Andrea Mantegna, his beginnings in Padua and the Cappella Ovetari

Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506) was an outstanding Italian Renaissance painter and engraver. He was also a student of Roman archeology, and the son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini.

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Mantegna is best known for the Camera degli Sposi (“Room of the Bride and Groom”), or Camera Picta (“Painted Room”) (1474), in the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua. His other principal works include the Ovetari Chapel frescoes (1448–55) in the Eremitani Church in Padua and the Triumph of Caesar (begun c. 1486), the pinnacle of his late style. All of these works are discussed below or in later posts.

Born in Isola di Carturo, a part of the Venetian Republic and very close to Padua, Mantegna’s extraordinary native abilities were recognized early. He was the second son of a woodworker, but his artistic future was set in motion when he was legally adopted by Paduan artist, Francesco Squarcione, by the time he was 10 years old.

Squarcione was a teacher of painting and a collector of antiquities in Padua; the cream of young local talent were drawn to his studio. Some of Squarcione’s protégés, including  Mantegna and another painter, Marco Zoppo, later had cause to regret being a part of the master’s studio.

Squarcione, whose original profession was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, and a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarch, Squarcione was an ancient Rome enthusiast: he traveled in Italy, and perhaps also in Greece, collecting antique statues, reliefs, vases, etc., making drawings from them himself, then making available his collection for others to study. All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission, to which his pupils, no less than himself, contributed.

As many as 137 students passed through Squarcione’s school, which had been established around 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua attracted artists not only from the Veneto but also from Tuscany, including such notables as Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Donatello.

Mantegna was said to be the favorite pupil of Squarcione, who taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture. The master also preferred the used of a kind of forced pictorial perspective in his works, recollection of which may account for some of Mantegna’s later innovations.

In 1448, at age 17, Mantegna disassociated himself from Squarcione’s guardianship to establish his own workshop in Padua, later claiming that Squarcione had profited considerably from his services without giving due recompense.

Mantegna did not have to wait long for validation of his independence. The same year he was awarded a very important commission to create an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in Padua.

Unfortunately, the altarpiece is now lost, but we know it demonstrated his precocity, for it was unusual for so young an artist to receive such a notable commission. Mantegna himself proudly called attention to his youthful ability in the painting’s inscription: “Andrea Mantegna from Padua, aged 17, painted this with his own hand, 1448.”

The same year, he was commissioned, together with Nicolò Pizzolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of another church in Padua, Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani (church of the Hermits of St. Augustine). Mantegna’s works in this church constitute his earliest surviving paintings.

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The facade of the Eremitani church, the Cappella Ovetari is in the right arm of the church’s transept.

Antonio Ovetari was a Padua notary who, at his death, left a large sum for the decoration of the family funerary chapel in the Eremitani church. The initial contracts for a series of frescoes were drawn up by the heirs of the notary in 1448. Works were commissioned from Giovanni d’Alemagna, Antonio Vivarini, Niccolò Pizzolo, and Mantegna. There is some indication that Mantegna (young as he was–17) may have been the originator of both the overall formal composition.  The stories portrayed were inspired by The Golden Legend by Jacopo da Varazze.

According to the original agreement, the first two artists were to paint the arch with histories of the Passion of Christ (never executed), the cross vault and the right wall (Histories of St. Chrisopther) while the two Paduans would paint the rest, including the left wall (Histories of St. James, son of Zebedee) and the altar wall, with its windows, was to depict the Assumption of the Virgin.

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Above, plan of the Eremitani Church in Padua.

 

The Cappella Ovetari fresco cycle:

  1.  Left (north) wall of Cappella Ovetari, Life of St. James

Mantegna probably painted the left wall with the scenes from the life of St James, which have been almost totally lost. Here is a list of the scenes depicted:

Vocation of the Saints James and John
St. James Preaching
St. James Baptizes Hermogenes
Judgement of St. James
Miracle of St. James
Martyrdom of St. James

Fortunately, great restoration work continues in Italy and can be found here:

https://www.wga.hu/html_m/m/mantegna/01/index.html 

https://www.2-people.com/project/ricostruzione-affreschi-cappella-ovetari/

These pictures can only give us a sense of how the wall once looked.

