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Venice Lights


Isn't Venice beautiful? ... We're bound to come upon many beautiful places. ... Or shall we just keep walking in this beautiful light outdoors? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Venice Lights

Venice Lights
  • Impressions at Many Times
  • By Richard Barnet

Venice and travel are intimate. People from
everywhere travel to and in Venice. Venetians are
often great travellersthink of Marco Polo! A
Prayer For Travellers May you always have a good
idea where you are, A means to figure out
where you are going, Strength for the journey, A
good visit, And the courage to leave when its
Our wanderings have brought us to this pretty
little backyard in Guidecca. There are many, many
gardens tucked away in Venice. But a relatively
small place such as this might have reminded our
Irish visitor of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries of how crowded with people much of
Venice was, and of how hard it could be to find
big, open spaces. He wrote The quality folk of
old Venice Are fully addicted to tennis. But
with no place to play They can only
display Their elegant rackets, to menace. Was he
mocking his new friends, or sympathizing with
them? Or perhaps both? ( Venice is less crowded
todayit has a declining population.)
San Giorgio Maggiore from the Venice
Santa Maria della Salute and Venice Basin from
San Giorgio Maggiore
San Marco and Venice Basin from San Giorgio
San Giorgio Maggiore and Venice Basin from San
Venice is a city, like all cities, of stories,
legends, and dreams. There is a story that a
wealthy visitor in the sixteenth centurythe
great age of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, in
music the Gabriellisspent three months in
Venice and enjoyed himself immensely. He swore
he would always return to Venice, as long as God
gave him breath, and perhaps even after that. He
told his friends and acquaintances that he could
hardly enumerate all that he come to love and
enjoy about Venice. He praised the people he had
met, from he most humble socially to the most
exaltedthe people of power, including those with
the power of art writers, musicians, painters,
sculptors, architects, actors.
  • He praised, the food, the drink, the grand public
    celebrations, the many beautiful and noble public
    places, the private celebrationsmasques,
    parties, dinners, orgies, gondola expeditions
    through the thousand waterways of the city at all
    hours, but especially at sunset, night, and dawn.
    Venice is, he said, a city before all others he
    knew, in which it is possible to be on the one
    hand most in company with other people, and on
    the other hand most alone. And he praised the
    womenah! The women of Venice!
  • But, he said, one thing troubled him that in all
    these joys and wondersand in some sorrows,
    toohe had never been able to be sure what and
    where was the heart of Venice. But later he did
    come to understand where is the true, and
    universal, and ageless heart of Venice, as my
    pictures will show. And as you, too, will come to

But first, lets look at some places that our
visitor to Venice in the sixteenth century
considered might just be the true, the real heart
of Venice. Venice, city of art, history, and
magic has changed so little in the four centuries
since then, that many places appear today almost
exactly as they did four or five hundred years
ago. The paintings and drawings of many Venetian
masters, including Canaletto, Guardi, and
Canelloni attest to that. So marvellously, as we
look at Venice right now, we see it very much as
our visitor didnot so long after the Americas
were discovered by Westerners! The first
place we will look at is Piazza San Marco. The
West front of the cathedral Is where now
everybody poses for photos. Standing there, you
are in the PiazzaNapoleon Bonaparte called it
the finest drawing room in Europe. If you go
into the Cathedrale, and look down and around,
you will see in front of you the Piazza. Its big,
  • T

  • If you look hard left, you will see on a balcony
    on the front of the Cathedrale the bronze horses
    of St. Mark (San Marco), the patron saint of
    Venice. Past the horses, you see Little Piazza
    San Marco, then the Venice Basin, and San Giorgio
    Maggiore in the distance. Everywhere are famous
    and grand viewsbut do you think Piazza San Marco
    is the heart of Venice? Perhaps its a little too
    big and public?
  • Then maybe we should consider Rialto Bridge?
    After all, it connects the two most important
    land masses of Venice. Or hows about the
    interior of San Michele, the cemetery island
    (cimetario on the vaporetti boatsafter all so
    many famous people are buried here, including the
    great composer Stravinsky and his wifebut ,
    thats a bit grim! Or how about Lidothe
    beachthat could fun! Ah well, I guess none of
    those will quite do, anymore they did for our
    sixteenth century friend! So, lets keep
    looking, my friends.

