(Venice, Italy) Venice has draped a JE SUIS CHARLIE banner at the top of the Rialto Bridge as show of solidarity with the people of France, and all people in the civilized world, in defiance of terrorism and support for freedom of expression.

Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
We are not afraid.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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