THE objects already enumerated in this volume compose, it seems to me, the group of sights best worth seeing at Venice. But in saying this I do not wish to be dogmatic : I merely desire to advise the reader to the best of my ability. Tastes differ ; I can only recommend first what my own taste judges to be most important. There are, however, an immense number of other churches and collections of very high interest, which thoroughly deserve a visit from those who have already been able to give adequate consideration to St. Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, the Academy, and the other greater buildings or museums of the city. Many of them contain individual pictures or pieces of sculpture which in themselves may fairly claim to rank among the most beautiful works of art in Venice. It must always be a question for the individual tourist to decide, indeed, whether it is worth his while to take a long journey by gondola or on foot into some distant quarter of the town in order to see some particular Giovanni Bellini or some stray Tintoretto, to which Ruskin has called attention by exaggerated praise, at a time when he has not yet been able to look at half the equally fine Bellinis in the Academy, or half the perhaps still finer Tintorettos in the Doge’s Palace. On the other hand, certain students may desire to hunt up every specimen of some one master who specially appeals to them. My own strong advice to the average cultivated visitor who can only spend a month or six weeks in Venice is thissee thoroughly first the buildings or objects thus far enumerated, and then, (but only then,) take your choice among the following minor sights, which I mention in what seems to me, roughly speaking, the order of their relative value and instructiveness. By this I do not necessarily mean their importance as individual artistic master-pieces. It may easily happen that some remote church may contain a single fine Carpaccio or Veronese, while the churches to which I first call attention here possess no solitary work of equal importance. But, then, you will have neglected many Carpaccios and Veroneses quite as good in the great buildings ; and it is often better worth while to look at some group of individually second-rate objects that throw light collectively on the history of art, than to run after every famous picture or statue. It is a fatal mistake, indeed, to suppose that what one should see above every-thing is the mighty masterpieces : as a rule, masterpieces are merely works of a particular age and school which rise more or less distinctly above its general level ; it is only by under-standing first that general level that they can be rightly appreciated, and allowed to fall into their proper place in the entire aesthetic movement of their century. I therefore give first some account of those buildings of the second rank which I think most useful in filling in your conception of Venice as a whole, and proceed afterwards to mention a few of the scattered masterpieces which those whose time permits it may look up for themselves in the remoter parts of the city.]
A. SAN GIORGIO DEGLI SCHIAVONI
The Dalmatians and Illyrians were amongst the earliest subjects of the Venetian Republic ; the trade with the opposite coast was always considerable, much of Venice being built of Istrian stone and Dalmatian timber. Indeed, the chief quay itself derived from the name of this Slavonic people the title (which it still bears) of Riva degli Schiavoni. In 1452, the Council of Ten permitted certain leading Dalmatian merchants settled at Venice to establish a lay brotherhood, called, after the two great patron saints of Dalmatia, the Fraternity of St. George and St. Tryphonius. It was founded for the relief of old and poor Dalmatians, especially sailors, for the burial of the dead, and for the education of the needy children of their race ; and these objects are still its care at the present day, for it continues to exist in modern Venice. The Brotherhood built itself a little oratory or chapel near the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, on the Rio della Pieta ; and at the close of the 15th century the members rebuilt this hall in the present form, the work being completed, and the marble façade finished, in the year 1501. During the next ten years, Carpaccio was employed to decorate its walls with a series of paintings illustrating the lives of the two patron saints, George and Tryphonius, and also that of St. Jerome, the translator of the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (in the version known as the Vulgate), who, though not a patron of the Guild, was a Dalmatian, and therefore a countryman of its members. This chapel or meeting-hall of the Brother-hood is commonly known as San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, and is best reached by gondola. (If on foot, go towards San Zaccaria ; then San Giorgio dei Greci and Sant’ Antonino ; whence a Fondamenta leads direct to the door.) It should be visited for the sake of these exquisite works of Carpaccio’s, which are both beautiful in themselves, and also show one a series like the St, Ursulas of the Academy, still existing in the very building and in the very framework for which they were originally intended.]
The simple middle-Renaissance façade (by Sansovino) dates from 1551, but has embedded in its front a quaint late 15th or early 16th century relief of St. George, mounted, piercing the dragon’s head. The dragon has one paw on the bust of a previous victim. Behind is a charming figure of the little Princess, fleeing ; in the background, the towers and ramparts of a mediaeval city. Above this, St. John the Baptist presents the donor to Our Lady and the Child ; as he lays his hand on the votary’s head, the latter’s name was probably Giambattista. To the R., St. Catharine of Alexandria, crowned, with her wheel and her palm of martyrdom : probably patroness of the donor’s wife.
