Tuesday, July 31, 2007

cannaregio no. 3399

Tucked away in the quiet neighborhood of Cannaregio is a little house that was home to one of the greatest Venetian artists of the Italian Renaissance ~ Tintoretto. No. 3399 is marked only with a tiny plaque ~ and is really not "on the map" so to speak. The morning I made my pilgrimage there the street was deserted except for a mangy little dog far more interested in picking at discarded chicken bones than paying any attention to an art-obsessed interloper. The house itself is rather nondescript, but I was fascinated by the tipsy turbaned gentleman set into the wall between nos. 3397a and 3398. What a strange, funny little man ~ and Tintoretto would have walked past him every day. Just around the corner from the house is Madonna dell'Orto, the 14th-century church where Tintoretto is buried, and which houses some of his most important canvases.

stones of venice

“There is set in the deeper places of the heart such affection for the signs of age that the eye is delighted even by injuries which are the work of time; not but that there is also real and absolute beauty in the forms and colours so obtained.” ~ John Ruskin, Modern Painters, volume I (Of General Principles), 1843-1844

Venice has an intimate relationship with the sea, perhaps more so than any other city in the world. The forces of nature are constantly at war with its very foundations ~ eroding the stones, leaving tide marks. It is partly what makes Venice such a romantic city ~ and in fact Ruskin felt so strongly about it that he criticized those who sought to try to restore the city's buildings. The scars of time are part of its history. As I walked around I was fascinated by the abstract patterns of these eroded landscapes. And yes, even in Venice there is graffiti!

Monday, July 30, 2007


My favorite Venetian experience was ~ hands down ~ a visit to Palazzo Fortuny and the special exhibition, Artempo: Where Time Becomes Art (9 June - 7 October 2007).

The Palazzo Fortuny is wonderful in its own right ~ originally owned by the Pesaro family, it was acquired by the designer Mariano Fortuny at the turn of the 19th century, and became his painting, photography, and design studio. Located in the Campo San Beneto, the Gothic palazzo is still filled with many of Fortuny’s silk and velvet wall hangings, paintings, furnishings, curios, and design books.

The palazzo is temporarily home to Artempo, an exhibition curated by the art dealer and collector, Axel Vervoordt. The show features work by over 80 modern and contemporary artists, including Pablo Picasso, Lucio Fontana, Anish Kapoor, James Turell and others, juxtaposed with art and objects from throughout time. Most objects are drawn from Vervoordt’s own collection and the collections of the Musei Civici Veneziani, along with significant loans from other international public and private collections. All of these things (from the wonderful to the bizarre) are set within and without the context of Palazzo Fortuny. It is a truly different kind of exhibition experience.

Photographs were not allowed inside (though, again, I did manage to sneak a few), so I have augmented what I have with a press image from the show. For more see here.

(bottom image: courtesy Musei Civici Veneziani)

Friday, July 27, 2007

historic house tour: ca'rezzonico

Well okay, this is more of a palazzo tour! Ca'Rezzonico, located on the Grand Canal and designed by the famous Baroque architect Baldassare Longhena, was originally built as the home of Bon family in 1649. In 1741 it was purchased by the Rezzonicos, a wealthy merchant and banking family (who had recently purchased an aristocratic title). They expanded the house, and called upon artists such as Giambattista Crosato, Pietro Visconti, and Giambattista Tiepolo, to create its many magnificent interior decorations. But, by the early 19th century the family had all but died out, and the palazzo was subdivided into several apartments, and many of its contents were sold or dispersed. Interestingly, it was purchased by the artist Pen Browning in the 1880s; and his father, the poet Robert Browning, died there in 1889. After changing hands several times, the palazzo was acquired in 1935 by the city of Venice to house its 18th-century collections.

As the history of these Venetian houses are long and convoluted (they have been rebuilt and restyled extensively over time), rarely do original furnishings exist. While Ca'Rezzonico retains many of its original frescos, a large collection of period paintings and furnishings have been added and are displayed in situ. Included are rooms moved from other houses, the interior of a Venetian pharmacy, and a gallery of some very lovely paintings. Perhaps my favorite rooms are those moved from the Villa di Zianigo, which feature Giandomenico Tiepolo's playful frescoes of 18th-century life and follies.

Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside (though I did sneak a few !!), but you can see more here.

Giandomenico Tiepolo's New World fresco
from Villa di Zianigo, 1791

Giandomenico Tiepolo's Pulchinella in Love fresco
from Villa di Zianigo, 1797
(image courtesy of Musei Civici Veneziani)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

venice details

It is so hard to know where to start ~ there are so many wonderful things from Venice to share. It's probably one of the most photographed cities in the world, so I thought that rather than bore you with the usual tourist shots, I would share some of little deatils I loved (and which make Venice such a magical city).

