VENETIA 1600. Births & rebirths
I have been wanting to write about this incredibile new exhibition in Venice for months. Precisely since I was so lucky to preview it practically on my own (apart from a friend and a handful of people) last September, the day before the official opening date!
It was a such an emotional and unique experience: to stand in front of so much art and beauty and not having to share it with anyone, most of times totally alone in a room with the most amazing works of art! Something I will treasure for life!
But what is all the fuss about, you might ask!
Well, here we go, let me tell you all about VENETIA 1600. Births & rebirths at Doge’s Palace in Venice. Enjoy the photos too!
The Myth of Venice
«L’anno sopradetto 421 il giorno 25 del mese di Marzo nel mezzo giorno del Lunedì Santo, a questa Illustrissima et Eccelsa Città Christiana, e maravigliosa fù dato principio ritrovandosi all’hora il Cielo in singolare dispositione…».
Chronicon Altinate, 11th-12th century AD: In the aforementioned year 421, on the 25th of March in the middle of Holy Monday, this most illustrious and exalted Christian and marvellous city was given its beginning, once again Heaven found itself in a singular disposition.
The myth of Venice lies, to begin with, in the legend of its foundation, coinciding with the laying of the first stone of the Church of San Giacometo in Rivoalto on the day of the Annunciation to the Madonna. A legend that, handed down by Venetian chroniclers and historians, put together tales that had intertwined over the centuries in support of the extraordinary nature and value of Venice: a city chosen by God.
March 421 – March 2021.
Venice celebrates its 1600 years of life and it does so with a monumental exhibition staged in the place that symbolizes the power and glory of the Serenissima: the Doges’ Palace in Saint Mark’s Square.
On September 4th 2021, as part of the events that this year saw the important Adriatic city celebrate the anniversary of its foundation #Venezia1600, a great and beautiful exhibition dedicated to Venice and its history has opened: “VENETIA 1600. Births and rebirths”.
This is the title of the event promoted by the Civic Museums Foundation, a sort of large and surprising story illustrated through the centuries narrating – through over 250 works of art, ancient artefacts and rare documents – the moments, the places, the monuments and the characters that have marked the history of Venice, choosing an unprecedented point of view, namely that of the countless moments of crisis and ruptures and the many regenerations and renovations that have marked its existence.
Births and rebirths: salient stages in the history and identity of Venice, over and over again called to redesign its future and rethink its destiny, testified by the works and documents of the greatest artists who have worked in the lagoon over almost a millennium – Carpaccio, Bellini, Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, Rosalba Carriera, Guardi and Canaletto, up to Canova, Hayez, Appiani; and then Pollock, Vedova, Parmeggiani, Santomaso – but also of many architects, talented men of art, writers and musicians who accompanied its development.
A precious opportunity to admire, gathered in a compelling narrative, an important part of the immense heritage preserved in the city and in particular in the collections of the Civic Museums, with many and significant restorations supported for the event, in particular, by Save Venice Inc., such as the grandiose canvas with the Lion of San Marco by Vittore Carpaccio (a work of over 3 meters in length), the family portrait of Cesare Vecellio and the monumental altarpiece by Jacopo Palma the Younger with the Madonna and Child in glory, but also a refined sixteenth-century mosaic, rare illuminated manuscripts, precious drawings, an important Chinese vase of the Yuan dynasty of the fourteenth century and much more.
With the scenographic staging entrusted to the director Pier Luigi Pizzi and the careful scientific direction of Gabriella Belli, curated by Robert Echols, Frederick Ilchman, Gebirele Matino and Andrea Bellieni, the narrative path, also illustrated in the in-depth catalogue published by Museum, was conceived in 12 crucial moments in Venetian history.
Venetia 1600 – the Exhibition
Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last. The acts of a nation may be triumphant by its good fortune; and its words mighty by the genius of a few of its children: but its art, only by the general gifts and common sympathies of the race.
After an introduction entrusted to some of the most well-known symbolic images of the city, the exhibition, set up in the rooms of the Doge’s Apartment, starts with a chapter dedicated to the myth of Venice and the iconography that accompanied and consolidated its affirmation as the city of the Virgin, the city of San Marco and the city of Justice.
It starts with the triptych by Lazzaro Bastiani “Annunciation and the Madonna with Child” approximately 1490; and the important painting by Jacopo Palma the Younger “Virgin of the Assumption attending the Coronation of Venice by Bishop San Magno” 1627; culminating with the moment in which history and myth were indissolubly intertwined, when the Republic elected, as patron saint of the city, the Evangelist Mark.