The interior consists of a pretty little panelled oratory, with good wooden roof. Above the panels are the famous *paintings by Carpaccio, which have made it a shrine for many worshippers not Slays.
Begin on the L. wall. 1st picture : St. George conquering the Dragon. The youthful saint, with fair hair flying in the wind, and in admirably painted armour, sits on a brown horse of somewhat clumsy build, as was usual with mediaeval horses. He tilts with his lance at the dragon, a very terrible and typical monster. The ground hard by is covered with the bleached bones of previous victims. To the R., the little princess, crowned and in a red robe, stands with clasped hands, confident of her champion’s speedy victory. In the background, a seascape with ships, strongly recalling the story of Perseus and Andromeda, from which this is an obvious derivative. To the L. is architecture, intended, after Carpaccio’s wont, to represent the rudeness of a pagan city.
2nd picture : St. George leads the conquered and crest-fallen dragon,a passing tame beast indeed, into the pagan city. The centre is occupied by the saint and his bridled victim. To the L. are charming figures of the pagan (or Saracen) king, on a white charger, and the princess, also mounted, beside him. Behind these, to the L., Oriental figures, (probably derived from studies made by Gentile Bellini at Constantinople,) all excellently drawn and coloured. The background is formed by the buildings of the city, crowded with spectators. On the R., more orientals, representing, I think, a second scene, where the king and princess have dismounted from their chargers (notice the exact similarity of the trappings on the two rider-less horses to those in the other portion of the picture). Within, the saint is probably preparing his new and sudden converts for baptism.
The small panel beyond these, (with the risen Christ and an adoring donor,) is not by Carpaccio, and is unimportant.
Altar-wall: *the Baptism of the king and princess. The saint stands on the steps of the palace, pouring water over the bare head of the converted king. Behind him, a delicious attendant bears a lovely vase with water for the ceremony. Beyond the king, the princess, with her long golden hair, kneels to await the Sacrament : her tiring-woman is Moorish, and wears a pretty oriental shawl. The king’s turban is tidily laid on the steps. To the L., in order to show that this is a great state ceremony, musicians blow trumpets and bang drums, while Saracens in turbans look on at the triumph of the new religion. Dignified courtiers kneel beside them. All the accessories, such as the parrot, the dog, the architecture, etc., deserve close observation. Note how the careful saint withdraws his rich red robe to save it from wetting ; he is still in armour beneath it, be-cause that is part of his symbolical character. Do not pass too quickly over these lovely and pregnant pictures.
The altar-piece is a pretty, but insipid, Madonna and Child, by Vincenzo Catena, substituted for one by Carpaccio.
Beyond the altar, end wall, a single scene from the life of St. Tryphonius, the other patron saint of the fraternity. It represents the one great episode in his legend : St. Tryphonius, as a child, subdues a basilisk, which had ravaged Albania. The child’s head and figure are pretty and schoolboyish ; the basilisk is not well imagined. To the R. sits the Governor, with features like those of Louis XI. and Henry VII. of England, surrounded by courtiers. The rest of the canvas is taken up by wondering spectators, and Carpaccio’s usual architecture. Note the beautiful rugs through the windows, and observe that the miracle is treated again as a state ceremony.
On the R. wall are two pictures unconnected in subject with the series. The first, the Agony in the Garden, (by Carpaccio, but ruined,) has the three sleeping saints in the usual attitudes, and above, the praying Saviour.
The subject of the *2nd picture is much debated ; Ruskin describes it as the Calling of Matthew ; others regard it as Christ invited to the house of the Pharisee. I am myself inclined to consider it as the Rich Young Man to whom Christ gives the command, “Sell all that thou hast and follow me.” The Saviour, surrounded by the apostles, grasps the hand of a bearded man in a crimson cap and exquisite brocaded robe, who stands at the door of a counting-house. This is a fine picture, but one which requires little description.
The other three panels rep-resent the history of St. Jerome, a compatriot of the members of the fraternity, and translator of the Bible into Latin. In spite of the critics, I cannot bring myself to believe that the first two canvases of this series are by Carpaccio ; both in treatment and in technique they seem to me wholly alien to his manner.
In the first picture St. Jerome introduces his tame, obedient, and smiling lion to the monks of his monastery. The saint himself is bland and persuasive ; the monks, unused to such monsters, fly in terror ; their running, though full of movement, is awkwardly represented. The back-ground rather suggests the neighbourhood of Florence than Venetian architecture.
The second picture represents the Burial of St. Jerome. The wasted body of the aged ascetic is laid on a terrace in the foreground ; he died at Bethlehem, and an attempt is given to impress this fact by the introduction of palm trees and of a strange animal tied to the one in the middle distance. A priest reads the burial service ; the monks, in blue and white robes, kneel around him.
