Venice: Pure City
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial—a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city.
The Venetians’ language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This latest work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its readers to that sensual and surprising city.
His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists—Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. And the ever-present undertone of Venice’s shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, scandals and seductions.
Ackroyd’s Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a number of themes. History and context are provided in each chapter, but Ackroyd’s portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide—reading Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.
From the Hardcover edition.
were purple. What is the colour of the waters in the canals and in the lagoon? They have variously been described as jade green, lilac, pale blue, brown, smoky pink, lavender, violet, heliotrope, dove grey. After a storm the colour changes as the water becomes aerated. On a hot afternoon the waters may seem orange. The colours of the sky, and the colours of the city, are refracted in little ovals of ochre and blue. It is all colours and no colour. It reflects, and does not own, colour. It becomes
Tintoretto and Veronese were two of the contestants. It was agreed that each artist should submit a design for the central ceiling panel of the room. The artists went away and began work, but Tintoretto had no intention of sketching a design. He obtained the measurements of the panel and began work at once upon a large canvas. The artists gathered one morning, with their designs ready for scrutiny, but Tintoretto had forestalled them. He had brought the completed canvas to the hall a day or two
that the spirit is hidden in water like the fish. Venice has been depicted as a fish. This wondrous water, infused with spirit, represents the cycle of birth and death. But if water is the image of the unconscious life, it thereby harbours strange visions and desires. The close affiliation of Venice and water encourages sexual desire; it has been said to loosen the muscles, by human imitation of its flow, and to enervate the blood. Yet Venice reflects upon its own reflection in the water. It has
occupation. They congregated in Saint Mark’s Square and demanded the release of a Jewish lawyer, Daniele Manin, who had been imprisoned for uttering patriotic Venetian sentiments. The Arsenal was captured by the local people. In the face of general insurrection, with which they could not adequately deal, the Austrian army agreed to withdraw from Venice and retired by sea to Trieste. On 22 March Manin was declared to be president of a newly formed republic. When he was told that the people were
issue. There soon grew up a legend that Mark had been bishop of Aquileia, to the north of the lagoon, before ever becoming bishop of Alexandria. And in any case the fact that the transition had been made with the blessing of Mark himself proved its benefaction. God’s will had been done. Otherwise the theft would not have succeeded. It is one of those circular arguments that are very difficult to break. In the thirteenth century another layer of the story was added. It was claimed that Saint Mark,