After stealing his remains from Alexandria in Egypt in 828 the city tied itself to the spread of the legend of the “Apparitio”, that is the apparition of an angel who would announce to San Marco, shipwrecked in the marshes around the island of Rivoalto, the return of his body to the lagoon (“Pax Tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum”).
The other sections of the exhibition are entitled “The Chosen City”, “Queen of the Sea”, “The City of Merchants”, “Renovatio Urbis: Andrea Gritti and the Architects”, “The Fire of Palazzo Ducale, 1577”, “The plague, 1576 and 1631”, arriving to the “Eighteenth century: glory and fall of the Serenissima”, “Nineteenth century, revolution and unification” and finally to “The capital of contemporary art”, the most dramatic moments that have touched the city: “Acqua Granda, 1966, 2019” and lastly “Venice and the future”.
Many moments in Venetian history where every sector of its administrative and social structure is touched. From justice to laws, from navigation to commerce to business, from the “Renovatio Urbis” to the redesign of the city spaces according to the political and identity demands of the Venetian elite.
And again the accidents along the way, such as the fire that broke out on 20th December 1577 in the western wing of Palazzo Ducale, overlooking the square and the Marciana Library (testified by a contemporary painting by Ludovico Pozzoserrato with the crowd watching helpless from a distance while the arsenalotti provide first aid with the help of stairs).
And then the plague that the city had to face twice (1576 and 1631) where the figure of the Plague doctor rises, intent on finding remedies (volumes, prints, etchings are on display), while the votive temples of the Redeemer and of Santa Maria della Salute are built.
We then get to the beginning of the eighteenth century – the century of the Enlightenment and the glories of the Serenissima, with its nobility and its glory as the Dominant of the seas, well represented by the famous great oil by Giambattista Tiepolo “Nettuno offers Venice the gifts of the sea “(1756-1758). Venice is a flourishing of festivals and arts. These are the years of Rosalba Carriera, Alessandro Longhi, Canaletto and Guardi; Venice is more beautiful than ever.
With the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte, everything changes: the Serenissima breathes its last breath, even its architecture, which will become neoclassical with the works of the sculptor Antonio Canova, who will also do his utmost to bring back the horses stolen by Napoleon from the Basilica of San Marco.
1797 will be the fateful year of the Treaty of Campoformio and the end of the Serenissima.
From the French Empire to the Hapsburg Empire. For Venice there will be further urban changes, new infrastructures, such as the new railway network (we are in the mid-nineteenth century). However, the ardor for republican aspirations (Daniele Manin proclaiming “The Republic of San Marco”) and the hatred against the new Austrian occupiers will never be extinguished. So, the exhibition recounts the fire of the La Fenice Theatre on the morning of 13 December 1836 (the second will take place in 1996).
We arrive at the beginning of the twentieth century, the trauma of the collapse of the bell tower of San Marco in 1902 called “el Paron de casa” and its reconstruction “as it was and where it was” in 1912.
With the twentieth century Venice will face new challenges. After the Second World War on 6th June 1948 the artists will return to the 24th Biennale. Patrons like Peggy Guggenheim will arrive, who will discover new talents, such as the American Jackson Pollock.
New Italian artists will rise to fame such as Giuseppe Santomaso, Emilio Vedova, Tancredi Parmeggiani. In the second half of the twentieth century Venice will also become the theatre and engine of international confrontation in the architectural field: from Carlo Scarpa to Le Corbusier, up to Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is photography, after painting, which documents at the end of our last century the most critical moments in which the city has suffered the most, symbolically reinterpreted also in the artist’s 2020 sound video installation “The Raft”. Multimedia by Bill Viola. Moments such as the high water of November 6, 1966, the industrial crisis of Porto Marghera in the seventies, the fire of the Phoenix in 1966 and the other disastrous high tide of 2019 are represented by images of strong impact.
The last room is instead an invitation to reflect on the future, on safeguarding the heritage of this city and on the search for sustainability thanks to an installation born from the collaboration between Gabriella Belli and Studio Azzurro. Against a liquid background that envelops Venice in every phase of its life, the many voices of people emerge – intellectuals, technicians and students – who question themselves about the future of the city: a counterpoint of reflections, stimuli and ideas, to look “Beyond”.
Doge’s Palace, Venice
Exhibition hours from 04/09/2021 to 25/03/2022
10.00 – 18.00 (last admission at 17.00)
What do you think?