Phots: Church of the Frari, Biennial installation at Ca'Rezzonico, Bellini painting in San Zaccaria
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Adventures In "La Serenissima"
The Venetians called their wonderful city “La Serenissima,” the serene one, since they deemed it the center of existence. One must say, after being here just another day, Venice certainly ranks high among the most beautiful of all cities. Maybe Paris, St.Petersburg and Rome could also be added to such a list, but not many more. The views of water with great architecture were combined here in a unique manner. This morning after breakfast we took the vaporetto (a bus-like boat) on the Grand Canal to our first attraction, the Church of the Frari. Both Titian and Monteverdi are buried in the vast Gothic church, and there are amazing altarpieces by Titian, his teacher Giovanni Bellini, Vivarini and others. Titian’s ‘Frari Assumption’ made his name, and this masterpiece hangs over the high altar. From the Frari we walked to the Scuola (or Confraternity) of San Rocco (St. Roche) to study the magnificent cycle of 65 paintings by the Mannerist 16th century master Jacopo Tintoretto. His mastery of foreshortening, movement and drama were unequaled, and like Titian, he was another of Venice’s best artists. From the Scuola, we headed to the ‘Ca Rezzonico, a huge palace on the Grand Canal which is now a museum of 18the century Venice. By that time, Venice’s power had declined, but it was already on the ‘grand tour’ of Europe. The palace features frescoes by Tiepolo, and many paintings by other Rococo masters such as Canaletto, Guardi and the inimitable Pietro Longhi, who painted genre or everyday scenes. My favorite work by Longhi is his portrait of a rhinoceros being ogled by 18th century Venetians. The furnishings in the ‘Ca Rezzonico have largely been preserved, and as a project of the current Biennale, an artist designed fanciful contemporary decorations for many rooms. Jim’s photo of a grand salon shows red lights designed in the shape of giant Christmas tree ornaments. We walked toward the Piazza San Marco after our morning sight-seeing attractions, having lunch on the way. At the main square we took another vaporetto that gave us a 45 minute ride way past the Train Station, the Port and the island of the Giudecca to the island of St. George. There, in Palladio’s masterpiece, San Giorgio, we saw still more large paintings by Tintoretto, including one of my favorites, his largest version of the ‘Last Supper.’ From there it was a short ride across the water back to our hotel near the Campo San Zaccaria. In that square, when we went to buy provisions (water and fruit,) we discovered that the marvelous church of S. Zaccaria was open, so we went in to see some marvelous paintings, including one of the finest works by Giovanni Bellini. (See Jim’s photo.) Though not as well known as his successors in the following century, Bellini can certainly be considered one of the greatest Venetian Renaissance painters. After a well-deserved rest we’ll head out to dinner at the Hotel Wildner. Please stay–tuned for another report on dining in Venice.—Dan