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Above, overview of scenes from the Life of St James (scenes 1-6)

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scenes 1-2)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 3)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 4)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 5)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St James (scene 6)

 

 

2.  Left (south) wall of Cappella Ovetari, Life of St. Christopher. The two scenes at the bottom (scenes 5 and 6) are by Mantegna.

Here is a list of the scenes depicted:

St. Christopher Leaving the King by Ansuino da Forlì (attributed)
St. Christopher and the King of the Devils by Ansuino da Forlì (attributed)
St. Christopher Ferrying the Child by Bono da Ferrara (signed)
St. Christopher Preaching by Ansuino da Forlì (signed)
Martyrdom of St. Christopher by Andrea Mantegna
Transportation of St. Christopher Beheaded Body by Andrea Mantegna.

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scenes 1-2)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 3)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 4)

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 5)

 

 

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Scenes from the Life of St Christopher (scene 6)

 

 

 

3. The altar wall is for the most part the work by Mantegna: Assumption of the Virgin

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4.  The apse was divided into sections: Mantegna painted the saints Peter, Paul and Christopher within a stone frame decorated with festoons of fruit. These figures show similarities with the frescoes by Andrea del Castagno in the Venetian church of San Zaccaria (1442), both in the format and their sculptural firmness. Also similar is the cloud on which the figures are standing.

The remaining spaces were painted with images of the Eternal Father Blessing and the Doctors of the Church by Niccolò Pizzolo. The Doctors were depicted as majestic figures, and the saints were shown as Humanist scholars at work in their studios.

The arch was painted with two large heads, usually identified as self-portraits by Mantegna and Pizzolo.
5. The vault was decorated with Four Evangelists by Antonio Vivarini between festoons by Giovanni d’Alemagna.

6. A terra-cotta altarpiece completes the decoration of the chapel. It is covered with bronze by Pizzolo, and is extremely damaged. It shows a Sacra Conversazione in bas-relief.

Next, the history of the way the contract was executed by the painters.

Phase 1:

Already in 1449, there were personal problems between Mantegna and Pizzolo, the latter accusing the former of continuous interference in the execution of the chapel’s altarpiece. This led to a redistribution of the works among the artists; perhaps due to this Mantegna halted his work and visited Ferrara.

In 1450, Giovanni d’Alemagna, who had executed only the decorative festoons of the vault, died; the following year Vivarini left the work after completing the depictions of the four Evangelists in the vault.  Those 2 artists were replaced by Bono da Ferrara and Ansuino da Forlì, whose style was influenced by that of Piero della Francesca.

Mantegna began to work from the apse vault, where he placed images of three saints. Pizzolo painted images of the Doctors of the Church.

Next, Mantegna likely moved to the lunette on the left wall, with the Vocation of Saint James and St. John, and the Preaching of St. James, completed within 1450, and then moved to the middle sector.

 

Phase 2:

At the end of 1451 work was suspended due to lack of funds. They were restarted in November 1453 and completed in 1457. This second phase saw Mantegna alone at work, as Pizzolo had also died in 1453. Mantegna completed the Stories of St. James, frescoed the central wall with the Assumption of the Virgin and then completed the lower sector of the Stories of St. Cristopher begun by Bono da Ferrara and Ansuino da Forlì. Here Mantegna painted two unified scenes dealing with the subject of the Martyrdom of St. Christopher.

In 1457. Imperatrice Ovetari sued Mantegna, accusing him of having painted, in the Assumption, only eight apostles instead of twelve. Two painters from Milan, Pietro da Milano and Giovanni Storlato, were called in to solve the matter. They justified Mantegna’s choice due to the lack of space.

 

Subsequent history:

Fortunately, sometime around 1880, two of the scenes, the Assumption and the Martyrdom of St. Christopher, were detached from the church walls to protect them from dampness.  They were stored in a separate location and thus not destroyed during WWII.

During the war, those two frescoes were saved from the air bombardment that destroyed of all the rest of the cycle on 11 March 1944. Luckily, black-and-white photographs of the frescoes taken before the bombing allow us to visually reconstruct the cycle. First, let us look at images of the church taken after the bombings.

