Tuesday 25 September 2018

Venice 1: The Hospital

In the event I didn't get to see either of the Tintoretto blockbuster exhibitions – but I still saw lots of wonderful Tintorettos (including those in his parish church of Madonna del Orto). Blockbusters or no blockbusters, the churches of Venice are still full of the works of this astoundingly productive master.
 A Tintoretto exhibition I did see was in the Scuola Grande di San Marco, a magnificent room that I hadn't visited in many years. This Tintoretto, however, was Domenico, Jacobo's son. Having secured the commission to paint a series of pictures for the Scuola (extorting various favours on top of his fee), Tintoretto senior then failed to oblige, finally handing the job over to his equally reluctant son, who, having failed to pass it on to someone else, was eventually compelled to honour the commission – and a fine set of paintings he produced, in the end.
  The Scuola (which is nowhere near San Marco but next to Ss Giovanni e Paolo) is housed in an upstairs room off what is now the vestibule of the city hospital – that's it below. Only in Venice...

Elsewhere in the complex of buildings that houses the hospital is the church of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti, a large one with an imposing classical facade. I have never known this church to be open, but on this occasion, for a wonder, the door was indeed open, so I slipped in – and found that a well attended funeral service was in full flow. Making myself as inconspicuous as possible, I sidled gradually along the north wall until I had a view of what I had come to see.
  It was not a pretty sight, nor was I expecting it to be. The monument to the condottiere Alviso Mocenigo, who won a famous victory over the Turks at Crete, covers the entire west wall, rising to the full height of the building. On its uppermost level stands a statue of Mocenigo, flanked by bombastic reliefs of battle scenes. This unpleasant assemblage is of interest (to me anyway) solely because the English sculptor John Bushnell – whose work at Fulham I recently wrote about – is known to have worked on it, in the course of his travels in France and Italy. If he was responsible for the statue of Mocenigo, then it was nothing to be proud of, though he liked to boast of having done great things in Venice. The statue is a clumsy and lifeless affair – but at least Bushnell had the distinction of being perhaps the only English sculptor to have worked in Venice in the seventeenth (or any earlier) century.
  I had hoped to get a photograph, just for the record, but in the circumstances I could hardly start behaving like a camera-clicking tourist. I sidled out again. Below is a photograph from the archives.

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