The first time I came to Venice, in 2011, we had limited time to explore. We were boarding a cruise for the Eastern Mediterranean, and had just about a day before the boat would be leaving. When I planned what to do with that day, I tried to figure out a way to include the Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice’s premier art museum, but there just wasn’t the time. On this trip, with two weeks of ample time, I put this museum right up near the head of the itinerary, just the day after our time in Piazza San Marco.
And the Accademia, as it is called, did not disappoint. Between the many masterpieces by Venice’s most famous native sons – Bellini, Titian, Veronese (but no Tintoretto as I recall) – and the unexpected surprise of a group of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, I was endlessly thrilled.
I will say that the museum is strangely laid out. Even after spending half a day there, I still hadn’t figured it out. I gather it is under renovation, but even that is not clear. I asked a security guard for a map of the museum, to plan out our journey through it, and all he could offer me was a kid’s map with lots of illustrations and not much information.
The only way I could discover to enter the museum was through its (temporary?) exhibit entitled Canova, Cicognara and Hayez: the Last Glory of Venice. I had never heard of these artists, and after viewing the exhibit, I would say that while they all were very talented, I couldn’t see devoting such a huge exhibit to them, not when you’ve got Bellini’s and Titian’s yet to come. The three hold a special part in Venetian art history, since they, among other things, founded the museum.
And sure, Hayez’s painting of Rinald and Armida is gorgeous, with that kind of imitating Renaissance painting but with half the character feeling. Anyway, as you can tell, I was frustrated by having to wind my way through this endless exhibit, wanting to see Bellini’s and Titian’s. Finally, we got to an elevator, and got out of there.
And we walked out of the elevator, and right into the room that highlights the museum’s collection of Bosch. With his bizarre tendency towards the, well, bizarre, and macabre, you might love or be disturbed by Bosch’s paintings. I love his work, and have made it a point, wherever I travel to, to see his paintings whenever I can. So I was thrilled.
The other end of this room included one of the sublime Bellini Madonnas. From there, we explored the rest of the floor, and finally, I was in heaven. There was so much to see, and we were loving it so much, that after a couple hours we took a break for a late lunch (not much to report on that, sorry to say) and then returned to see the rest.
Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin is an interesting contrast to Tintoretto’s, which we had seen two days earlier in the Madonna dell’ Orto church. While Tintoretto’s is hyper-dramatic, viewed from the bottom of the stairs looking up, Titian’s has a cooler, more historical epic feel, viewing the event from the side. I love them both.
The painting Therese and I loved probably more than any other was the Supper in Emmaus by Marco Marziale. I had never heard of this artist before, but this painting is sublime. The way the four men attending dinner with Jesus seem to represent at least different cultures and perhaps even different continents is endlessly fascinating.
One side note: I was a little sad to see the museum’s treatment of Titian’s last work, the Pieta. It is hanging in a hallway, and with it being such a huge work, it is hard to get a good look at it. Anywhere you stand, there is a glare over some portion of the painting. Perhaps when they have finished their renovation, they will move this painting to a better spot more deserving of its size and stature.
As we left the museum, the afternoon was on the wane, and the question was, where to next? I realized that I was mistaken, in thinking that a number of smaller museums in the Dorsoduro area would be a good follow up – places like Ca’ Rezzonico are all closed on Tuesday! It was time to scramble. Luckily, just over the nearby bridge spanning the Grand Canal was the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, which hosts small contemporary art exhibits. So we headed there, and the hour or so left before they would be closing was more than enough for us to enjoy the exhibit.
And enjoy it we did. It was called “Glasstress” and apparently was the latest in a series of exhibits they have shown during recent Biennales. The show focused on works of art made out of glass, but there was lots of variety within this general philosophy. Dustin Yellin’s dioramas are bizarre and extraordinary. Erwin Wurm’s series of hot water bottles with feet are very cute and puzzlingly titled “Mutter” (mother). And Ai Weiwei’s chandelier with hands giving us the middle finger is hilarious and beautiful all at the same time.
In a number of places in Venice, we had already seen windows and doors with these glass panels of circular panes (I had seen some the previous July in Strasbourg as well). We were intrigued to find out more about them and discovered this configuration is called Crown Glass.
On Monday, after our time in and around Piazza San Marco, we walked to the Rialto Bridge to pick up the Vaporetto to head home to Cannaregio. But the real reason we went that way was it allowed us to make a stop at Gelato Fantasy, a gelato stand know for having some of the best vegan gelato in the city. We loved it so much the first time that I decided to make a second stop there on that Tuesday.
They have I believe five varieties that are vegan – four fruit flavors (mango, strawberry, raspberry and peach) and chocolate. The first day I had chocolate and mango – and oh, did I mention they have vegan cones? They do. The vegan cone costs an extra euro, but it is nice and crunchy, tastes pretty good. The mango gelato was a revelation. I am used to mango sorbets that are just mango and sugar, delicious but pretty one-note, just lots of silky mango. This was a completely different animal. It was light, with plenty of mango flavor but a delicate creamy texture, just wonderful. And mixing that with the rich dark chocolate was heaven.
The second day I tried the strawberry, again mixed with the chocolate, and I was similarly thrilled. Up to that point, that was the best vegan frozen dessert I had ever tasted.
From there, it was about a ten minute walk to the Vaporetto stop, where we boarded a very crowded boat, but with only two stops between there and San Marcuola (our stop in Cannaregio), we were good to go. From our position near the boat’s rail, we had a good view of the intriguing sculpture “Support” by Lorenzo Quinn.
This sculpture was part of the Biennale, and shows two mammoth hands rising out of the canal to seemingly prop up the ancient hotel in front of them. This artwork hopes to bring attention to climate change, reminding us that within the next century, water levels may rise enough to cover places like Venice, and coastlines all around the world (which of course if where something like 70 percent of the world’s population currently lives). A bit of a bummer, but this work brings our attention to our coming disaster in a humorous way.