 

The 20th century bombing:

 

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The restoration of the chapel’s frescoes:

The fresco cycle of the Ovetari chapel was, like almost all of the church’s interior, destroyed by an Allied bombing in March of 1944: today, only two scenes and a  fragments survive. Painstaking work by talented art restorers have produced an almost unbelievable job of reconstituting the fragments into a whole, unveiled in 2006. The restorers had black-and-white photographs to guide their work.

Below are the photos I took on my recent visit to Padua.

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The history of Padua, including the city walls, part 2

The rich history of Padua was only partially discussed here.  This post continues the story.

Beginning with the 12th Century in Padova:

 

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The Carrara Family, also called Carraresi, was a medieval Italian family who ruled first as feudal lords about the village of Carrara in the countryside near Padua and then as moderately enlightened despots in the city of Padua.

Having moved into Padua itself in the 13th century, the Carraresi exploited the feuds of urban politics first as Ghibelline and then as Guelf leaders and were thus able to found a new and more illustrious dominion. The latter began with the election of Jacopo da Carrara as perpetual captain general of Padua in 1318 but was not finally established, with Venetian help, until the election of his nephew Marsiglio in 1337.

For approximately 50 years, the Carraresi ruled with no serious rivals except among members of their own family. Marsiglio was succeeded without incident by Ubertino (1338–45), but Marsigliello, who succeeded Ubertino, was deposed and murdered by Jacopo di Niccolò (1345–50).

Jacopo was then murdered by Guglielmino and succeeded by his brother Jacopino di Niccoló (1350–55), and Jacopino in turn was dispossessed and imprisoned by his nephew Francesco il Vecchio (1355–87). Such a nice family to call your own.

Despite this chaos, the Carrara court was one of the most brilliant in all of the Italian peninsula. Ubertino in particular was a patron of building and the arts, and Jacopo di Niccolò was a close friend of Petrarch.

Only with the exception of a brief period of Scaligeri (the ruling family in Verona) overlordship between 1328 and 1337 and two years (1388–1390) when Giangaleazzo Visconti held the town, Padua was pretty much owned by the Carraresi.

The many advances of Padova in the 13th century naturally brought the commune into conflict with Can Grande della Scala, lord of Verona. In 1311, Padua had to yield.

But, even under the Carraresi, it was a long period of restlessness, for the Carraresi were constantly at war. Under Carraresi rule, the early humanist circles at the University of Padua were effectively disbanded: Albertino Mussato, the first modern poet laureate, died in exile at Chioggia in 1329, and the eventual heir of the Paduan literary tradition went to the Tuscan Petrarch.

In 1387, John Hawkwood won the Battle of Castagnaro for Padua, against Giovanni Ordelaffi, for Verona.

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The Carraresi period finally came to an end as the power of the Visconti and of Venice grew in importance. Padova came under the rule of the Republic of Venice in 1405, and mostly remained that way until the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797.

There was just a brief period when the city changed hands (in 1509) during the wars of the League of Cambrai.  Padova was held for just a few weeks by Imperial supporters, but Venetian troops quickly recovered it and successfully defended Padua during a siege by Imperial troops (Siege of Padua).

As a part of the Venetian Republic, Padova was governed by two Venetian nobles, a podestà for civil affairs and a captain for military affairs. Each was elected for 16 months. Under these governors, the great and small councils continued to discharge municipal business and to administer the Paduan law, contained in the statutes of 1276 and 1362. The treasury was managed by two chamberlains; and every five years the Paduans sent one of their nobles to reside as nuncio in Venice; this elected official was in place to watch out for the interests of his native town.

 

The City Walls:

For more information see: https://digilander.libero.it/clapad5/padova/mura.html

1. The Romans would seem to be the first to surround Padova with walls. Of the walls built during the ancient Roman era, the only traces to survive are those incorporated into the foundations of certain palazzi. The route of these walls corresponded to a meandering line formed by the river Medoacus (now the Brenta). Inside the walls, Padua’s first urban center developed.

2.   The Mura Duecentesche (“13th century walls”; aka the mura comunali or mura medievali) were built at the start of the 13th century by the Comune of Padua. Their route was delimited by the two branches of the Bacchiglione, the Tronco Maestro and the Naviglio Interno, which came to be used as defensive ditches. There are several remains of them around the Castello and near Porta Molino. More minor remains are to be found in the Riviera Tito Livio and Riviera Albertino Mussato; the only gates to remain from this wall are the main north gate, Porta Molino (or Molini, after several mills in the area which functioned up to the early 20th century), and the main west gate, Porta Altinate (named after the road to Altino which began here).

