From Flemish masterpieces to the Fête of Health

There are some paintings which vanish into the vicissitudes of history and then resurface after centuries.
Often, however, research by scholars and modern technology reveal such a mystery to us.
It is the case of the “Portrait of a lady with daughter”.
We are in the age which the history of Europe calls the Renaissance. Venice, together with Florence and Rome, was witnessing the flourishing of an art that left its mark in history.
It was the age of Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, but also of Rubens and Van Dyck, who gave life to a great moment of Flemish art from Antwerp, the commercial capital of the Flanders, passing through Italy itself.

But let us get to the painting we wished to reproduce on our cover, and which these two Flemish masters must have seen when this picture depicted a “Tobias and the archangel Raphael” composition.
Indeed, because this is how history had handed down the picture for centuries, until the painting was X-rayed and cleaned in 1948, revealing the original work beneath, in fact, the portrait of a woman with her daughter by Titian.
Who knows when, some workshop apprentice painted it over with the religious scene which has come across the centuries, and which had very probably been seen in Venice by the two Flemish artists.
That painting, which is supposed to depict the artist’s beloved woman with his daughter, and which is seeing the light again after centuries of oblivion, used to be in the great master’s studio, at least until he died in a plague epidemic in 1576. It is now held in Antwerp by the well-known Rubenshuis collection.

So, here is the appeal of art, both within and beyond a canvas itself, and in this case, a reason (or rather, one of the reasons) for visiting a great exhibition, which Venice is currently offering to the public in the halls of its most prestigious venue: the Ducal Palace.
“From Titian to Rubens. Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish collections” is therefore showing the ideal link which was forged between the two flourishing maritime towns, by exhibiting artworks – in total 140 – coming from the most prestigious public and private collections in Antwerp and the Flanders, some of which have been absent in the lagoon for centuries, or never even been exhibited to the public until today.

Nevertheless, Flemish and Venetian art are not the only ones being shown in town, other important exhibitions will attract visitors during this month, starting from what we may consider the exhibition of exhibitions, that is, the International Art Exhibition by the Biennale.
Spread out amongst the vast areas of the Giardini and the Arsenal, but also in many locations scattered throughout the city due to its several collateral and national exhibitions (external pavilions), it offers an important opportunity for encountering new trends in the contemporary.

This opportunity will last until 24 November, the date which also marks the end of two other important exhibitions featuring the same number of conceptual artists, Emilio Isgrò and Jannis Kounellis, respectively on display at the Giorgio Cini Foundation and at the Prada Foundation. The exhibitions at Palazzo Fortuny will close too on the 24th, “A family story” dedicated to the Fortunys, and the one on well-known Korean artist Yun Hyong. Among other ones, instead, the retrospective dedicated to the famous American collector Peggy Guggenheim, set up at her own collection, and the solo exhibition on Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, are continuing. Finally, still continuing, the collective Place and signs, artworks by well-known contemporary artists, always for the Pinault Foundation; the showcase on the American designer Thomas Stearn’s work for Venini, at The Rooms of Glass; the one centred on the Young British Art movement at Ca’ Pesaro.
Moreover, regarding openings, we may highlight the retrospective on Umberto Moggioli beginning on 16 November, also at Ca’ Pesaro.

This scenario of exhibitions and shows – all or almost all of them presented within the following pages, starting from La Fenice Theatre and the Carlo Goldoni Resident Theatre – will be rounded-off by an event which is particularly felt in town: the Fête of the Madonna della Salute, or Madonna of Health.
The symbols of this event, whose spirit, born out of an ancient tradition, it is still possible to perceive, are a floating bridge on boats, facilitating arrivals from the Saint Mark area; a solemn Mass celebrated by the Patriarch of Venice plus a ritual which is dear to the Venetians, the lighting of a votive candle.
For this occasion, one may visit the seventeenth-century basilica to admire the famous “Black Madonna”, which has been located on the main altar since 1669 and the extraordinary artworks housed here; browse among the crowded stalls set up in the area, or go for a walk in the neighbourhood towards the suggestive Punta della Dogana or the Zattere embankment, perhaps to search in some taverns for the speciality of this period, the castradina mutton.
A different opportunity for getting to know the city… D.R.

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