The third picture, clearly by Carpaccio himself, represents *the Saint in his study translating the Scriptures. It should have occupied the previous panel. The contention of Mr. Ruskin and his collaborator that this picture represents St. Jerome in heaven seems to me quite untenable ; the subject is one commonly represented, and the treatment here contains many elements wholly inconsistent with this strange hypothesis. The saint is seated to the R., in a charming study, with his authorities open on the table and on the ground around him ; he is pausing for the exact Latin equivalent to some difficult Hebrew phrase. A mathematical instrument on the R. proves his deep astronomical learning. The centre background is occupied by a dainty little niche, with a figure of the risen Christ, bearing the Resurrection banner. On the table is placed St. Jerome’s abbot’s mitre, and close by stands his crozier To the L of this, a door gives a glimpse into a second charming chamber. To the extreme L., we see delicious furniturea charming chair, a reading desk, and rolls of manuscripts laid on a shelf, above which is a brass sconce, and below, a shelf containing antique bric-à-brac, very inappropriate in heaven, but showing that Carpaccio envisaged the saint as a learned ecclesiastic with the tastes of a cardinal of his own period. The antique curios include a bronze horse, a little bronze statuette, and three or four small black-and-yellow Greek vases, of the type erroneously called Etruscan, and found in tombs of the early Etruscan period. All the furniture of this delightful chamber may be closely noted ; its ceiling somewhat resembles that of this very oratory.
B. SAN ZACCARIA
(The church of San Zaccaria well deserves a visit. It is reached from the Piazza by going as straight as you can go past the Patriarchal Palace, and over two bridges, till you teach a doorway with an inscription ” Campo San Zaccaria.” In the tympanum of this doorway is a fine relief, in the style of the Massegne, representing, on the finial, St. Zacharias (?) blessing ; beneath, Our Lady and the Child, St. John the Baptist, son of St. Zacharias, and St. Mark the Evangelist. This was the ancient gate of a large and important Benedictine nunnery, to which the church belonged. The nunnery was established here from a very early date, and daughters of the noblest Venetian houses were enrolled among its numbers as abbesses and sisters. They had the privilege of presenting the Doge with his ducal cap : almost all the Doges from 837 to 1172 were buried in their church.]
The existing building was mainly erected by Martino Lombardo in 1457, but contains fragments of older work. Its façade is a good specimen of early Renaissance architecture, which should be compared with the closely similar example in the Scuola di San Marco. Notice the circular form given to the false gable, and to the blind portion or screen which joins nave and aisles. Over the entrance, out-side, is a statue of the patron saint, St. Zacharias (the priest, and father of St. John the Baptist), by Alessandro Vittoria. The campanile is Romanesque, 13th century.
Enter the church. It has a striking interior. Over the holy water vessel to the R. of the entrance is a statuette of St. John the Baptist, by Alessandro Vittoria.
The nave and aisles contain a large number of tolerable pictures, which space will not permit me to notice in full. The second altar in the L. aisle has a magnificent altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini in his later period, (1505,) representing Our Lady and the Child, enthroned under a niche of a sort with which we are now familiar. To the R. stands St. Lucy, with long fair hair, holding a lamp and the palm of her martyrdoma lovely figure in Bellini’s most charming later manner. Beyond her is St. Jerome, as the father of the monastic life, reading in the Vulgatea fine, virile, aged form, in a splendid red robe. To the L. are St. Catharine of Alexandria and St. Peter. As this is a nuns’ church, prominence is rightly given to the graceful and tender female saints. This picture shows Bellini in a transitional stage to the later Renaissance manner ; it is, as Vasari justly called it, a modern picture.
The altar just opposite this, in the R. aisle, has a gilt sarcophagus, interesting as containing the body of the patron, St. Zacharias, father of St. John the Baptist, as its inscription relates. You will never thoroughly understand early churches unless you note the importance of such relics.
The door on the R. beyond this gives access to the Nuns’ Choir, separated here, as often elsewhere, from the main building, so that the nuns might sing unseen, as they still do at Santa Trinità dei Monti at Rome. It is fitted up with good inlaid choir-stalls for the nuns, dating from 1460. On the R. wall in this choir is a Madonna, usually attributed to Palma Vecchio, but perhaps by Lorenzo Lotto ; it represents Our Lady and the Child enthroned, with a musical angel ; on the L. are St. Bernard, St. Gregory the Pope, and St. Paul; on the R. are St. Elizabeth of Hungary, holding her crown, as typical of those in high position who renounce the world for the monastic profession ; and, near her, St. Benedict, as founder of the order ; the young saint behind I can-not identify. Is he St. Tarasius?
