Essay: Venice Dear Veranico Franco This Letter

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¶ … Venice

Dear Veranico Franco

This letter is to inform you of what has become of Venice since the time of your death to the present day. In order to inform you in a sufficiently knowledgeable manner, the work of Thomas Madden entitled "Venice: A New History" will be referenced throughout the entirety of this letter. The work of Thomas Madden relates that Venice was a busy hub for business for a thousand years. The city as a commercial center was the place where modern capitalism began. Venice is described by Madden as a hotbed of action where big deals went down and people either lost or gained fortunes. Venice has become a draw for its art, which is incidentally "all that is left of its grandeur." (Madden, 2012, p.363) the customhouse is no longer open, the sound of construction is no longer ringing throughout the Arsenale, and the Rialton markets are silent and the Ducal Palace empty. Madden describes Venice as "an abandoned mansion, an exquisite corpse." (Madden, 2012, p.363) However the outward appearance of Venice remains and a great deal of the present day Venice is stated by Madden to be the result of "a flurry of artistic output during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries -- at a time when the public had already begun its slow decline." (Madden, 2012, p.364) Venice of course had its beauty prior to those centuries but its beauty was different. Madden relates that while Venice "lived in the West, its gaze was ever on the East. As a child of the Byzantine Empire, Venice naturally adopted the artistic style of its sophisticated parent." (Madden, 2012, p.364) This is demonstrated in the mosaic-covered walls of scattered churches in Ravenna that escaped the plundering of the conquerors and the zeal of iconoclasts." (Madden, 2012, p.364) the artists in the Middle Ages, did not sign their works and are still unidentified even to this day but testifying to the skills of those craftsmen are the "beauty of their creations." (Madden, 2012, p.364)

San Marcos beauty within remains and the exterior once comprised of exposed brick has taken on improvements and those occurred following 1204 when the ships full of goods taken from Constantinople sailed into Venice carrying the marbles and reliefs that were attached to San Marco's exterior in what Madden describes as a "haphazard fashion." (Madden, 2012, p.365) as well, there are 'Acre' columns, which were placed as the corner, and the bronze horses placed on the front balcony for decoration.

Venetian art is harder to find beyond San Marco however, in the church of Santa Maria Assunta, there is a mosaic of the Last Judgment from the twelfth century. However, with the advent of the Italian Renaissance the most of the mosaics and frescoes disappeared. However, San Giovanni Decollato, meaning, St. John the Baptists Beheaded in Santa Croce, a medieval parish church which is approximately one thousand years old is "covered in a traditional ships keel roof and adorned with Byzantine columns" likely remaining because it fell into disuse during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Beneath the plaster of the walls during the renovations in 1994, were found "beautiful medieval frescoes depicting St. Helena, the Annunciation, the four Evangelists, and St. Michael defeating Satan as a dragon." (Madden, 2012, p.366) it is described by Madden to presently be "a place of great reverence -- something almost extinct in the modern city." (2012, p. 366)

The fourteenth century witnessed two foreign influences in the architecture of Venice that the well-traveled merchants of Venice were influenced by including; (1) the Gothic style characterized by pointed archways; and (2) Islamic architecture such as that of Alexandria. (Madden, 2012, p.367) These two influences gave forth to the Italian Renaissance, which began in Florence during the fourteenth century and arriving in Venice from Padua. This movement was "characterized by a rebirth." (Madden, 2012, p.367) the flat styles of the medieval period were rejected, new techniques utilized, and artists signed their names to their works. The use of oil on canvas is reported by Madden to have forever changed Venice. The frescoes were replaced by huge oil on canvas paintings that were built to cover the entirety of walls. For example, in the Great Council Chamber on the Ducal Palaces' second floor there are "fourteenth century frescoes that depicted the Peace of Venice, the Fourth Crusade, and the Coronation of the Virgin" all of which had faded badly. However, large canvas creations of the same subjects were produced by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini although in a style that was updated and placed over the originals.

