Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Most of the summer flowers in my flower box were spent, so this morning I bought some new ones for fall. They give me immense pleasure and I try to plant them so that they look as good from the inside as from outside because I see them more from the inside. I went with Erica and Cyclamen because they seem to grow through the winter.
On my way to the flower shop I stopped into Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), one of the twin Gothics of Venice. I hadn't been into Frari in almost year a year.
It never ceases to amaze. The interior skeleton of bare bricks is encrusted with ornate marble tombs accreted over the centuries like baroque pearls. Above, the vaults are bare; there is virtually no fresco work in the nave, some in the vaults of the transept and altar, but in the style of Byzantine mosaics rather than in Italian medieval fresco style. These frescoes are like frayed embroidered quilts. The alternating diamonds of carmel and ivory-colored marble are found on the floor of most of the large churches in Venice.
The Canova tomb, which he designed for Titziano but was buried in himself, is romantically mysterious, its door half open like all the little mausoleums -- the little houses of the dead -- that fill the cemteries on Lido. Why ajar? Are they coming or going?
Several of the other altars were designed by baroque architect Baldassare Longhena, who designed Santa Maria della Salute at the age of 26. The are huge in scale, incredibly ornate in decoration; already, the baroque has begun to veer into the grotesque. It is easy to get lost in the detail, but it is the sheer volume of light and space so strikingly framed that is the most amazing thing about Frari.
That and the Bellini triptich in the sacristy. I fell in love with that painting my first time in Venice, in 1990, and still consider it at the top of a very short list of the most beautiful paintings in the world. Looking at it, you see the Renaissance in perfect flower, so lifelike as to breathe. It is serene and touching in its humanity; the palette is vivid and jewel-toned palette; the architecture of the little chapel surrounding it and the gold frame holding it are reflected in the painting. It could only be properly seen here, where it was intended to be.
In the famous Tiziano Assumption above the altar high renaissance drama supersedes the quiet, classic interior world of Bellini. Nearby, there were white roses on the white marble gravestone of Claudio Monteverdi in the floor of a gated chapel.
There are few places quite so rich in exuberant artistic invention.
Tonight, La Traviata at La Fenice with Patrizia Ciofi as Violetta and Vittorio Grigolo as Alfredo. I hope it's as good as I hope it will be.