(The Porta Molino‘s upper stories were used at the end of the 19th century as a reservoir for the town’s first drinking water system; tales of the tower being used as an observatory by Galileo Galilei during his time in the city are probably false. The Porta Altinate fronted onto the Naviglio Interno, crossed by an ancient Roman three-arch bridge, and in 1256 this gate was stormed and destroyed by crusaders fighting against Ezzelino da Romano [as recorded in an inscription recorded by Carlo Leoni].  It was rebuilt in 1286. The Naviglio and the bridge were buried in the 1960s.)

3. 14th century, the Mura Carraresi were built by the Carraresi in the 14th century and followed a route that would be followed almost by the later 16th century wall. Almost nothing remains of them the Mura Carraresi, since they were demolished during the War of the League of Cambrai to create the Renaissance wall.  However, some sections can be seen in via delle Dimesse, near the Prato della Valle.

4. The Mura Cinquecentesche (16th century Walls; aka the Mura rinascimentali or Mura Veneziane) were built to protect Padova by the Venetian Republic during the first decades of the 16th century. It was a project of the condottiero Bartolomeo d’Alviano.

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Canaletto, View of Padua from outside the city walls with the Church of San Francesco and the Palazzo della Salone

The Mura rinascimentali  were protected on their west flank by a canal known as the fossa Bastioni, which still exists. The Renaissance walls survive to this day, almost entirely unbroken apart from sections demolished in the 1960s to build the new Ospedale Civile.

 

The City Gates:

Nearly all the walls’ gates survive.  For even more information, see: http://digilander.libero.it/clapad5/padova/porte.html

Porta Savonarola – Completed in 1530. Designed by the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto, this gate was built with a frieze showing the Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic, which still survives. Picture below:

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Porta san Giovanni – Completed in 1528. Designed by the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto, this gate originally had a frieze showing the Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic (the frieze here was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars). Picture below:

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Porta Ognissanti (or Portello, Portello Nuovo or Portello Venezia) – Originally entitled Portello or Little Port, the gate was built at the terminus for the river trade along the Brenta between Padua and Venice. The present building replaces the Portello Vecchio, on what is now via San Massimo, but is rather different from the city’s other gates of this date – the external facade is adorned with shining rocks from Istria, with four pairs of columns surmounted by an architrave embellished with four trachyte cannonballs. The three-arch bridge carrying the road over the Canale Piovego and through the gate is guarded by two white stone lions. Stones in the gate (still legible today) commemorate the ancient origins of the town, speaking to “its good governance.” Since 1535, a clock stands out from the gate in Nanto stone. Traces of frescoes can also be seen inside the gate. 5 pictures below:

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Porta Liviana – Begun in 1509, it was completed in 1517 and named in honour of Bartolomeo d’Alviano himself.

Porta Santa Croce – On the site of a gate in the Carraresi wall, the present gate was begun in 1509 and was originally defended by a tower, demolished in 1632.

(For a walk to view the city walls, you can start from Piazza Garibaldi, where there is the medieval Porta Altinate (1286), one of the 3 oldest city gates,  with short sections of walls still visible at various points of the Ponte Romani and Tito Livio rivers, then walk along via San Fermo (with the church of the same name leaning against the city walls). Walk from the Largo Europe and the Riviera Mugnai until you reach the intersection with via Dante, then you arrive at the 2nd medieval gate, Porta Ponte Molino, with its large pointed arch surmounted by a mighty tower.)

 

The End of the Venetian Republic: 

In 1797, the Venetian Republic came to an end with the Treaty of Campo Formio, and Padua, like much of the Veneto, was ceded to the Habsburgs. In 1806, the city passed to the French puppet Kingdom of Italy until the fall of Napoleon, in 1814, when the city became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, part of the Austrian Empire.

Austrian rule was unpopular with progressive circles in northern Italy, but the feelings of the population (from the lower to the upper classes) towards the empire were mixed.

