Venice: Frari, Rocco, Guggenheim, Correr, Salute, Accademia

Today in Venice I mostly looked at art and visited two a museum and two churches. The art venues were Scuola San Rocco, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia. The museum was the Correr Museum. The churches were the Basilica di Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari and Santa Maria della Salute.

Basilica di Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari
Basilica di Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari

My day also included considerable wandering. The wandering was a mix of walking toward specific destinations (so, not exactly “wandering”) and true wandering. The true wandering was primarily unintentional. I frequently got lost and occasionally ran into dead ends despite believing I scrupulously followed a GPS-based map.

It should be apparent by now that I am wonderfully hopeless at navigating Venice even with electronic aids. I say “wonderfully hopeless” because Venice is probably one of the most enjoyable places in the world to get lost in.

Basilica di Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari

Claudio Monteverdi's final resting place
Claudio Monteverdi’s final resting place

To be honest, to my mind, the Basilica de Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari is a so-so church as old European churches go. But it contains many works by old-world art stars. This includes paintings by Donatello, Titian and Bellini.

The church also holds the burial place of the composer Claudio Monteverdi. He apparently still has at least one devoted fan. When I was there, fresh white and red roses sat on top of his in-floor tombstone.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Ceiling by Tintoretto
Ceiling by Tintoretto

Because we’re still in the middle of the COVID pandemic, I had to go to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. In English, San Rocco is Saint Roch. San Rocco is the patron saint of, among other things, plague victims. I hoped that if I visited and invoked him, that would rid us of our current plague.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is lousy with Tintoretto works. They are plentiful on the walls of two decent-sized rooms, one above the other. The upper room also has a splendid Tintoretto-painted ceiling.

A Tintoretto painting
A Tintoretto painting

A nondescript, unpromising, unmarked staircase from the upper of the two floors leads to La Tresor. It’s a small room with tchotchkes and reliquaries. One of the reliquaries contains the finger of San Rocco. I prayed to the finger to end our current plague, COVID.

I don’t think it’s worked so far. Then again, San Rocco is probably busy because, according to Wikipedia, he’s also the patron saint of diseased cattle, dogs, falsely accused people, invalids, Istanbul, surgeons, tile-makers, grave-diggers, second-hand dealers, pilgrims, apothecaries, and bachelors. Maybe he’ll get to it later.

Reliquary containing one of Saint Roch's fingers
Reliquary containing one of Saint Roch’s fingers

Wait. The patron saint of bachelors? I made the right choice in coming to Scuola Grande de San Rocco.

But enough about me.

In La Tressor, the only guard wore a mask well below his nose. He sat on a chair and was focused on his phone. I think he should pay more attention to the room. What if someone stole the finger? The consequences for plague victims are unimaginable.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Surrealism at the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery
Surrealism at the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery

When I was there, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection had a temporary surrealism exhibition on. It started today. The exhibit leaned heavily on the works of Max Ernst and Kurt Seligmann. But it included pieces from some other surrealistic artists as well.

Many of the paintings spoke to me. What they said was generally along the lines of, “You don’t recognize, let alone understand, even one one-millionth of the deeper hidden human and cosmic significance intricately woven into this piece, do you? You truly are the most philistine of simps.” Art galleries don’t exactly build my self-esteem.

I would have thought that one or more of the Guggenheim staff would ask the paintings to show a little more respect, or at least keep their voices down. But, no.

A view from the Terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
A view from the Terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Yes, I know. I should probably seek professional help concerning paintings speaking to me. I don’t so much need treatment as assistance with formulating clever ripostes to the paintings’ snide remarks.

But, again, enough about me. Back to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The permanent collection, including a small sculpture garden, offers modern art. At least, art historians who consider anything less than 500 years old to be modern, would certainly classify them as modern.

The view looking in the opposite direction on the Peggy Guggenheim Terrace
The view looking in the opposite direction on the Peggy Guggenheim Terrace

The artworks are mostly from the mid-twentieth century. You decide if you think that’s modern.

There are also a few surrealist paintings in the permanent collection.

The art is swell and all. But, to be honest, for me, the very best part of the museum is its terrace. It provides spectacular views of the Grand Canal and the bustling boat traffic on it.

Correr Museum

One of the pieces in the Correr Museum
One of the pieces in the Correr Museum

The Correr Museum is three, three, three museums in one. All for one price. In addition to the Correr Museum itself, the same building contains the Biblioteca Marciana and the Archaeological Museum. They flow into each other and I had trouble telling where one ended and another began.

The building also contains some furnished and decorated rooms of the royal palace. I don’t know which of the three museums they are considered to be in. Then again, maybe it’s considered to be a separate space. I don’t know.

The Correr Museum has typical museum stuff, such as paintings, statues, coins, documents, and other museum-type stuff.

One of the Royal Palace rooms
One of the Royal Palace rooms

The Biblioteca Marciana used to be the Library of St. Mark. Well, that is to say, it wasn’t actually his library, but rather one built in his name. Today, in addition to a bunch of old manuscripts, the Biblioteca proudly displays an old map that doesn’t much resemble what Europe looks like. Something that I thought was the Mediterranean Sea might also have been Lake Geneva.

