Thursday, 20 May 2010 Piazza di San Marco and Verdi’s La Traviata

Susan Konola with a print of Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View of Venice (c. 1500) on display at the Naval Museum. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana

“Let’s see where this goes.” On our way to the Naval Museum (where we saw a woodcut of Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View of Venice, along with antique Gondolas and exquisitely crafted models of historic Venetian boats and fortifications), we walked along the imposing walls of the Arsenale, arriving at its impressive Renaissance city gate with multiple lion statues.

Students viewing a covered gondola. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana

The Venetian ship-building factory, the Arsenale (begun in 1104), with its gate designed by Jacopo Bellini and built by Antonio Gambello around 1460. The two large lions are later additions. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana

This enormous ship building factory, started in the Middle Ages, served as the city’s commercial engine for centuries. We recalled Dante’s description of the burning pitch to seal the boat hulls as an analogy for Hell in his Inferno. Nearby we happened upon the Scuola Grande di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, a private Venetian confraternity building for one of the foreign communities, with its stunning series of canvases by Vittore Carpaccio and others, including a famous image of St. Augustine in his study. Making it over to the Piazza di San Marco by way of the Bridge of Sighs, we toured the Correr and Marciana museums, commemorating the history of the Venetian Republic and housed in the elegant library building designed by Sansovino. After a break for lunch, the group gathered at the Torre dell’Orologio, where we received a private tour of the still-functioning mechanisms and bells of the Renaissance clock tower.

The Torre dell’Orologio (St. Mark’s Clock Tower) in St. Mark’s Square, was installed by Gian Paolo and Gian Carlo Rainiere between 1496 and 1499. Photos by Dr. Beall-Fofana

The Torre dell’Orologio (St. Mark’s Clock Tower) in St. Mark’s Square, was installed by Gian Paolo and Gian Carlo Rainiere between 1496 and 1499. Photos by Dr. Beall-Fofana

We then walked across the piazza to the incomparable Ducal Place. In the Hall of Great Council, I was able to see Jacopo Tintoretto’s Paradise and Paolo Veronese’s Triumph of Venice, two monumental paintings about which I had written a paper during The Renaissance in Venice course.

The façade of the Ducal Palace, constructed between 1309 and 1424. Photo by Matthew Brennan

A detail of the Ducal Palace façade, and students at the Scala dei Giganti at the Ducal Palace (built after 1483 by Antonio Rizzi). Photos by Dr. Beall-Fofana

A detail of the Ducal Palace façade, and students at the Scala dei Giganti at the Ducal Palace (built after 1483 by Antonio Rizzi). Photos by Dr. Beall-Fofana

Both paintings were much larger and more striking than I envisioned. Another private guide gave us access to the “Secret Itineraries” including the claustrophobic attic prisons from which Casanova had escaped in the Eighteenth Century. After attending an evening performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, another sumptuous marble-clad confraternity building, the grand day ended with a visit to a local tavern.

The interior of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, looking towards the altar. Built by Giorgio Masari from 1727-1762. Photo by Dr. Beall-Fofana