Archive for April, 2014

Sublime Pearl of the Adriatic

April 27, 2014
 Hail to the Ducal Palace by the 'vedutista', symbol of Venice, Antonio Canaletto 1697-1768,


Hail to the Ducal Palace by the ‘vedutista’, symbol of Venice, Antonio Canaletto 1697-1768,

 

Before visiting the Republic of Venice, I took from memory that the Genoves Christopher Columbus had baptized my country as Little Venice. While Venice was built on a delta in the lagoon of Veneta at the edge of the Adriatic Sea, Venezuela was a parallel universe, on Lake Maracaibo at the edge of the Caribbean Sea, where native huts rested precariously on piles driven in the mud of deep waters.

Unlike Christopher Columbus’ surprise and associations between Venice and Venezuela, to my mind Venice had already been extremely romanticized and idealized before I actually saw her. I knew her through pictorial illustrations, unique paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canaletto and Francesco Guardi, through the majestic engravings of Antiquity by Giovanni Piranesi and the fantastic panoramic views of the English painter William Turner. In sum, I knew her through so many artistic and poetic accolades from the echo of Thomas Mann, Nietzsche, Goethe; as Venice had been exalted by Poe as Eliseo of the oceans; by Dickens as Queen of the seas; by Herzen as madness product of genius; by Mann as half snare, half fable; as the reverie of a mirage in a lagoon, an otherworldly fantasy, the improbable city of the dramatist Carlo Goldoni, through the eyes of her beloved ones, by those who watched through the passage of centuries with such ardor, despite all the environmental challenges of our times. I now see Venice holds its charm precisely in its own fragility. Venice is so undoubtedly incomparable. Just consider the testimony of its great monuments, ancient bridges and canals, 400 and 180 respectively, invested by the magic of great perseverance and talent, which makes it logically to have been able to access the deservedly noble title of La Serenissima.

As a painter , my great interest was to see at close range, and with a magnifying view, the soft sweet colors of oil paintings by Antonio Vivarini , Pisanello , Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio, Jacopo Basano , Tiziano Vecelli, Palma il Vecchio, Jacopo il Furioso Tintoretto, Lorenzo Lotto, Paolo Veronese, and Giambattista Tiepolo–just to mention a few of the great among painters of Venice. There is nothing equal to the handling of paint, to the manipulation and alchemy of colors by the classic Venetian school, in its bittersweet characteristic spectrum that deepens the atmosphere and so generously suffusing human form as no other school has been able to. Its elegance and richness are intangible: one’s enjoyment is also unmatched. Everything in Venice speaks with a passionate and unique ancestral character. Similarly, so does its palatial architecture with a combination of various styles: the Byzantine , Muslim , Gothic, Palladian.  The latter  is denominated by the surname of the world famous Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (a Renaissance polyglot, translator of the canons of Greek and Roman antiquity) who disseminated this style throughout Europe: a legacy extended into the Neoclassical times of the 19th and 20th century.  And then, there is the exuberant style of the baroque as represented by Baldassare Longhena. Among so many things to talk about in such a short time, between such an abundance of exultation, there is still no way to do justice to Venice.

Because of the physical limitations of my mother, we went to Venice for only three days; a visit that was supposed to be light. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Amadeus , within walking distance of the train station Santa Lucia from which we planned to continue on our way to Rome. The Hotel’s privileged location in the center of Venice, made it unique:  close to the Grand Canal, and a short walk to the major attractions of the Jewish Quarter, the Venice Casino, the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza San Marco. The autumn season had fewer tourists, and many young people still enjoyed the outdoors, its many bridges, or socializing in large squares. On one occasion, we had a snack at the elegant Café Florian (open since the eighteenth century in the Piazza San Marco). Here, we were accompanied by the beautiful sound of an outdoors symphony orchestra. It was also the most expensive snack we had ever had, yet it was worth it, a truly unforgettable experience. Then we walked through the streets and labyrinthine alleyways to admire the intimate spaces and lush façades. We also had time to go by ‘vaporetto’ to the Venice Biennial: The 48th International Art Exhibition (1999) in the Giardini di Castello, located at the eastern part of the city, with a capacity of 88 pavilions, including the Pavilion of Venezuela. At the end, before our departure from Rome to Venezuela, while we waited, my mother asked for me to stand next to her; we faced a mirrored wall, and she said: this way we will always remember each other.