Piazza San Marco, in front of the Cathedrale,
Todd and me, July, 2000. Were brothers. Were
also friends.
Piazzetta San Marco, looking from Cathedrale
balcony towards Grand Canal (piazzetta means
little placeso this Little San Marcobut its
pretty bigright? Indeed, it is one of the great
places of the world!)
The Horses of San Marco
Piazza San Marco, seen from the Cathedrale
balcony. Napoleon called this wonderful place
the finest drawing room in Europeand he knew
most of them well, having seized them at the cost
of about three million soldiers killed, and who
knows how many more millions of civilians?
San Michelecimiterio. a beautiful, quiet
place. This is one of the old parts. Some parts
of San Michele are rather crowded. And Ive
heard it isnt so easy to get buried there at
all! The composer Igor Stravinsky and his wife
are buried side-by-side in this garden. People
place stones (a mark of respect) and flowers on
their graves. Stravinskys music is always fresh!
Rialto Bridge (over the Grand Canal). We only
see half of the central and oldest bridge in
Venice here. We see plenty of the old, leaning
prison, at the edge of the canal. Legend tells
us that it leans because the prisoners always
crowded trowards the windows on the water. This
was to get cooler air, and especially to view the
passing boats and peoplealways a favorite
Venetian pastime. Another legend tells that
prisoners went to that side to see the
prostitutes on the quay, and maybe carry on with
them a bit, even through the bars. But this is a
false legendbecause so many of the ladies of
that persuasion were in prison with the mennot
to mention the hookers who were at least
nominally maleor transsexual. Interesting
placeold Venice! One Venetian cleric, hearing
that the Archbishop of Canterbury had referred
to Venice as a modern Sodom and Gomorrah, a
cesspool of every sexual vice and license,
replied It is not Sodom and Gomorrah. Compared
to our beloved Venice, those were boring. But Im
sure the honored Archbishop of Canturbury knows
very well about sexual cesspools.
Lets not get totally carried away with this
quest to find some place that feel to us
unequivocally like the best choice for the heart
of Venicewhatever that may mean! Lets instead
look around Venice via photo slides
(transparencies) Ive taken there during many
visits over a period of twenty years!--although I
took most of them during the summers of 2000,
2001 and 2002. In them youll see once or twice
my friends Laura Redmond and Todd Barnet (my
brother). I was with them in Venice in 2000. The
real subject of these slides is the beautiful
lights of Venice in many different places in the
city at may different times. Well often see
light reflected off water, for example sky,
clouds, buildings and boats reflected in the
canals and other waterways. The great (and
lesser) painters of Venice for many centuries
often depicted these reflection scenes, as have
other painters from all around the world. Often
we can compare scenes today in Venice, and find
them uncannily like centuries-old paintings.
But there are many other views Ill show you,
including ones of some of the open public places,
which are usually calledcampi (singular
campo), which translates literally as fields.

Doorway into courtyard near Giardini (the
Gardens)medieval Venice
Campo Santa Margherita (or maybe Campo Santa
Maria Formosa)
Visitors to Venicelike travellers and tourists
everywheremay see much of physical Venice, but
not learn about the citys wonderfully rich
history, customs, and culture. Of course Venice
is an Italian city, but like so many other places
in Italy it has its own unique ways, too. There
is still a unique Venetian dialect and accent,
within the Italian language. Venetian is the
language of command on Italian naval vessels.
Throughout much of its history, Venice was a
great naval power, sending its commercial and
military ships over much of the world. It was
the capital of the Republic of Venicereally, it
was a Mediterranean empire with many outposts
Santi Giovani and Paolo, with statue of
Colleoni by Verrochio
In this church, as in many churches throughout
Italy, there is an amazing wealth of great art.
In many places throughout the world, art lovers
go to museums to see the art. In Italy, they are
at least as likely to see it where it was
originally installed, in a church. The Italian
cities that are probably richest of all in visual
art, and therefore in art inside churches, are
Florence, Venice, and Rome.
This is an oceanic research vessel at the marina
at San Giorgio Maggiore. It is connected with
the Univesity of Venice. Exploration has always
been part of the Venetian spirit. Right now, we
are explorers of Venice, like the couple stroling.
My friend Laura at the lighthouse, at San Giorgio
Boats at marina at lighthouse at San Giorgio
To visitors today, Venice often seems calm, even
strangely quiet for a modern cityunless of
course, one is caught up in the bustle of the
tourist crowds around San Marco! In past times,
however, and even today at gathering places for
native and adopted Venetians, there is a
typically Italianand specifically Venetianlove
of conversation and music. Also, there is a
great Venetian tradition of satire, including
through composing versepoetry. Thus, aspects of
the very institutions that Venetians love and
depend onincluding family, neighborhood, city,
and even Church, may be teased and satirized.
This is all seen so well in that great Venetian
and Italian gift to the theatre of improvisation,
the Comedia del Arte. Our somewhat Irish visitor
to Venice, noted earlier, paid tribute to this
Venetian tradition of creating loving satire by
doing something that came rather natually to him
as an Irishmanwriting limericks! Himself a
Catholic, in some of his limericks he pokes fun
at the sometimes foibles and excesses of persons
in and around the Church. It is an Irishmans
way of being Venetian!
La Dogana di marethat means the
customsdutycollection place for all goods
arriving in Venice by sea. It is at the end of
the sestiere of Dorsoduro, that is, jutting out
into the Venice Basin almost between San Marco
and San Giorgio Maggiore. It is no longer used
as a customs house. But when you go there, the
experience is that you are between sea and sky.
Smell the sea, feel the eternal wind, rejoice in
the views of Venice and water all around you,
love the changing hours of the day and night. Go
in different seasons.
Isn't Venice beautiful?!!!
Lets continue rambling around Venice, sometimes
by foot and sometimes by boat. Well ride the
vaporetti-the water busesjust like the
Venetians. Of course well get lost at
timesthats part of the fun! Well
navigatebring a map and a compass.