Over the door is a tolerable and locally appropriate Tin. toretto of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, with St. Zacharias and St. Elizabeth ; this is a good piece of light and colour. The pictures to the R. and L. are by L Bassano, the Funeral of the Virgin and the Assumption of the Virgin. I do not think they were painted for their present situation. The altarpiece is a touching Mater Dolorosa, attributed to Titian, a replica of the one painted for the Emperor Charles V.
The Nave and Aisle belong to the Renaissance building ; the Apse is a relic of the older Gothic church, quaintly pre-served amid the newer architecture.
The door in the ambulatory behind the Choir-locked, but opened by the Sacristan for a few sousgives access to the *Cappella di San Tarasio, a saint whose body is preserved here. It is a good little Gothic building, with a fine vaulted apse, and it contains three *magnificent early altar-pieces, in their original gilt tabernacle frames, very florid Gothic, of 1444, due to the munificence of noble and wealthy ladies, whose names they bear and who were inmates of this convent.
The ancona, or tabernacle, which occupies the place of a High Altar, stands over the sarcophagus containing the body of St. Tarasius. It was the gift of Helena Foscari, and was intended to contain a relic of the Holy Cross. The old florid frame is intact, with its numerous figures of saints, of whom the one to the L. above, nearest to Our Lady, is the patron St. Zacharias,compare with the much later wooden figure on the bracket close by ; the one to the R. below, crowned and holding the True Cross, is the Empress Helena, at once the discoverer of the relic and the name-saint of the donor ; the other figures are mainly virgin martyrs, Agnes, Catharine, etc., as is usual in nunneries. The pictures were originally by Giovanni (da Allemagna) and Antonio Vivarini. St. Mark in the L. corner, and St. Blaise on the R.,. are still theirs ; the Madonna and the two other figures, St. Martin and St. Elizabeth, wife of St. Zacharias, have been so re-painted as to be practically modern. The older figures show the Cologne influence.
The altar-piece on the R. stands over the sarcophagus containing the remains of Saints Nereus and Achilleus and St. Pancras. It is the gift of Agnesina Giustiniani, as its inscription, dated 1443, narrates. Its wood-work represents, below, a Pieta to contain a relic ; above, the fainting figure of Our Lady; higher still, the Resurrection. The paintings are again by Giovanni da Murano (da Allemagna) and Antonio Vivarini ; though much repainted, they still show the influence of the Cologne school. To the L. are St. Gregory the Pope and another saint (I think, St. Pancras) ; to the R. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, whose bodies rest below in the sarcophagus.
The altar-piece on the L. is the gift of Margherita Donato, and is signed by Giovanni and Antonio da Murano (Vivarini). It represents, above, St. Margaret, the name-sake of the donor, and another female saint whom I fail to recognise ; below, in the centre, St. Sabina (whose body lies in the sarcophagus beneath, as the inscription testifies), with a face extremely recalling the school of Cologne ; L., St. Jerome, with the church, book, and lion ; R., St. Icerius, with the instrument of his martyrdom. The garden at the back of these three last figures is full of the spirit of the Cologne school. The ancient part of all three altar-pieces ought to be carefully studied by any one who wishes to under-stand the half-German origin of Venetian painting.
All the saints in this chapel are not oriental, as elsewhere at Venice, but Roman from the Coelian hilla noteworthy peculiarity.
Walk round the ambulatory. Near the end is the tomb of Alessandro Vittoria, with a bust of himself, by himself. The adjacent nunnery is now used as barracks.
C. THE PALLADIAN CHURCHES.
[Andrea Palladio, of Vicenza (1518-158o), was the last of the great Renaissance architects of Venice. His palaces are chiefly seen in his native town ; his churches in Venice. He aimed at classical simplicity, and attained a chilly, cheerless formality. He was practically the father of the 17th and 18th centuries and of the " classical" mania. Pall-Mall derives from him. His churches here may be well compared and contrasted with the earlier and more decorative buildings of the Lombardi, of which we have seen fine examples at the Scuola di San Marco and San Zaccaria. They have a certain spacious stateliness of their own, though they foreshadow the decadence. The worst fault of Palladio's churches lies in the fact that he tried to apply the forms of the Greek or Roman templewhich was a single simple flat-roofed building, all of one height,to the traditional requirements of the Christian church, which is a complex building with high nave and lower aisles, usually intercepted by transepts. The endeavour to reconcile these conflicting types strikes the keynote of Palladio's church architecture.]
(a.) SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE.