In Padua, the year of revolutions of 1848 saw a student revolt which on 8 February turned the University and the Caffè Pedrocchi into battlegrounds where students and Paduans fought side by side. The revolt was, however, short-lived and there were no further episodes of unrest under the Austrian Empire (nor previously had there been any), as in Venice or in other parts of Italy. The opponents of Austria were forced into exile.

Under Austrian rule, Padua began its industrial development; one of the first Italian rail tracks, Padua-Venice, was built in 1845. In 1866, the Battle of Königgrätz gave Italy the opportunity, as an ally of Prussia, to take Veneto, and Padova was also annexed to the recently formed Kingdom of Italy.

At that time, Padova was at the center of the poorest area of Northern Italy, as the Veneto was until the 1960s. Despite this, the city flourished in the following decades both economically and socially, developing its industry, being an important agricultural market and having a very important cultural and technological center as the University. The city hosted also a major military command and many regiments.

 

The 20th Century:

When Italy entered World War I on 24 May 1915, Padova was chosen as the main command of the Italian Army. The king, Vittorio Emanuele III, and the commander in chief, Cadorna, lived in Padua for the period of the war.

After the defeat of Italy in the battle of Caporetto in autumn 1917, the front line became the river Piave, only about 35 miles from Padua. This put the city in the range of the Austrian artillery. However, the Italian military command did not withdraw. The city was bombed several times, with about 100 civilian deaths. A memorable feat was Gabriele D’Annunzio’s flight to Vienna from the nearby San Pelagio Castle airfield.

In 1918, the threat to Padua was removed. In late October, the Italian Army won the decisive Battle of Vittorio Veneto, and the Austrian forces collapsed. The armistice was signed at Villa Giusti, Padua, on 3 November 1918.

During the war, industry grew rapidly, and this provided Padua with a base for further post-war development. In the years immediately following WWI, Padua grew outside the historical town, despite the fact that labor and social strife were rampant at the time.

As in many other areas in Italy, Padua experienced great social turmoil in the years immediately following World War I. The city was shaken by strikes and clashes, factories and fields were subject to occupation, and war veterans struggled to re-enter civilian life. Many supported a new political way, fascism.

As in other parts of Italy, the National Fascist Party in Padua soon came to be seen as the defender of property and order against revolution. Padua was  the site of one of the largest fascist mass rallies, with some 300,000 people reportedly attending one speech by Benito Mussolini.

 

New buildings, in fascist architectural style, sprang up in the city. Examples can be found today in the buildings surrounding Piazza Spalato (today Piazza Insurrezione), the railway station, the new part of City Hall, and part of the Palazzo Bo hosting the University.

Following Italy’s defeat in WWII on 8 September 1943, Padua became part of the Italian Social Republic, which was a puppet state of the Nazi occupiers. The city hosted the Ministry of Public Instruction of the new state, as well as military and militia commands and a military airport.

The Resistenza, the Italian partisans, was very active against both the new fascist rule and the Nazis. One of the main leaders of the Resistenza in the area was the University vice-chancellor Concetto Marchesi.

Toward the end of the war, as the Allied Command freed Italy from German occupation moving from south to north, Padua was unfortunately bombed several times by Allied planes. The worst hit areas were the railway station and the northern district of Arcella. Because of the location of the German command center in Padua, it was during one of these bombings that the Church of the Eremitani took a direct hit.  It was a miracle of sorts that the nearby Scrovegni Chapel was not hit as well.

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You can see on the map below how close the Scrovegni is to the church (Chiesa degli Eremitani on the map).

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Tragically, the Church of the Eremitani was graced with some of the finest frescoes by Andrea Mantegna and they were almost complete obliterated. This is considered by some art historians to be Italy’s biggest wartime cultural loss.

Art conservators have been able to do the almost impossible and stitch together the remnants of the frescoes as seen in the next picture. I’ll be posting about the frescoes soon.

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The city was liberated by partisans and the 2nd New Zealand Division of the British Eighth Army on 28 April 1945. A small Commonwealth War Cemetery is located in the west part of the city, commemorating the sacrifice of these troops.

After the war, the city developed rapidly, reflecting Veneto’s rise from being the poorest region in northern Italy to one of the richest and most economically active regions of modern Italy.