Rio San Barnaba. The great American painter John
Singer Sargeant worked here. He painted the
church of San Barnabayou see it peeking out like
a Greek temple. He loved to paint the
reflections in the water, in Venice .The scene
probably looks as it did in Sargeants time
about a hundred years ago. I took this slide
from the Ponte dei Pugnithe bridge of fists.
It was so nicknamed for the fistfights that took
place here, between rival factions of men. The
fighters were tough men, and they would knock
each other right into the water. That created
problems for men who were unconscious, and/or
couldnt swim! There was so much loss of life and
limb, that the authorities banned these fights in
Morning on the Grand Canalwhere shall we go
its nice to stroll right over to the Guidecca
Canal. Maybe the church called Gesuatiafter the
Jesuit orderon the right will be open. It has
wonderful paintingslike most of the churches in
Venice! Some of its paintings are about the
travels and works of the Jesuits all around the
Or perhaps we should just keep walking around the
streets. Were bound to come upon many
beautiful places. Some of them will be very
quiet, because far fewer people live in Venice
now than did in earlier centuries. Perhaps thats
part of what makes it so hard now to feel that we
have contacted the heart of Venicethat so much
of its bustle for the many centuries of its glory
is gone! Some people deride it as a museum
city! Does it really have a heart now that it is
no longer the center of an empireno longer the
center of empires political, and intellectual,
and artistic? Did many families once live in
this very quiet street in sestiere San Marco?
Back on the Grand Canal we see such a common
sight tourists taking a rather expensive gondola
ride on the Grand Canal. Is Venice then only a
gigantic museum, indoors and out? Everywhere? A
ghostperhaps a sad ghostof its former self? Can
a ghost even have a heart? But isnt sort of a
Venetian undertaking to wander and think? To
muse, to reflect on what we see even as the water
of the canal or lagoon reflects the boats and
buildings, the people and the sky? Are we then
becoming a bit Venetians ourselves? A bit perhaps
as did that visitor in the seventeenth centuryor
was it in the sixteenth century? I believe he was
Irish, at least in part. Did the Moorish-style
building on the right inspire him to write this
limerick? An Imam decidedly urban Fell under
the spell of good bourbon. Though forbidden the
thrill, He sucked up his swill, Until he had
drowned in his turban.
Thats the back of my friend Heather, walking
in sestiere Canareggio. This part of Venice
actually has lots of people living in it. You can
see that some have hung their washing out to dry!
So take comfort, and stop feeling so lonely and
forlorn in old Venice!
Heres a Baroque church with a wonderful façade!
Look at the play of sunlight and shadow on the
façade! Shouldnt we stop and look inside? Or
shall we just keep walking in this beautiful
light outdoors?
Here is almost a crowd of strollers and shoppers
in Campo Santi Apostoli. In earlier times in
Venice, as in much of Italy, so many places were
named after Christian saints, and there were so
many clergy about, that many people engaged in a
generally good-natured ribbing of members of
the clergy. In that spirit of wholesome fun, our
somewhat Irish visitor wrote the following
limericks The Episcopal Bishop of Lister Is
really a rare human twister. He seems so
upright, And even uptight, Til you see him
in bed with his sister. and A clergy name of
OHammel Is deeply involved with a camel. He
pursues this romance From Egypt to France,
And vows he will marry his mammal.
Do you like these limericks? So what? Heres
another one Some boys were skate-boarding in
Venice And quite unaware of the menace, Of
lewd-minded priests, Who look at them as feasts,
And are wicked as Dennis the Menace.
Thats Rialto Bridge seen through a crowded
section of the Grand Canal. Notice the play of
light reflected back from the Canal on the boat
nearest to us. Is it like the play of our
thoughts as we wander, and look, in this
beautifuland confusingcity? Is perhaps the
experience of all really good thought also the
experience of some degree of confusion? Yes, but
only for the brave. Small minds know certainty,
better minds know options and doubt. If Rialto
Bridge is the heart of Venice, does that mean