Venice entered a period of "marked decline after 1600." (Madden, 2012, p.401) Venice commercial shipping was still in decline during the eighteenth century although it still was robust. However, Venice "in its unique beauty, its impressive antiquity, and its flourishing culture…was no longer just a place, but a destination. It was not just a city; it had become an icon." (Madden, 2012, p.407) During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Venice became "the unusual, the interesting, and the beautiful…something new altogether -- a tourist attraction." (Madden, 2012, p.401) by 1700, the appearance of Venice became what it is in the present day. Venice is "an artificial beauty of stunning structures mirrored by water and light. The stone-paved Piazza San Marco stretched between the classical structures of the Procuratie to the Byzantine splendor of the church of San Marco to the Gothic ambience of the rich Ducal Palace." (Madden, 2012, p.402) the waterways are filled by Gondolas and barges and the "lavish palazzo echoed with laughter as masked revelers danced and feasted the nights away." (Madden, 2012, p.402)

Madden states that Venice, "from the imposing Salute to the bustling Rialto to the towering columns of the Molo…was not only a vibrant city, it was a museum" with many travelers coming to see it beauty. (Madden, 2012, p.402) European tourists flocked to Venice and primarily from England, France, and Austria. Venetian art was one of the primary attractions to the city during the seventeenth century and visitors are reported to have "poked their heads into the city's two hundred churches, marveling at the rich canvases ad sculptures. The rented rooms in the grand palazzo and gaped at the beauty of the canals reflecting the diversity of the architecture, Gothic, Palladian and baroque." (Madden, 2012, p.402)

Two festivals drew a huge swell of tourists. Those two festivals were the Carnevale and the Sensa. The Sensa is described as "the uniquely Venetian spectacle of marrying the sea, which dated back to the twelfth century and took place on Ascension Day." (Madden, 2012, p.403) This ceremony became so popular with foreign tourists that its duration and decorations were enhanced focused on attracting even more tourists. Madden states that in 1606 "a new bucintoro was put into service, festooned with images and statues of gilded sirens riding sea horses, leaping dolphins, fierce Hydras, the god Mars, and of course, a pride of lions of St. Mark." (Madden, 2012, p.403)

The Carnevale celebration took place during lent beginning on Fat Tuesday. During the fourteenth or fifteenth century, Venetians are reported to have "began wearing masks during their Carnevale revels…the mask allowed greater freedom from social conventions and responsibilities, and generally added to the merriment." (Madden, 2012, p.410) in addition, the masks enabled foreign visitors to "join in the festivities as natives." (Madden, 2012, p.410)

The Venetians designed ways that the Carnevale could be expanded in size and extended in terms of its length. This resulted in the opera coming to Venice. Madden reports that the opera served to effectively and quickly democratize the aristocratic pastime. Public opera houses started appearing in Venice in the 1630s and ticket prices were affordable to almost everyone. Venetian opera is reported to have been "larger than life."

Opera houses were spread all across Venice within a few decades following the 1630s. The first, according to Madden was the Teatro Tron located near to Rialto. The next opera house was the Teatro San Moise and the Teatro Novissimo. There were seventeen Venetian opera houses by 1700. The Carnevale seasons grew and during the mid-1600s began in early January with the "cultured elite from across Europe" rushing into Venice to hear the music and attend the lavish masked balls. (Madden, 2012, paraphrased) the French and English elite, due to the Grand Tour, knew Venice well by the mid-eighteenth century. The salons, coffeehouse and market squares of Venice like all major cities is reported to have "drew breath from Europe's burgeoning middle class…" (Madden, 2012, p.424)

When the new Municipal government approved by the French met in the Great Council Chamber on May 15, 1797, it was ordered, "every image of the winged lion of St. Mark was to be destroyed, including even those on the exterior of the Ducal Palace depicting Andrea Gritti and Doge Franceso Foscari kneeling before the lion." (Madden, 2012, p.446) the sculptures viewed there in the present day are modern reproductions of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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