The Grand Tour in Venice - Page 96



THE GRAND TOUR IN VENICE
94
THE GRAND TOUR IN VENICE
95
Fig. 59 Exterior
of Frari Church,
Venice, Italy.
Centuries of smoke and grease from candles
had caused the picture to darken and in 1817
it was cleaned and moved to Accademia
where it remained until 1919. Other pictorial
highlights are Titian’s Pesaro Altarpiece and a
beautiful polyptych by Giovanni Bellini.
THE CHURCHES OF SANTA
MARIA GLORIOSA DEI FRARI &
SANTI GIOVANNI E PAOLO
In terms of the size of the building and the
quantity and quality of its masterpieces, the
Frari Church (fig. 59) has no rivals except San
Marco. The building itself is quite austereessentially a large unornamented Gothic barn
made out of brick, not marble, “as simple
and practical as a friar’s russet habit”, to
quote Hugh Honour, reflecting perhaps the
Franciscan vow of poverty. But the richness
of the paintings and monuments inside amply
compensate for the austerity of the exterior.
Most celebrated is Titian’s Assumption, which in
1752 Sir Joshua Reynolds described as “most
terribly dark but nobly painted” (fig. 60).
The church is also famous for its sepulchral
monuments particularly those to Titian and
Canova, as well as the monuments to Doges
Francesco Foscari and Giovanni Pesaro, the
last of which is either wonderful or grotesquely
theatrical, depending on your point of view
(fig. 61). Ruskin and Mark Twain both found
it grotesque and for Ruskin it represented the
worst excesses of the baroque. These were
Mark Twain’s impressions:
Fig. 60 Titian, Assumption of the Virgin, 1516-1518, oil on
panel, 690 cm × 360 cm, Venice, Basilica di Santa Maria
Gloriosa dei Frari.
Th e monum ent to th e doge Gio vanni Pesaro,
in th is church, is a curiosity in th e way of
mortuary adornm ent. It is eigh ty feet h igh and
is fronted like som e fantastic pagan temple.
Th ere are two bronze skeletons bearing scrolls,
and two great dragons uph old th e sarcophagus.
On h igh, amid all th is grotesqu eness, sits th e
departed doge.

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