the heart of Venice is a crowded shopping strip?
Back by the church of the Gesuati, at sundown,
after a day of wandering, and exploring, and
thinking, perhaps we can relax from our
questions, and enjoy the peace of the evening.
Enjoy the broad, peaceful sidewalk of the
Zattere, and a good cappucino or two at my
favorite café that you see by the steps in the
distance, and even the hope that the good people
you see here are not vexed by questions that have
no answers, or sorrows that have no solace, or
nightmares beyond the reach of comfort, even if
they are not on skateboards.
Yesbut to have a story we need our
refectionswhether they are on water or on our
The church of San Zeccaria in sestiere San Marco,
with its wonderful paintings inside, including
one of Bellinis greatest. Is it the heart of old
A canal near the church of San Zeccaria, with a
leaning church tower. Why isnt it famous as the
Leaning Tower of Pisa? Why? If you ask a Venetian
that, the most polite answer youre like to get
might be something like Who washes your
underwear? Could this very spot be the true
heart of Venice???
So, well continue wandering around Venice
through these picturesjust about as if we were
really there. Where shall we look next? How
about THE VENICE BIENNALE? YES! Its the famous
international art show thats held every year.
Some of it is intenational pavllions in and
around Giardini (the Gardens). The part that
Im going to show you is mainly from Arsenale,
which is the now unused shipyards where the
Republic of Venice built her warships until
Venice was conquered by Napoleon. What great
spaces are there for showing art! But how quiet
and desertedeven desolatewere some of them when
I was there in 2001.
But first, heres an installation in a pavillion
at Giardidni
And heres another installation at Giardini. Its
an image from the Russian pavillion. I believe
it refers to Russian monks, perhaps sleeping.
Heres the poetry bicycle from an outdoors
pathway at Arsenale
Steel sculptures by Richard Serra at Arsenale
Stone sculpturesand shadows cast by the
windowsat Arsenale
More stone sculptures at Arsenale
Heres a big hanging sculpture, in the biennale,
at Arsenale
…also at the biennale…
Abortion Boat at the 3001 Venice Biennale Maybe
this strikes you as odd, but here it is a
tribute to a woman doctor who organized a ship
that goes to the coasts of countries where
abortions are illegal and/or unavailable. The
ship stays offshore (I guess beyond the 3-mile
limit), and then women who want an abortion
somehow get out to this ship, and get a safe
abortion. I believe the doctor is Dutch, and is
known as a person of great energy, principles,
and couragealthough, obviously, many people
disagree with both her convictions and her
actions. By the way, isnt this a wonderful
industrial settingthe old boatslip?
Heres a last slide of the Venice Biennale It
doesnt show any art thats been placed at the
show, but just a corridor. Thats why Im
showing it to youto show you how dramatic
Arsenale itself isthat this show is not only the
works of art on exhibit, but this haunting place
Now that weve seen something of the Venice
Biennale, we are more than just tourists who make
a visit of a day of two to Venice. Lets now take
what we may call a gondola ride of the mind, and
see if we can find the real heart of Veniceor
at least get closer to it! By the way, this canal
is one of the oldest parts of old Venice either
sestiere San Marco, or Castello
Lets start a that place which many persons
assume to be the heart of Venice, anyhowPiazza
San Marco. Lets start with some people,
including some very serious children, feeding the
Heres another slide of the kids feeding the
pigeons, at Piazza San Marco.
And heres still another slide of kids feeding
pigeons at San Marcothe Piazza.
Again, kids feeding pigeons at Piazza San
Marco. And may this slide of these serious
children, children serious yet at play, help us
to understand in our own time what our somewhat
Irish visitor to Venice finally came to
understand in his time. He came to understand a
truth about the heart of Venice, and thus by
extension of our understanding, a truth about he
human heartour heartitself. He came to
understand that once you fall in love with
someplace, or something, or someone, you carry it
or them with you. And if it, or they, return your
love, then your hearts are always in the same