On an island at the eastern extremity of Venice a Benedictine monastery in honour of St. George the Martyr existed from a very early period. In 1110, Doge Ordelafo Falier brought to it the body of St. Stephen the Protomartyr (but he has other bodies elsewhere on which account subsequent Doges paid a yearly visit here on St. Stephen’s day, The great church of this monastery was demolished in the 16th century, in order that Palladio might rebuild it (1560) in its existing form. The vast monastic buildings around, though still inhabited in part by a few Benedictine monks, are mostly given over to artillery barracks and other Government offices. The whole island was originally covered by these monastic buildings, the greatest in Venice.
San Giorgio is best visited by gondola, though a steamer starts from the Riva every hour.
The exterior has a marble-coated façade, (Scamozzi, 1575,) which well shows the attempt to combine nave and aisle with the classical form, the problem being here solved by means of a sort of double pediment harshly interrupted. The chief figures on the façade are appropriately those of St. George, R., and St. Stephen, L.
The interior is cold, bare, and repellently classical. It has, however, at least the merit of purity, being all in one style, as Palladio left it, unencumbered by later rococo additions.
Over the door is a feeble portrait of the exiled Pope Pius VII., who was elected in this church by a conclave of fugitive cardinals in 1800, during the troubles which followed the French Revolution.
Begin in the R. aisle. 1st altar, Nativity, by J. Bassano. 2nd altar, wooden Crucifix, by Michelozzo. 3rd altar, of St. Cosmo and Damian, the Martyrdom of the saints, by Tintoretto. Most of the Tintorettos in this church are inferior works : this curious and confused composition, a hasty painting, seems to combine the various elements of their long torture in one scene, together, perhaps, with the martyrdom of St. Sebastian.
R. Transept. Altar of St. Benedict Tintoretto, Coronation of the Virgin, in the presence of St. Benedict in his black robes, to the L., with the book of his rule and his Abbot’s crozier; a Benedictine martyr, wounded in the head, and bearing the palm of his martyrdom, whom I do not identify ; Pope Gregory the Great, with the dove whispering at his ear ; and a Benedictine bishop ; below are a group of Benedictine fathers, donors of the picture.
Altar beyond the Transept : Madonna and Child, with St. Scholastica, (a Benedictine nun,) and adoring donors, by Rizzi ; a feeble picture.
In the Presbytery is the High Altar, with the figure of the Eternal Father (by Campagna) wearing a triangular halo (for the Blessed Trinity), and supported on a globe by the symbolic Evangelists. On the R. wall, the *Last Supper, by Tintoretto, one of his gloomiest pictures, chiefly relieved by the fine luminous head of the Saviour, and by the group of angels in weird celestial light grouped around the cresset ; the domestic details to the R., with the fine effect of light on the face of the realistic serving-woman, are characteristic of Tintoretto’s manner. On the L. wall, *Gathering of the Manna, (also by Tintoretto,) always held to be typical of the Last Supper and of the Sacrifice of the Mass ; this is a fine piece of spacious and airy landscape, with very varied groups in Tintoretto’s naturalistic manner.
The monks’ choir, behind the High Altar, has carved wooden seats, with an entire series of the usual scenes from the life of St. Benedict, by a fine wood-carver of the Flemish Renaissance school (1598)-note the dolphins, typical of the naval position of Venice; also, the Twelve Apostles, bearing each the instrument of his martyrdom.
Chapel beside the L. transept ; the Resurrection, by Tintoretto, with the family of Doge Vincenzo Morosini as spectators of the mystery. Black and gold colouring. Above the door to the L., the Doge’s monument.
L. Transept : altar of St. Stephen, who is here, of course, a leading saint; the altar-piece, by Tintoretto, represents his martyrdom, noticeable for the fine luminosity of the dying saint’s head and face. Below, his remains, in a sarcophagus.
L. aisle : 1st altar, of the name-saint, St. George, bad altar-piece of his victory over the dragon. 2nd altar, colossal rococo statue of Our Lady and the Child, and fly-away angels, by Campagna. 3rd altar, of St. Lucy, altar-piece (by L. Bassano) of the saint dragged to martyrdom by ropes and bullocks, which are miraculously unable to move her ; the painter, in order to mark his sense of the marvel, has employed a team of half-a-dozen at least for the purposea weak expedient.
At the end of the aisle, monument of Doge Marcantonio Memmo.
The campanile should be ascended for the sake of its beautiful *view over the lagoons and islands, perhaps the best to be obtained in Venice. (Easy mounting ; inclined plane ; quite clean.) One sees well from this point the position of the Lido and of the lagoon ; while the various mud-banks, channels, and islets are spread out like a map before you. It also affords a good bird’s-eye view of the courtyard of the ancient monastery.