The subject of Padua is vast.  I’ll be posting yet more very soon.

Padova, a lovely historic town in the Veneto (Padua, part 1)

Lovely Padova, or Padua, is a city and comune in Veneto, northern Italy.  It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua’s population is 214,000 and when the city is included, with Venice (Venezia) and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), the sum population of around 2.5 million.

Padua stands on the Bacchiglione River, 25 miles west of Venice. The Brenta River, which once ran through the city, still touches the northern districts.

Its agricultural setting is the Venetian Plain (Pianura Veneta). To the city’s south west lies the Euganaean Hills, praised from time immemorial by Lucan and Martial and later by Petrarch, Ugo Foscolo, and Shelley.

Padua was the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and in and in Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick is named as Signior Benedick of Padua.” There is a play by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde entitled The Duchess of Padua.

The University of Padua, founded in 1222, is where later Galileo Galilei was a lecturer between 1592 and 1610.

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I was fortunate enough to pay a 2nd visit to Padova recently. I’d been once before, at least 30 years ago, just to see the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. I  had crystal clear, bright blue memories of that chapel and it has been high time, for some time, to pay another visit.  So off I went.  It was wonderful.

The main goal of my recent trip to Padua was to again see the Giotto frescoes.  Nowadays, with the continual press on all the cultural monuments in Italy due to mass tourism and inane “bucket lists,”  many sites have time limits on how long you can see the art. The Scrovegni Chapel has joined that rank.

You must book your visit at a particular time well in advance, arrive early to pick up your ticket, meet 10 mins before your time, be ushered into a waiting room and watch a (very interesting) film in Italian while you are “dehumidified”. Is this hocus pocus? I don’t know. But it’s fine.

The only issue I have is that you now enter the chapel with 19 other dehumidified persons and get to stay in the chapel for 15 minutes only and then you are ushered out and the next group is ushered in.

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But, before discussing the sublime Scrovegni Chapel, let me say a few words about the archaeological museum that is next door to the chapel.

In fact, the truth is that prior to my recent visit, I had not realized there was an archaeological museum in Padova, let alone attached to the same complex of buildings.  And I certainly did not know that Padova was home to such an amazing collection.

I arrived at the Scrovegni Chapel about 45 minutes early and checked in and got my ticket for my 1:00 o’clock visit.  The pleasant woman at the check-in desk suggested that I visit the museum when I was thinking aloud, hmmm…I wonder what I should do for the 45 minutes while I wait to visit the chapel.

I am so glad she made that suggestion.  I am already planning another visit to Padova later this fall, and you can bet that I’ll be spending a lot more time at this fine museum. Below are just a few pictures from my initial visit.

So…have you ever wondered what the inside of an Egyptian sarcophagus looks like?  I have.  Fortunately, the Padova museum exhibits one of their sarcophagi open, making both the outside and inside visible. Fascinating.

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The Musei Civici has many areas of collection and I just snapped some random pictures of some of the objets that caught my eye.  For example, I want to wear the headdress in this painting:

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Painting above: Young Woman in Oriental Clothes by Ginevra Cantofoli, Bologna 1618-1672

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Painting above: Young Man with turban by Ginevra Cantofoli, Bologna 1618-1672

Check out the amazing frame on painting below.  I’ve seen a lot of frames in my day, but this was a first!

Painting below: Armed Minerva by Pietro Liberi, 1614-87. Born in Padova, died in Venezia.  This modest little frame that captured my attention and my heart!

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Above, the front and back of a crucifix by Giotto.

Some other strange and/or wonderful works I spied on this visit:

 

 

Orazio Marinali, Head of Holofernes

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I mean, come on…anatomically correct with a severed spinal cord??

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Above and below: Filippo Parodi, Head of Spring, or Flora

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Love this one below for the frame, the painting, meh…Baby Bacchus by Marco Liberi. But the frame carver, now that’s a masterpiece!

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Likewise for the painting below, I can take or leave the painting (Sebastiano Mazzoni, Portrait of theVenetian Captain), but that frame…!

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This marble piece below was freaky, the way it combines 2 angel’s heads, showing them kind of like Siamese twins.

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Padova’s historic center is picturesque, with a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazze, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat.

