This exhibition of 50 18th century paintings of La Serenissima caught my critical eye as well as my heart. On the one year anniversary of my internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection I find myself reminiscing about my three months in the city of light. These paintings, the predecessors to the kitsch souvenirs and postcards of today, capture this magical city and perpetuate the myth of this watery deamland, straddling the line between charmed and profane. Although her architecture is sophisticated and often imposing (especially Palladio’s churches and the Campanile), Venezia’s real majesty lies in the way she perpetually defies nature, often slowly and tragically losing the battle. She is so whimsically impractical with her gondolas and sinking buildings, it is irresistible. As Thomas Mann so compellingly put it in Death in Venice:
He saw it once more, that landing-place that takes the breath away, that amazing
group of incredible structures the Republic set up to meet the awe-struck eye of the
approaching seafarer: the airy splendour of the palace and Bridge of Sighs, the columns
of lion and saint on the shore, the glory of the projecting flank of the fairy temple, the
vista of gateway and clock. Looking, he thought that to come to Venice by the station is
like entering a palace by the back door. No one should approach, save by the high seas as he was doing now, this most improbable of cities.