Category Archives: Basilica dei Frari

Venetian treasure

We are halfway through the Days of Christmas.  Today’s art favourite is in strong contrast to the sculptures from the last posting;  this alterpiece painting by Tiziano Vicellio (Titian) makes me smile.

Madonna di Ca' Pesaro, Titian

Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, Titian

At first glance, it seems like another ‘madonna and child’ painting, one of countless in the churches of Venice.  This composition, however, has distinctive differences.  Mary and Jesus are not situated in the centre of the painting, as was conventional for that time (1519-1526.)  The background columns in the middle of the composition were, stylistically, innovative.  Titian was breaking new ground with this painting.

Let’s look more closely at the bottom right hand corner of the painting.Gazing directly out at us, the viewers, is a young boy.  It is a fairly typical response of a child in a solemn situation.  All the other adults in the image are involved in the admiration of the mother and child, or in establishing Jacopo Pesaro’s  (the patron) prestige.  This boy is, instead, connecting directly with the larger audience of worshippers, spanning centuries.

Madonna di Ca' Pesaro, Titian (detail)

Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro, Titian (detail)

 

 

 

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More treats for the Days of Christmas

For our next ‘art treats’ ( see previous post) for the days of Christmas, we travel to Venice.  Ahhhh….Venice.

Two of my favourite pieces of art are found in the Basilica dei Frari which houses treasure upon treasure.  It is a huge space, filled with beautiful work:  sculpture, paintings, wood carvings, soaring ceilings, stained glass and tiled floors.

Basilica dei Frari, Venice

Basilica dei Frari, Venice

The four lower statues of the monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro are extremely striking.  They are some of my favourite pieces of classical sculpture. For the purposes of this Days of Christmas project, kindly view them as one selection.

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice, photo by T. Vatrt

The work for the monument is attributed to the Dresden trained sculptor, Melchior Barthel.  I admire the use of the black and white marble together.  The contrast is very effective. Notice the drapery, as well.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice, photo by T. Vatrt

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice, photo by T. Vatrt

Perhaps most striking, though, is the subject matter.  The four sculptures are situated  as supporting columns for the effigy of the resurrected doge.  The men’s bodies convey strength and power, but their faces, clothing and positions express the horror and injustice of slavery.  No doubt that wasn’t the original intention, (click here  for a brief discussion of the work) but, in my mind, this is an exposure of inhumanity. There is a dignity conveyed through the beauty and size of their bodies, despite the subservient positions.  These figures are the most arresting component of the whole monument.

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice

Monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro 1669, Basilica dei Frari, Venice

Quite unplanned, I realize I am writing this on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Seems somewhat appropriate to the work.