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E is for Emperor

There are thousands of pieces of art on the streets of Venice (“scultura esterna” means “outdoor sculpture"), and this emperor is one of the most interesting and also most mysterious. Everyone agrees that he’s a Byzantine emperor but which one? When and how did he end up in Venice? And were there once two of them, now separated?

Campiello Angaran

Some sources believe that this marble medallion shows Emperor Leo VI the Wise, who ruled the Byzantine empire from 886-911 AD. Others think that the relief shows Emperor Isaac II Angelus (1185-1195) or perhaps his brother, Alexis.

There’s a similar piece in the Byzantine collection at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. This other medallion came from Venice and might have been a companion piece to the one still there, leading to the possibility that the emperors depicted were father and son team, Alexios I and John II, who reigned jointly (1092-1118).

Most sources think that the sculpture was brought to Venice from Constantinople along with so much other loot the Venetians stole from that city during the Crusades. But there’s another story that a Venetian general sent the medallion home to Venice from the Holy Land as a spoil of war in 1256.

Campiello Angaran

What’s amazing to me is that it’s still outside, exposed to the elements, and not in a museum. Evidently museums have tried to acquire it, but the owners of the house where it resides won’t give it up (though they have allowed it to be removed and exhibited at times).

The photos below show the entrance to the house (in Campiello Angaran close to the church of San Pantalon) and there’s another mystery, the four scallop shells flanking the emperor. The scallop shell is a symbol of St. James but why are they there? And something I just noticed last night. The first photo was taken in 2008, the second in 2010, and you can see that some pink stucco was added but only to the right side. Why only half?

Many unanswered questions!


Campiello Angaran


Campiello Angaran

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Comments (15)

I would enjoy Venice so much...I'm sure I would!

I THINK (because one can never be certain about Venice!) that one owner (right hand side, 5717) did the pink stucco, and the other owner (left side, different civic number) didn't like pink!

I found Calle Cappello, thank you!

Behold, you bring us a mystery!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Fascinating post. In a way, I think it's more interesting having it stay outside that house than to put it in a museum. There is something wonderful about it in the peeling stucco. I'm silly but I'm glad only half the stucco was replaced. It has a charm about it that way. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

PS
I won't give up on snow until St. Patrick's day. That's the latest we've had snow that I remember and granted it didn't last. The early March snows are the only that seem to accumulate and those also melt with a few days.

The reason I remember St. Patrick's day is that was in 2005 and I was going to UNC for my post op visit and to learn about the biopsies, 2 weeks following a lymph node dissection for melanoma. A friend who took me since I wasn't supposed to drive yet had brought green beads for both of us to wear and we couldn't believe it was snowing on the way there for St. Patrick's day. The nurses and doctors commented on our green beads which at least gave the illusion that I was doing alright with all the nasty stuff (the cancer being the nasty stuff, the snow was the fun and pretty stuff).

Possibly two numbers on the house, two different owners?... Regardless, a fascinating post.

Very interesting post...I don't think I would give it up if it were my house...

ann:

Very interesting!

Fascinating information and a mystery. Thanks for sharing.

Beautiful marble medallion. It has withstood the test of time and nature.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, cool post for this week's letter. What an interesting historical background about the emperor. The elements of the weather and possible theft would worry me to have such a historical piece hang out of my house, but I guess I can't blame the owner for wanting to keep it. At least it is outside for the public to enjoy. And I actually like the look without the pink stucco better.:)

Thanks so much for sharing.

Marvellous! Thank you for sharing Annie.

♥ Regina

Joy:

Fascinating historical mystery, you could weave a whole story behind it. Must be a treat to come upon it unexpectedly, I'm glad it is in Venice, part of a living structure rather than in a museum.

Interestingly intriguing! I thought the same thing - two houses/two owners. Great post, A!

Bert:

Those 5s and 3s are so confusing! It's 3717 and 3718(Dorsoduro).
You have found out a lot that I didn't know, Annie.

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