Over the next few days I promise to report on the museums, churches, restaurants, shops, and other favorite places ~ and even treat you to a historic house tour of sorts!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

blue venetian sky

I arrived home late last night ~ glad to be in my own bed, but still dreaming of the blue skies over Venice. I am completely swamped, and am just trying to get caught up, but I have many, many wonderful things to share in the next few days...!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

bella bella venezia

Ciao! A quick post from Venice, where it is hot, humid, but beautiful as ever. After two days packed with research (and hilarious attempts to navigate the Correr library speaking no Italian!), I finally have the weekend to myself. In between work appointments though, I have found time to enjoy a couple of the smaller museums and palazzos (partly to stay out of the sun). Oh, and delicious meals accompanied by Italian wine (and a glass or two of Prosecco). I have been taking lots of photos and will have tons of things to show you when I get home and can download them. In the meantime, I leave you with a photo of the little street where my hotel is ~ tucked away in the quiet residential neighborhood of Dorsoduro. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend ~ I will see you in a few days with tales of my Italian adventures! XO!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Well, I am about to dash off to the airport, on my way to Venice for a work trip. I will be doing research at the Guggenheim and the Museo Correr library, visiting the Biennale (have always wanted to go!), and in my free time, exploring all of the little out of the way palazzos and churches that make Venice such a treasure. I will try to post along the way, but if not, I will see you in a week!

(image: John Singer Sargent, The Library in Venice, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970.17.172)

Monday, July 16, 2007

hazy, lazy days

Ahhh, Monday morning, after a hot and hazy summer weekend in Washington. Even the flowers at the farmers' market were seeking shade. I sought refuge in the cool galleries of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and took in the Italian Women Artists exhibition, which put me in the mood for Italy (I leave tomorrow!). The show was very interesting, and included some fascinating and really quite wonderful paintings, by artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana, Elisabetta Sirani, and Fede Galizia. Although the works are stylistically very much like those of their male counterparts, I think the treatment of various subjects is unique. The representation of infants is softer, more gentle ~ and the psyche of the female subjects is so clearly present (and not so romanticized). I also loved the little details such as fabrics, and lace, and jewelry, which are meticulously represented.

Speaking of fabulous jewelry, I enjoyed looking through the Erie Basin website (which has been featured recently in both Lucky and Elle magazines). I really like their aestheic, and would love to make it to the actual store in Brooklyn someday.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

bastille day

A quick Saturday post ~ saw this 1920s French beach chair over on The Peak of Chic. It is the perfect solution for those of use with pale, delicate skin ~ I love it! It is a beautiful sunny day here in Washington, so I hear the pool calling my name...and I guess I will just have to make do with SPF 45. Cheers! And happy Bastille Day!

(chair available at Hollyhock)

Friday, July 13, 2007

trouvée: orientalism

I love the composition of this photograph, with the flower, the drape of the robe, and the profile of the young man ~ north African perhaps? An artist's model? I am not sure that this is an original photohraph ~ a vintage copy, maybe, of a 19th-century Orientalist photographic portrait. I found it London, in a pile of several other similar images, but this was the only one I purchased.

Happy weekend all! The weather forecast for Washington is perfect, and I am planning to go to the National Museum of Women in the Arts to see Italian Women Artists from the Renaissance to the Baroque before it closes on Sunday, and a fun little show that just opened, of Frida Kahlo photographs and letters.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

london calling

I have a new addiction ~ AT: Europe over on Apartment Therapy. All sorts of wonderful posts about (and photographs of) European gardens, apartments, architecture, flea markets, and so on. I loved yesterday's post about this fabulous London apartment. I wish I had space for a little work corner in my living room. Oh, and the blue and black fireplace is so fantastic!

(images via Apartment Therapy)

lady bird

"Though the word beautification makes the concept sound merely cosmetic, it involves much more: clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas. To me…beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future." ~ Lady Bird Johnson (1912 - 2007)

Yesterday, we lost a great woman and First Lady. Thank you Mrs. Johnson. You will be missed, but your legacy will forever bloom along our roads and in our hearts.

(image: Lady Bird Johnson walking in field of white prickly poppies, April 1968, Photograph by Mike Geissinger, Courtesy LBJ Library)

P.S. Thanks to KDM for sending me the lovely quote.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I think I have needlework on the brain! These are from a lovely little book I picked up the other day ~ Samplers from A to Z (Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 2000). The first exhibition I ever worked on was of early American samplers, held at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut. Anyway, these pieces inspire me to pick up my needlepoint again.

