Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
As our friend Mariangela pointed out, we have visited a number of apostles, evangelists, popes, and doctors on this trip. There was St James, of course, but also Peter and Paul (Rome); St Mark (Venice); St Luke (Padua); and St Zechariah (Venice). We also saw St Anthony, St Francis Xavier, St Aloysius Gonzaga, St Stanislaus Kostka, St Charles Borromeo, St Chrysogonus, St Giustina of Padua, and many others. A myriad of saints. One might even call it a communion of saints.
I calculated that we will not get home for about 24 hours. It's really better not to think about it. See you "tomorrow."
Friday, October 16, 2009
After that we were going to see San Giorgio, the church designed by Palladio which is on an island directly across from San Marco. But we couldn't find the right vaporetto stop, so we went to the Correr Museum instead. It overlooks San Marco and is in some old palace or t'other. It has a number of works by Canova, who was a Venetian, or at least died in Venice. There was also a portrait of Canova in his old age. He turned into the ugliest old man you can imagine, but he went right on sculpting flawlessly beautiful young people.
The most interesting display, we thought, was the library of Venetian books. It was quite a center for printing, and the books included the first translations into Italian of "Tom Jones" and "Robinson Crusoe." There was an Italian novel from the 1770s called "The Twins," about twin sisters who were educated differently and what became of them. The frontispiece showed the two of them, one sitting quietly reading, very demurely dressed, the other garbed in full Venetian finery. Under the picture the question was asked, "Raised so differently, which will have the happier destiny?"
Also in the book room, there were various examples of occasional books from the 17th and 18th centuries, full of poems and sonnets written especially for a particular occasion, typically a wedding among the nobles, the installation of a new bishop, etc. One was dedicated to a girl from a wealthy family who entered a convent, so there were many sonnets about what a shame it was that so much beauty, charm, wit, etc, should be shut up within the walls of a convent.
There were many other treasures in the museum, but by the time we got to the masterworks of Bellini and others, we were more interested in the signs reading "Caffeteria" and "Uscita" than in the paintings.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The doge's palace made for a very interesting tour. I don't really understand the Venetian system of government. There were so many boards, groups, panels, advocates, inquisitions, and the like, that it was hard to know who was in charge. The doge himself was essentially a symbolic leader, though elected by his fellow nobles. Only a few rooms of the palace were for his personal use, though admittedly they were full of Titians, Tintorettos, and Veroneses. The rest of the palace consisted of state rooms where the various governing bodies would meet. In one room portraits of all the doges line the walls. They all look pretty much the same except for one, over which a black curtain is painted. This is the one Doge, Marin Falier by name, who committed treason against the state. He was beheaded in 1355 and his image was obliterated though his name was painted on the black curtain that it might live in infamy.
There is also an armory in which the Venetians stockpiled armor and deadly-looking weaponry of all kinds. One case was dedicated to instruments of torture from Padova. There was a key that shot a poisoned arrow when turned in a lock; a small chest that exploded in your face when opened; and a chastity belt which only a truly twisted imagination could have dreamed up.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
SCENE: Florence. The railway platform at the Stazione Santa Maria Novella. A second-class railway carriage.
He: Are these our seats?
She: Yes, 23 and 28, that's what it says. Look up there.
He: I can't see it.
She: I know, you've said it often enough.
(A brief pause while they settle in to their seats, both producing large diaries, she putting on a large pair of sunglasses.)
He: What's the matter?
He: Then why have you got a frown on your face?
(No answer. A bit later:)
He: Nice day, isn't it?
She: It's gorgeous.
He: Well, I don't know if I'd say gorgeous.
(A bit later:)
He: Do you want some coffee or a sandwich from the dining car?
She: I suppose, a bit later.
He: how about that coffee then?
She: All right. Are you coming?
He: I've got to finish writing this. But if you get a coffee, I'll have a sip.
(Exit Chris. George remains, writing assiduously about Florentine art and architecture, as the curtain falls. END OF ACT I.)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Getting tired... but must go on...
The Misses Babington would probably be disappointed that the goodies are no longer served on a tower, but on individual plates. But otherwise it's quite authentick. Some expatriates embrace the culture of the new place. But others, like the Misses Babington, try to recreate their home in the new place, as if nothing on earth could possibly compare. I must admit, high tea is a great invention.
After touring the church we found our way upstairs to the frescos of Cavallini, splendid early frescoes which were chopped up, covered up, and generally ruined in the Baroque era. Now they have been made somewhat accessible, thouh you have to ring at the adjacent Benedictine monastery and go up in an elevator to see them. The sisters make many items for sale, some of which are exquisitely tacky.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Adios y arrivederci a Roma.