The city is also known for being the city where Saint Anthony, a Portuguese Franciscan, spent part of his life and died in 1231. The huge pilgrimage church of Sant’ Antonio is a major feature of the city’s life and skyline.

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Although I don’t have a clear memory of it, I know I visited the Gattemelata equestrian statue by Donatello on my first visit to Padova. I have clear memories of it from this visit. Here it is:

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The name of the city, Padova, is derived from its Roman name Patavium. Its origin is uncertain. It may be connected with the ancient name of the River Po, (Padus). The root “pat-,” in the Indo-European language, can refer to a wide open plain as opposed to nearby hills.  The suffix “-av” (also found in the name of the rivers such as the Timavus and Tiliaventum) is likely of Venetic origin, precisely indicating the presence of a river, which in the case of Padua is the Brenta.

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Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy. According to a tradition dated at least to the time of Virgil’s Aeneid and to Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, Padova was founded in around 1183 BC by the Trojan prince Antenor.

After the Fall of Troy, Antenor led a group of Trojans and their Paphlagonian allies, the Eneti or Veneti, who lost their king Pylaemenes to settle the Euganean plain in Italy. Thus, when a large ancient stone sarcophagus was exhumed in the year 1274, officials of the medieval commune declared the remains within to be those of Antenor. An inscription by the native Humanist scholar Lovato dei Lovati placed near the tomb reads:

This sepulchre excavated from marble contains the body of the noble Antenor who left his country, guided the Eneti and Trojans, banished the Euganeans and founded Padua.

More recent tests suggest the sepulchre dates to the between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

Nevertheless, archeological remains confirm an early date for the foundation of the center of the town to between the 11th and 10th centuries BC. By the 5th century BC, Padova rose on the banks of the river Brenta and was one of the principal centers of the Veneti.

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The Roman historian Livy records an attempted invasion by the Spartan king Cleonimos around 302 BC. The Spartans came up the river but were defeated by the Veneti in a naval battle and gave up the idea of conquest.

Still later, the Veneti of Padua successfully repulsed invasions by the Etruscans and Gauls. According to Livy and Silius Italicus, the Veneti, including those of Padova, formed an alliance with the Romans by 226 BC against their common enemies, first the Gauls and then the Carthaginians. Men from Padova fought and died beside the Romans at Cannae.

With Rome’s northwards expansion, Padova was gradually assimilated into the Roman Republic. In 175 BC, Padova requested the aid of Rome in putting down a local civil war. In 91 BC, Padova, along with other cities of the Veneti, fought with Rome against the rebels in the Social War.

Around 49 (or 45 or 43) BC, Padova was made a Roman municipium under the Lex Julia Municipalis and its citizens ascribed to the Roman tribe, Fabia. At that time the population of the city was perhaps 40,000.

The city was reputed for its excellent breed of horses and the wool of its sheep. In fact, the poet Martial remarks on the thickness of the tunics made there. By the end of the 1st century BC, Padova seems to have been the wealthiest city in Italy outside of Rome.

The city became so powerful that it was reportedly able to raise two hundred thousand fighting men. However, despite its wealth, the city was also renowned for its simple manners and strict morality. This concern with morality is reflected in Livy’s Roman History (XLIII.13.2) wherein he portrays Rome’s rise to dominance as being founded upon her moral rectitude and discipline.

Still later, Pliny, referring to one of his Padovan protégés’ grandmother, Sarrana Procula, lauds her as more upright and disciplined than any of her strict fellow citizens (Epist. i.xiv.6).

Padova also provided the Empire with notable intellectuals. Nearby Abano was the birthplace, and after many years spent in Rome, the deathplace of Livy, whose Latin was said by the critic Asinius Pollio to betray his Patavinitas (q.v. Quintilian, Inst. Or. viii.i.3). Padova was also the birthplace of Thrasea Paetus, Asconius Pedianus, and perhaps Valerius Flaccus.

Christianity was introduced to Padua and much of the Veneto by Saint Prosdocimus. He is venerated as the first bishop of the city. His deacon, the Jewish convert Daniel, is also a saintly patron of the city.

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The history of Padua during Late Antiquity follows the course of events common to most cities of north-eastern Italy. Padua suffered from the invasion of the Huns and was savagely sacked by Attila in 450. A number of years afterward, it fell under the control of the Gothic kings Odoacer and Theodoric the Great.

