Monday, July 13, 2009
A Monday morning
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
Headed out for the John Wesley show on San Giorgio Maggiore and realized halfway there that it was probably closed today.
One my way I stopped in Palazzo Loredan, part of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, in Campo S. Stefano. I was lured in by a small video installation for the Biennale (L'Anima della pietra by Fabrizio Plessi), but the rooms that described the history and function of the Istituto were were much more interesting. Unfortunately, the rest of the Palazzo is only open to look at for Culture Week in April. The renaissance building was done up extensively inside in the baroque style with 18th c. frescoes.
The Istituto is devoted to promoting and protecting the sciences, humanities and the arts and it has tremendous historical archives; its online databases are considered among the finest in Europe.
They have programs and prizes in everything from lung cancer treatment to the ecology and future of the lagoon to art and literature, and the history and current state of Italy.
The first time I saw San Moise its time blackened facade transformed its swarming statuary into photo-negative. Now, clean, in the bright sunlight, it is easy to see the intrinsic ugliness which Ruskin abhorred. But the altar sculpture, Moses receiving the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai, is strangely stunning and there is beautiful baroque stonework inside.
As I suspected, the John Wesley show was closed, but between vaporettos I had time to notice how the great Palladio church has a sand-blasted appearance; it's smooth, clean surfaces make you wonder what the original stone must have looked like, sharply cut in shiny marble, bright white Istrian stone. Today's buffed surface, absent edges, is a clean but mute testimony to the erosion of time. It also makes me long to see the facade as conceived and designed by Palladio, with the porch thrusting in true Roman style toward the water of the bacino; a design the conservative Dominican friars scrapped as soon as Palladio died, reducing his concept to an echo of the superimposed facade of Redentore.