Ricardo Morin 04/14/14

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In Defense of Poetry:

April 27, 2014

Dante (detail), Domenico di Michelino, Florence 1465

Dante (detail), Domenico di Michelino, Florence 1465

Can our thoughts ever express absolute truths, or are they always just an approximation to reality?

 

In his dialogues of The Republic (circa 380 BCE), Plato (428-348 BCE) defined the value of didactic literature, especially the theological and rhetoric values, while, at the same time, citing that “there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry” (Republic, Book V, 607b5–6).

By the very use of metaphors, Plato’s Socratic-dialectic purported that poetry could only be a camouflage1; which suppressed the truth of our reality; therefore, poetry was incapable of conveying divine truths. This interpretation extended to the European Greco-Roman traditions and persisted dichotomous in contrast with the development of Medieval-religious literature of the West—paradoxically despite the dominant embeddedness of religious symbolism. It was from the thirteenth and fourteen centuries that the great Italian thinkers Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) initiated a humanizing conception of the world.  They identified themselves with a synthesis of Platonic philosophy by which metaphors in poetry were by now affirmed in positive terms.  Although they were always moved by the legacy from antiquity; they were also interested in developing new literary trends that could tear away from tradition. This epoch became known as the Renaissance2: The beginning of the era of modern literature through the metaphysical exaltation of poetry.

In De vulgari eloquentia (circa 1302), Dante Alighieri prepared an analysis of all styles and linguistic registers; but ultimately, he came close only to addressing the tragic or sublime style.  This work focused on the work of the Sicilian School and on the theme of love by the Stilnoviste.  Dante recognizes that poetry could also convey divine truth, that is, that besides being pleasant, the allegorical expression of human passions could be useful–speaking in didactic terms.

Francesco Petrarca also in La Carta X, 4 de Le Familiari (1349) addressed the question of allegory as an interpretative key to the poetry of the Middle Ages; for it established the use of allegory as the main similarity between the theological and poetic styles.  In this regard, in his view, the origin of poetry was found in a special use of language to appeal to the divine.

Then, alongside a biographical attention paid to the poet Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio also established a rigorous defense of poetry. As he put himself in an interpretative tradition of sacred as well as secular texts, he pursued in them a second level of significance.

In his plea for poetry, Boccaccio acknowledged the service it provided by exalting its powers. His treatise in Latin entitled Genealogiae deorum gentilium libri–completed in 1360, and edited until his death in 1374–, was a kind of handbook for poets and readers of poetry, relevant for transmitting classical mythology from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.  His singular defense of poetry was based on different principles; its universality, its antiquity, the respect that it had always aroused among the powerful, its divine origin away from earthly matters, etc . . ., were synthesized in the idea that poetry attracted three essential aspects: truth, beauty and fictionalization. Moreover, the discipline, study and work of the poet which provided indispensable conditions for literary creativity did not hinder a divine origin, or the revelation of that which was sublime. Boccaccio attempted thus to show that when interpreting allegorically secular texts, these were capable to reflect a moral as well as religious truth.

R.F.M. – New York City, April 27, 2014


1 Note: The term "camouflage"--the masking of nature--,which is used in The Republic, Books II, III and X by Plato (circa 380 BCE), differs from the term "mimesis" of the Greek mimēsis--in a laudable sense of imitation--which is not use until 1550.

2 Wikipedia: 'The Renaissance' is a French word coined by French historian Jules Michelet and disseminated by the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt in the 19th century. This name has been used historically in contrast to 'the Dark Ages', the term coined by Petrarca to refer to what we now call 'the Middle Ages.'


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