spiritual place, wherever you go.
He came to understand that you may find the heart
of Venice in so many places, even in these empty
chairs at a café in Piazzetta San Marco (do
ghosts of old Veniceor of touristssometimes
linger at them?). By the way, thats a bit of
Sansovinos famous Library in the background.
Or, you may dream the heart of Venice while
loafing with your friends by the Grand Canal, or
sleeping there because you are all to broke to
afford a rented room to sleep in, and still get
something to eat!
Or, you may fine the heart of Venice in the
Ghetto Nuovo, while contemplating the memorial to
the Jew of Venice who were murdered in
deportation by the Nazis, in World War II
You may find the heart of Venice to be Campo
Santa Margherita, or these children in it! By the
way, in 2002 a group of us stayed for 9 days at
the Hotel Antico Capon, there. We were there on
a course/trip offerred by the College of Mount
Saint Vincent, and taught by my friend Fr. John
Vigilanti, and by myself.
Or maybe for you, the heart of Venice is to be
back with your family at Piazza San Marco,
feeding the pigeons. Remember the secret once
you love Venice, the heart of Venice is where you
are. It is wherever you are. Where you are is
Venice, and Venice is where you are. Wherever you
go, you take Venice with you. You dont have to
tryit just happens. That is what love is.
Venice is where you are, and where you are is
Venice. ( Those are two different
things,,although they are connected.)
Here are Todd and Laura in Piazza San Marco, in
front of the Cathedrale. But by as much as they
love Veniceand by no morethey are in Venice
right at this moment now, and wherever they are
is Venice.
I guess for me, often I feel the heart of
Venicemy heartwhen I am thrilled by light. And
often for me, that happens when I see beautiful
light reflections (are they ever anything but
beautiful?) on water. Do you wonder why,like that
man of the seventeenth century I keep
mentioning, I love Venice?!
Heres a summer storm over San Michelethe Isle
of the Dead.
Heres very delicate, silver light on the Grand
Canal. Thats the great church of Santa Maria
della Salute across the way, with its magnificent
treasures of paintings by Tintoretto, and so many
other artistsand its amazing inlaid stone floor.
Heres my friend Laura at Santa Maria della Salute
Heres that storm over the Isle of the Dead, seen
through boats and a pier.
The clear daylight of Venice allows us to see
well these reliefs of Nazi cruelty, at the Ghetto
The beautiful light inside Cathedrale San Marco
Again, the light inside Cathedrale San Marco
And heres looking down the Grand Canal, from
Academia Bridge, towards Santa Maria della
Salute, at night.
The lightand shadowplay on this little bridge
over a canal
These Venetians know their sunlight well
Venetians and NYU art students in the shadowsbut
seeing the lightat Punta della Dogana
Venice is a universal city it is known all
around the world, and visited by people from
everywhere. Like other universal citiesNew
York, Paris, Paris, Berlin, London, Beijing,
Kyoto, Moscowit is, finally, incomparable. For
example, one might call Bruges, in Belgium, with
its canals, the Venice of the north, but one
would never refer to Venice as the Bruges of the
south! Venice travels well! For those who love
VeniceQueen of the Seaare often there in their
thoughts, though elsewhere in body. Or they are
thus in multiple places, in spirit, at the same
time! Perplexing? Amusing?
Two gondolas in the morning light on the Grand
Laura pets a cat near Ghetto Nuovo
Laura, woman of Venice. Cat of Venice.
Love in a Venetian Apse
  • Our Wonderful, possible imaginary Irish visitor
    to Venice so many yearscenturiesago, penned
    this (an apse, incidentally, is an architectural
    part of a church). It reflectsas does water the
    sunlighthis enduring fascination with the
    Venetian love for composing light, satirical
  • The holiest of acolytes may lapse
  • When tweaked in the right, wrong synapse.
  • And though it sounds rotten,
  • They so often have gotten
  • In trouble, right here in the sunniest apse.

Venice, love it and leave and it, you cant. You
are it! May you find your own Venice, if you
havent already, even if you never set foot-- or
boat-- in mine!
Venice Lights
  • Venice is where you are, and where you are is

Dedicated to Nell Maslin