The great Paolo Veronese of the Marriage at Cana, now in the Louvre, came from the Refectory of this wealthy monastery.
(b.) THE REDENTORE.
In 1576, Venice was- visited by a severe epidemic of plague, which carried off 50,000 persons in the city and lagoons. As a votive offering for preservation from this calamity the Republic determined to erect a church to the Redeemer. The edifice was built in 1577 by Palladio. It may be conveniently combined in one excursion with San Giorgio Maggiore. On the way to it, as you skirt the quay of the Giudecca, you pass the front of the secularised church and convent of the Zitelle.
The Redentore is a Franciscan church.
The façade illustrates, still more strikingly than San Giorgio, the futile attempt to combine classical architecture with Christian necessities. Both churches, however, it must be admitted, form fine simple objects in distant views.
The interior is even chillier and balder than San Giorgio, with ugly loopholes to admit the light. It contains but few objects of interest in its cold blank desert of 18th-century whitewash.
R. aisle 1st altar, poor Nativity, by Francesco Bassano. 3rd altar, Christ bound to the column, by Tintoretto.
The High Altar, under the dome, has good late marble reliefsin front, the Way to Calvary ; at the back, the Descent from the Cross, by Mazza da Bologna ; the figures of the two men prising open the sarcophagus in the last are characteristic of the late desire to show power of representing violent movement. On the Altar itself, a Crucifixion, with St. Mark and St. Francis, patrons of the city and the order, by Campagna.
In the Sacristy, behind the High Altar, are three beautiful *Madonnas, of the school of Bellini, the particular attribution of which has been much debated. The loveliest and earliest is enclosed behind shutters, in an early frame ; it represents **Our Lady, in red, with the sleeping Child on a pillow upon her knees, attended by two exquisite little musical angels. On the parapet are the symbolical fruits so often represented in this subject ; above the green curtain appears the red-beaked goldfinch, connected by a well-known legend with the Crucifixion. This lovely work is now generally assigned to Alvise Vivarini.
The second picture is later in date, and is now usually attributed to Bissolo ; it has Our Lady and the Child, between St. Mark and St. Francis (city and order).
The third, also a very beautiful picture, has Our Lady and the Child between the youthful St. John and St. Catharine. It is doubtfully assigned to Pasqualino.
These three exquisite pictures form the real reason for a visit to this otherwise bare and uninteresting church.
The altars in the L. aisle have only one picture of any interest, a weak Ascension, by Tintoretto, on the altar next the door.
The picturesque canals of the Giudecca, at the rear, are worth exploring in a gondola. They are crowded with fishing-craft and live-fish baskets. It may be worth while to add in passing that the word Giudecca has nothing to do with Jews, and that the Ghetto was never situated herein spite of the inveterate error of English tourists. The island was and is the fishing suburb of Venice.
D. THE RESIDUUM
A visit may be made on some spare afternoon to San Pietro di Castello, (formerly St. Sergius and St. Bacchus,) the original cathedral of Venice. Ecclesiastically the town depended from the beginning upon the Patriarchate of Grado, (representative of the old Patriarchate of Aquileia,) but this church was the cathedral of the local Bishop of Castello, first instituted in 1091. In 14551 the seat of the Patriarchate was removed from Grado to this place. San Pietro, which stands on a separate island, may be reached on foot by going along the Riva and then following the broad, dry canal which runs northward past the Public Gardens ; the last bridge on the L. leads you down a narrow dirty street till you can see the campanile and church before you. The approach by land is so squalid, however, that I recommend you to go rather in a gondola.
The campo in front of the church is spacious and imposing. The campanile, (a handsome building of 1474) unlike almost all others in Venice, is coated with white marble from top to bottom, and, in its long straight lines and fine proportions, is extremely stately. It retains the general tone of the Romanesque campanili.
The façade of the church presents a good average specimen of a Palladian design, 1596. The large building to the R. of the church, now a barrack, is the ancient patriarchal palace. The interior of the old cathedral contains little of interest except a handsome marble patriarchal chair, said to have been brought from Antioch. It is covered with ancient Arabic inscriptions from the Koran, in the old Cufic character. The third altar has a tolerable altar-piece by Marco Basaiti, representing the patron, St. Peter, enthroned. Under the High Altar lies the body of San Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first Patriarch of Venice. Behind it, in a niche, is a con-temporary statue of the saint, from which the features in later pictures appear to have been taken.
This out-of-the-way church thus deserves a visit on account of its connection with the episcopate and patriarchate of Venice, the seat of which was only removed to St. Mark’s in 1807, by Eugene Beauharnais, when Viceroy of Italy.
