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Torcello in art

A few works of art depicting Torcello. This lovely drawing is by John Ruskin~


And another Ruskin drawing, this one comparing the capitals of Torcello's Santa Maria Assunta with those of San Marco~

Ruskins capitals

A Torcello landscape by frequent visitor, Sir Winston Churchill~

Churchill (torcello)

A 1902 watercolour of the church of Santa Fosca by Mary K. Fell~


A painting of the rood screen in the Torcello cathedral by Scottish artist Anne Redpath~


Not a painting of Torcello but one that came from one of the island's many demolished churches. This detail, the Vision of St. John the Evangelist, is from the much larger "Polyptych of the Apocalypse" painted in 1360-90 by artist Jacobello Alberegno. This work, once in Torcello's church of San Giovanni Evangelista, can now be seen in Venice in the Accademia.


I started my Torcello series with Henry James' quote about "enchantment lurks in it." Here's the complete text from his book, Italian Hours:

"The mere use of one's eyes in Venice is happiness enough, and generous observers find it hard to keep an account of their profits in this line…the light here is in fact a mighty magician and, with all respect to Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, the greatest artist of them all…

Choose the finest day in the month and have yourself rowed far away across the lagoon to Torcello. Without making this excursion you can hardly pretend to know Venice or to sympathise with that longing for pure radiance which animated her great colourists. It is a perfect bath of light, and I couldn't get rid of a fancy that we were cleaving the upper atmosphere on some hurrying cloud-skiff.

At Torcello there is nothing but the light to see-- nothing at least but a sort of blooming sand-bar intersected by a single narrow creek which does duty as a canal and occupied by a meagre cluster of huts, the dwellings apparently of market-gardeners and fishermen, and by a ruinous church of the eleventh century. It is impossible to imagine a more penetrating case of unheeded collapse. Torcello was the mother-city of Venice, and she lies there now, a mere mouldering vestige, like a group of weather-bleached parental bones left impiously unburied.

I stopped my gondola at the mouth of the shallow inlet and walked along the grass beside a hedge to the low-browed, crumbling cathedral. The charm of certain vacant grassy spaces in Italy, overfrowned by masses of brickwork that are honeycombed by the suns of centuries, is something that I hereby renounce once for all the attempt to express; but you may be sure that whenever I mention such a spot, enchantment lurks in it.

A delicious stillness covered the little campo at Torcello…there was no life but the visible tremor of the brilliant air."


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Comments (8)

Thanks for sharing this great art, Annie. I love Henry James' phrase "delicious stillness."


Oh sigh...and sigh again...

What beautiful images and words...I loved this Torcello series, Annie. You really should write a book on Venice and nearby places!! Your passion and knowledge are amazing!


What Anne said!!!

Really, Annie, the art is really lovely -- I especially like the drama of the Redpath. And I love James's words: "the light here is in fact a mighty magician..." There really is something about the light in Italy that is unlike anything I've seen anywhere else!!

BTW, I've been watching the first disc of Schama's "Power of Art" which includes his very lively pieces on Caravaggio, Bernini and Rembrandt (a very interesting mix!) Schama's an interesting mix of scholar and showman. And the production values are fabulous. Thanks so much for recommending the series; I hope Zip (Netflix) sends me more soon!

Ah, the art and the words are truly works of creativity. I also picked out the same James' words as Candi: "A delicious stillness covered the little campo at Torcello…there was no life but the visible tremor of the brilliant air."

Thanks! m

PS: Have you heard from Kathy (Trekcapri) - just hoping everything is okay!

M, I sent you an email. I haven't heard from her and am starting to get a little worried.

Love the watercolor paintings! Great post.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 9, 2010 1:13 PM.

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