Oh, and many thanks to Style Court for the lovely mention of the historic house tours! I am in the process of putting together the Fall tour schedule, and I am really excited about it ~ there are some fun places on the list. So, stay tuned...

(images: Samplers, South German, 1737 (top) and 1762 (bottom), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

of light and lace

Yesterday's post of the Peterhans photograph put me in mind of a couple of gorgeous cyanotypes I found ~ made by laying the lace directly over photographic paper (like a negative) and exposing it to light. These are supposedly from an album of lace samples from a factory in France (wouldn't you love to have seen that whole book?).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

foto favorite

A favorite piece from the exhibition, Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, through 3 September 2007, and the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 5 October 2007 - 2 January 2008.

(image: Walter Peterhans, Untitled [Still Life with Flowers, Fabric, and Gauze], 1928/1932, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin)

Monday, July 9, 2007

natural beauty

I have been a huge fan of Andrea Haffner's work for several years now ~ and I am lucky to own one of her photographs and a couple pieces of her gorgeous sterling jewelry (composed of natural, found objects, such as seed pods, leaves, seaweed, or shells). And now she is making pendants in gold ~ wow!

summer's bounty

There were so many beautiful fruits at the farmer's market this weekend ~ cherries, peaches, gooseberries. I am afraid these will not last long enough to be made into anything, but if they did, this recipe would be perfect in its simplicity!

Friday, July 6, 2007

trouvée: curt and his dog

"Dear May ~ What do you think of my old man and his dog? Love to you, K." Postmarked: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 6 November 1907. Found in a box of old photos at a flea market in Virgina (click on image to view larger).

Personally, I think Curt has it made. May your weekend be as relaxing as his!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

long summer days

I took this image at around 8:00pm the other day ~ sun light streaming into my apartment. Oh, how I love these long summer days. And gardens full of bright blue hydrangea.

More summer inspiration:

* Drawn from Nature: The Plant Lithographs of Ellsworth Kelly.
* Gertrude Jekyll: A Vision of Garden and Wood.
* The Painter's Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight.
* Irving Penn's flowers.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

independence day

Happy 4th of July! Wishing you all a safe and relaxing Independence Day...if you need me, I'll be by the pool ~ reading my new book, eating fresh Virginia peaches, and watching fireworks.

Oh, would love to be wearing this shirt...the July Anthropologie catalog is fantastic!


When I was in Jerusalem, I met a lovely French woman who pointed me in the direction of a good place to find all sorts of exotic treasures ~ a store filled with Persian carpets, Roman glass, antique jewelry, miniature paintings, and all sorts of other little curiosities. Too many fabulous things ~ like Aladdin’s cave! Peering into the cases filled with Bahraini pearls, Indian rubies, and hand cut diamonds, I spied a simple gold ring with a carnelian stone. I asked to see it ~ an antique Persian seal in a modern setting (see below). Before I knew it, I was bargaining with the owner, and had agreed to a price (almost half of what he had asked for)!

The owner told me that the seal in my ring was about 400 years old. So, I decided to do a little research. Carnelian was used by the ancient Egyptians to adorn the dead as they believed that the stone would guide and protect their loved ones in the after-life. Since then it has been used for seals, as carnelian has the unique quality that wax does not adhere to it. It was (and still is) particularly popular in the Muslim world because it is said that the prophet Mohammed wore a carnelian and silver ring on the little finger of his right hand. It is also said that the desires of anyone who wears a carnelian will be gratified. In Iran, wealthy Persians traditionally carried carnelian seals, engraved with either the owner’s name, the name of a Muslim saint, or a phrase from the Koran. I showed my ring to a Persian friend who said that although the script is in the old style and backwards (as it is a seal), she could make out the name of a man. So, I will wear my carnelian and hope for desires to be gratified!

Oh, and check out this gorgeous piece at DeVera (drool!).

(top image: Rings and necklace, carnelian, turquoise, moss agate, amethyst, milky quartz, and steatite on linen cord, from the tomb of Wah, western Thebes, Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Amenemhat I, c. 1975 BC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1920)

Monday, July 2, 2007

little loves and discoveries

Here are some favorites from Israel:

* Gorgeous Suzani embroidery (the photograph above is a detail of a piece I bought for my mother).
* Antique Bedouin jewelry and carnelian rings (more on this later...).
* Three Arches YMCA hotel and restaurant in Jerusalem (the building was designed by the architect of the Empire State Building).
* Max Brenner chocolates (now available in New York!).
* Lala Land Café on the beach in Tel Aviv (order the calamari salad and a glass of Israeli wine).
* Tel Aviv Museum of Art gift store (they have some of the best jewelry from contemporary Israeli designers ~ my favorite, Aura).

P.S. Sorry for the lack of links, but some of these places do not have websites!