The Museo Civico Correr, housed in the Fondaco dei Turchi, I do not advise you to, visit unless your time is very ample. The collection is not unlike those of the Musée de Cluny or the Bargello at Florence, but on a very poor scale ; and much of it is uninteresting. In the court are some good specimens of Venetian well-heads, together with a colossal antique statue of M. Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus, said to have been brought here from the Pantheon at Rome, which Agrippa founded. The most famous object in the interior is a Carpaccio excessively praised by Ruskin” the best picture in the world.” It seems to me a feeble work, representing two Venetian courtesans on the roof of their house, surrounded by their pets. There are also a good Transfiguration by Mantegna ; a dry Pieta by Cosimo Tura ; and another by Giovanni Bellini. But none of these works is sufficiently important to take you out of your way, unless your time is very free. You will find other far more notable works in the minor churches.
Foremost among these (in illustrative value) I would place San Francesco delia Vigna, a large rambling church in the north-eastern quarter, hard of access, and best approached by gondola direct. It is Franciscan, of course, and is said to occupy the precise spot where St. Mark landed on his way from Aquileia, and had his famous dream that his body should finally rest in these islands. Its great gem (to my mind) is its lovely **Madonna by Fra Antonio da Negroponte, a little-known Paduan artist, about 1450perhaps the most strangely neglected among the wonderful pictures of Venice. In calm dignity and graceful charm of colour this glorious Madonna has few equals ; yet nobody visits it. It stands on the R. wall of the right transept. The left transept gives access to the Cab ella Santa, whose altar-piece is a *Madonna with Saints Sebastian, Jerome, John Baptist, and Francis, by Giovanni Bellini, much retouched ; this is a good work, but not to be named in the same day with the delicious Negroponte. I may add that Francis, Jerome, and John the Baptist are important saints in this church ; Franciscan doges and persons named Francesco are much commemorated in it. The Cappella Giustiniani, left of the choir, has a good sculptured altar-piece by the Lombardi, with St. Jerome and other appropriate saints, and scenes in relief from the life of St. Jerome, comprehensible after you have seen San Giorgio degli Schiavoni. The 2nd altar in the left aisle is a plague altar, with statues by Vittoria of St. Roch, St. Sebastian, and St. Antony Abbot. Altogether, for those who have time to examine it, this is one of the most interesting minor churches in Venice. With the hints here given, you will understand most of it.
Several other churches are mainly famous fora single picture.
Santa Maria Formosa, a very old foundation, but with a building of little interest, is visited chiefly for one superb Palma Vecchio, doubtless the finest thing its master ever painteda **Santa Barbara erect between four other saints. Owing to her legendary connection with towers, St. Barbara became the patroness of artillery and fortification ; and this altar (the first on the right) was that of the guild of Bombardieri, who thus commemorated their chosen lady. The cannon at St. Barbara’s feet bear out the allusion. She is represented as a singularly queenly and beautiful woman, with a noble carriage of the head and throat ; crowned as princess with a most military crown, and holding in her hand the palm of her martyrdom. Her robe is glorious. Nothing more stately or majestic ever proceeded out of the later school of Venice. The other saints are, R., St. Antony and St. Dominic ;. L., St. Sebastian and St. John Baptist. In the lunette, a Pietà. The church has many other interesting pictures.
Near the Rialto Bridge stands the church of San Giovanni Crisostomo. You may look in as you pass some day to see the finest Giovanni Bellini hitherto unmentioned. It occupies the first altar on the R., and represents *St. Jerome reading, flanked by St. Christopher (L.) and St. Augustine (R.) This is Bellini’s last work, dated 1513, ill his 87th year, but it is still firm and vigorous. Almost equally fine is an exceptionally noble *Sebastiano del Piombo, representing the patron of the church, St. John Chrysostom, and therefore occupying the place of honour on the High Altar. The great Greek Fathera good instance of the survival of Byzantine hagiology in Veniceis seated in an open portico, reading and transcribing. Close by, his patron, St. John the Baptist, gazes at him with fatherly affection. Behind stand St. Augustine and San Liberale. On the left are three beautiful female saintsCatharine, with her wheel, Lucy, with her lamp, and Mary Magdalen, with her pot of ointment, as if entering suddenly. This is a fine example of the later informal arrangement of the Santa Conversazione, and it is also a good specimen of Sebastiano del Piombo’s early Giorgionesque manner, before he came under the influence of Michael Angelo. It is thoroughly Venetian in type, and its drawing and colouring recall Giorgione. The luxurious women saints are specially characteristic of Sebastiano, and are obviously laying them-selves out, not to be saintly, but to be attractive and charming. The chapel to the left of the choir has yet another St. John Chrysostom, (perhaps by Mansueti,) accompanied by St. Onofrio, St. Andrew, and St. Agatha.