It was reconquered for a short time by the Byzantine Empire in 540 during the Gothic War. However, depopulation from plague and war ensued.

The city was again seized by the Goths under Totila, but was restored to the Eastern Empire by Narses only to fall under the control of the Lombards in 568. During these years, many of Paduans sought safety in the countryside and especially in the nearby lagoons of what would become Venice.

In 601, the city rose in revolt against Agilulf, the Lombard king who put the city under siege. After enduring a 12-year-long bloody siege, the Lombards stormed and burned the city. Many ancient artifacts and buildings were seriously damaged.

The remains of an amphitheater (the Arena) and some bridge foundations are all that remain of Roman Padua today. The townspeople fled to the hills and later returned to eke out a living among the ruins; the ruling class abandoned the city for the Venetian Lagoon, according to a chronicle. The city did not easily recover from this blow, and Padua was still weak when the Franks succeeded the Lombards as masters of northern Italy.

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At the Diet of Aix-la-Chapelle (828), the duchy and march of Friuli, in which Padova lay, was divided into four counties, one of which took its title from the city of Padova.

The end of the early Middle Ages at Padova was marked by the sack of the city by the Magyars in 899. It was many years before Padua recovered from this ravage.

During the period of episcopal supremacy over the cities of northern Italy, Padova does not appear to have been either very important or very active. The general tendency of its policy throughout the war of investitures was Imperial (Ghibelline) and not Roman (Guelph); and its bishops were, for the most part, of German extraction.

However, under the surface, several important movements were taking place that were to prove formative for the later development of Padova.

At the beginning of the 11th century, the citizens established a constitution, composed of a general council or legislative assembly and a credenza or executive body.

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During the next century they were engaged in wars with Venice and Vicenza for the right of water-way on the Bacchiglione and the Brenta. The city grew in power and self-confidence and in 1138, government was entrusted to two consuls.

The great families of Camposampiero, Este and Da Romano began to emerge and to divide the Paduan district among themselves. The citizens, in order to protect their liberties, were obliged to elect a podestà in 1178. Their choice first fell on one of the Este family.

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A fire devastated Padua in 1174. This required the virtual rebuilding of the city.

The temporary success of the Lombard League helped to strengthen the towns. However, their civic jealousy soon reduced them to weakness again. As a result, in 1236 Frederick II found little difficulty in establishing his vicar Ezzelino III da Romano in Padua and the neighboring cities, where he practised frightful cruelties on the inhabitants. Ezzelino was unseated in June 1256 without civilian bloodshed, thanks to Pope Alexander IV.

Padova then enjoyed a period of calm and prosperity: the basilica of the saint was begun; and the Paduans became masters of Vicenza. The University of Padua (the second university in Italy, after Bologna) was founded in 1222, and as it flourished in the 13th century, Padua outpaced Bologna, where no effort had been made to expand the revival of classical precedents beyond the field of jurisprudence, to become a center of early humanist researches, with a first-hand knowledge of Roman poets that was unrivaled in Italy or beyond the Alps.

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There is so much more to the story of Padova.  I’ll be posting about it soon.

 

 

 

 

 

The Venice Carnival, opening February 16, 2019

These are my pictures of the carnivale from 2017.  I can hardly believe that I never got around to posting them.  It was a wild, exuberant experience I will never forget.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s event: https://veniceevents.com/news-blogs/venice-carnival-2019-dates-and-events

And now, finally, 2 years late, my photos:

 

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I was in Venice in 2017 for the water parade. Amazing floats skimmed along the Rio di Cannaregio waterways. It was quite a spectacle.  I managed to get a bird’s eye view in the 2nd floor home of a perfect stranger, a delightful Venetian man and his wife!  All of these images were shot from their window.

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As I left, I got a couple of shots of the delightful Venetian man who shared his window with me and a woman from Russia who went with me to Venice.

 

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The Russian woman (we were classmates in Italian language school in Florence) wanted to buy an elaborate mask and she did!

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The wigs available in Venice at this time of year are astounding.

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And the costumes, oh my Lord!

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Santa Maria della Salute, possibly the world’s most beautiful church and location.

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