Text accompanying the map said the reason it was so different from previous maps was the additional knowledge gained by the time it was drawn. Wait. What? Are they sure the previous cartography wasn’t provided by aliens and mapped other planets?

Some books, probably in the Biblioteca Marciana
Some books, probably in the Biblioteca Marciana

Now that I think about it, maybe the map wasn’t in the Biblioteca. Like I said, I had trouble discerning when I left one museum and entered another. Whatever.

For some reason, I didn’t take a picture of the map. Sorry about that.

The Archaeological Museum displayed—wait for it—archaeological artifacts.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute
The Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute” translates to Saint Mary of Health. It is a church built by grateful survivors of the 1630 plague. They dedicated it to the Virgin Mary to thank her for saving them from the plague. The people who died from the plague were likely less thankful.

Damn! Another plague reference. I hadn’t intended to adopt a theme today. Darned COVID!

To my mind, the defining features of the Salute are its large dome and an impressive thingy that’s probably a lantern of some sort hanging from the centre of the dome. “An impressive thingy that’s probably a lantern of some sort hanging from the centre of the dome” is the best I can do for a description of it. There’s a picture of it in this section. Look at it if you’re interested. If you’re not interested, look away. (You might have to zoom in on the picture to see the thingy. It kind of blends into the surroundings. If you chose the “look away” option, please ignore this parenthetical comment.)

Apart from that, it’s a church with an altar and some art. And it provides shelter from the rain. (See below.)

Gallerie dell’Accademia

A painting at Gallerie dell'Accademia
A painting at Gallerie dell’Accademia

I think the Gallerie dell’Accademia is the largest art gallery in Venice. Don’t confuse it with Florence’s Gallerie dell’Accademia. I’ve been to both, so I can provide some helpful hints to distinguish between the two if you’re confused.

Inside the gallery, if a much larger-than-life marble statue of an impossibly fit naked young man dominates a room, you’re in Florence. From the outside, if you are so focused on your map while you hunt for the gallery that you accidentally fall into a canal, you’re in Venice.

If you intentionally fall into a canal in Venice you should probably seek professional help. Maybe we can get a group discount when I find someone to help me deal with paintings that speak to me.

I’ve never fallen into a canal accidentally (or intentionally for that matter), but I add that possibility to my repertoire of neuroses when I’m in Venice or Amsterdam.

But enough about me and you. This section is about Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia. Despite the differences in location and the specific works they display, the Venice and Florence Accademias are similar in that they house works of art—paintings and sculptures. Then again, that’s generally what art galleries do, so you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

I might have missed some pieces, but I think the Venice Accademia contains only works by Italian artists. It has a heavy, but not exclusive focus on Venetian artists. There is a wide collection of Venetian Renaissance art. But the works also span up to at least the nineteenth century.

Aside: A Meal and Meteorology After Guggenheim

I checked the weather before heading out for the day. Despite being superbly sunny in the morning, the forecast called for rain starting around noon. I wore a light rain jacket in case the forecast turned out to be right. I didn’t bother taking my umbrella because such a perfect sky couldn’t possibly deliver much rain, could it?

As it turned out, the forecast was indeed wrong. When I left the Peggy Guggenheim Collection a little before one p.m. the sun still shone brightly. There were very few clouds in the sky and certainly no threatening ones. There were no threatening clouds anywhere else either, but the sky is their normal abode, so that’s less surprising.

I found a nice restaurant with outdoor tables beside a small canal and sat down for a pleasant lunch.

I had a glass of wine and a tasty pasta with shrimp. As it turns out, the forecast was wrong only in the timing of the turning of the weather, not the actual turning.

Just as I finished the espresso that capped my lunch, the sky almost instantly filled with ominously dark clouds. As I attempted to get il conto (the bill), a cold wind suddenly gusted. The temperature plummeted.

I was convinced that either a downpour was imminent or an Apocalypse was imminent. I would have bet on either.

No longer satisfied to wait patiently outside for the check I asked for, I rushed inside to expedite the process.

I wasn’t alone. The other outdoor patrons stampeded inside to finish their meals in comfort. The possibility that it would be their last meal if I was right about the Apocalypse likely weighed heavily on their minds. On the other hand, maybe they don’t think like I do.

The rain held off almost until I got to Santa Maria della Salute. Only a few drops found me before I headed inside. Because of the rain, I spent more time in that small church than I might otherwise do.

While inside, I heard booming thunder. True, I’ve never heard whispering thunder. But this thunder particularly boomed.

When I left, water covered the sidewalks. The rain, however, tapered off to what varied between a light drizzle and a heavy drizzle for the rest of the afternoon, never returning to full-on rain. The lower temperatures and occasional wind gusts persisted. I appreciated the wind because it made me feel less stupid about intentionally leaving my umbrella in my hotel. The umbrella would have been useless with the wind.


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