Just over the water, beyond the Rialto Bridge, is the church of St. John the Almsgiver, San Glovanni Elemom sinarioan Alexandrian saint, who was adopted by Venice in the days of her close intercourse with Egyptian Christendom. Its High Altar has a famous picture by Titian, representing the patron, San Giovanni, Patriarch of Alexandria, distributing alms, which a beggar is receiving. It is a fine piece of colouring, with Titian’s characteristic mannerism of attitude. The chapel to the R. of the High Altar has also a good Pordenone, a plague-picture, St. Roch as chief plague-patron, between St. Sebastian and St. Catharine of Alexandria.
The church of the Pietà on the Riva degli Schiavoni is chiefly visited for its very fine Moretto, behind the High Altar, *Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee. This noble and graceful picture shows us Moretto as the originator of that palatial, lordly, splendid, non-religious mode of treating these festal subjects, which was afterwards carried to so unpleasant an extreme by Paolo Veronese. Like most of its class it was originally the decoration of a refectorythat of the convent of San Fermo at Monselice.
San Vitale, near the Iron Bridge which leads to the Academy, has, in the choir behind the High Altar, a famous Carpaccio, representing the patron, San Vitale, the martyr of Ravenna, on horseback. Close by is his wife, Valeria, with St. John the Baptist, St. James, and St. George. Separated from these saints by a high screen are San Vitale’s two sons, St. Gervasius and St. Protasius, attended by St. Peter and St. Andrew. Above, in clouds, the Madonna in glory gazes down upon the martyr.
The church of San Simeone Grande, not far from the railway station, is mainly noticeable for a very noble **tomb of the namesake prophet, whose remains rest within it. The effigy of the saint, by one Marco the Roman, (1317,) is a splendid work of Gothic sculpture. It should be compared with that of St. Isidore in St. Mark’s, and that of Doge Andrea Dandolo.
I do not recommend a visit to the remote church of the Madonna dell’ Orto, except for those who are specially attracted by Tintoretto. These will probably take Ruskin for their guide. The church contains **three of the finest Tintorettos in Venice, and is further interesting as being the great painter’s own parish churchhis house standing almost opposite. But those who are not special Tintoretto worshippers will find equally good examples of the master elsewhere ; and the Madonna dell’ Orto is remote and difficult of access. It has also a very fine Cima,an altar-piece of his own patron, St. John the Baptist, on a pedestal between Saints Paul and Jerome, and Saints Peter and Mark. Likewise, an admirable Palma Vecchio of St. Stephen with a little court of attendant saints.
I do not wish it to be thought that even this final list by any means exhausts the objects of interest at Venicenay, even the objects of high aesthetic value. Other works of the first importance meet one at every turn. Such are the four splendid **Greek lions at the gate of the Arsenal, Titian’s Annunciation in the church of San Salvatore, the famous landscape by Giorgione in the Palazzo Giovanelli, (admission by private introduction only,) the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Titian in the church of the Gesuiti, Cima’s beautiful Baptism of Christ in San Giovanni in Bragora, and the charming Renaissance spiral staircase known as the Scala Minella in the Corte del Maltese. But Venice is of course inexhaustible, and my object in this work is not so much to mention all its artistic treasures as to put the tourist on the right road for appreciating those most salient features which his time permits him to see. Any indefatigable traveller who finds he can adequately examine all that is recommended in this book, and yet has leisure for more extended researches, may turn with advantage to Karl Karoly’s excellent little work on The Paintings of Venice, where most of the principal objects unconsidered here meet with due notice.
One last word as to Excursions. Of these, by far the most important is that to Torcello. Steamers go frequently; (see the handbills of the moment but as a rule they spend a whole hour uselessly at Burano, an uninteresting place, with the object of inducing visitors to inspect a lace-factory, and buy lace. Those who prefer early art had better instantly engage one of the rough little gondolas which clamour for hire at the landing-place of Burano, the moment the steamer arrives, and get themselves ferried across without delay to Torcello. They will thus secure a double advantage ; not only will they have a longer time to ex-amine the very interesting Cathedral of Torcello, but they will also see it before the main crowd of tourists arrivesa matter of great moment, as the key-note of Torcello is its strange and weird desolation.
Next to Torcello in importance comes Murano, the architecture of whose Cathedral should be compared with that of Torcello. A delightful excursion is that to Padua by the steamer to Fusina, and thence by steam tramway, returning by rail. The picturesque trip to Chioggia is chiefly interesting for the glimpse which it gives one of the lagoons and their shipping.
Yet when all is said and done,St. Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, the Academy, the Grand Canal, are the first and last word of the visitor to Venice.