Our recent jaunt to Venice and Ravenna provided more than the usual amount of food for thought, so while I ponder further on Titian and Rubens, peacocks, camels, women painters, Francesco Morosini and silence, here are some pictures which I took just because the subjects were so fascinating, and not because I was pursuing a theme.
This set of china tea cups and bowls, produced at the Antibon factory in Nove, near Vicenza (still an important town for ceramics manufacture), can be dated to very soon after 1783, when the Montgolfier brothers first sent up a balloon. Pasquale Antibon, son of the firm’s founder, developed his own porcelain formula in 1762, thus creating ‘white gold’ to rival that made in Meissen since the early 1720s.
Two gorgeous pietra dura tables. also at Ca’ Rezzonico: the first depicts a phoenix immolating itself, and the second Orpheus, playing to a very cuddly-looking group of animals.
The tomb, at the church of Sta Maria and S. Donato on Murano, of the Venetian Gerardo Sagredo (c.1000–46), apostle to the Hungarians and bishop of Csanád. He was martyred (in one version of his hagiography) by being rolled down a hill inside a nail-studded barrel. Plaques and other notices around the tomb show that Hungarians visit it.
Three examples of the twelfth-century mosaics in the church: two cocks carry a dead fox to his funeral; an eagle swoops down on a dappled fawn; an eagle snatches up a dove. The first time we went to Murano, in the early 2000s, most of the floor was invisible, undergoing serious restoration.
At Ravenna, in the ‘Tomb of Galla Placidia’, a bookcase contains the four Gospels: to the right, the gridiron on which St Laurence is to be martyred is heating up nicely.
Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, in the entrance to the chapel of San Andrea in the archbishop’s palace complex in Ravenna. He treads down a lion and a snake. The barrel-vault ceiling above is alive with small birds.
Also in the archiepiscopal museum is a computus, for calculating the date of Easter: I’d never seen a ‘live’ one before. (Don’t ask me how it works.)
A mallard on the floor in San Vitale, Ravenna.
I was very excited to see that these tiny pomegranates (only about twice the size of my own, grown from seed) outside a restaurant in Ravenna are already fruiting – though I imagine that they are a dwarfing variety.
This is the casket that (allegedly) contained the remains of Sts Cyriac and Julitta, to whom one of the two churches at Swaffham Prior near Cambridge is dedicated. This side shows the presentation of gifts by the Magi, and is reminiscent of the same scene in mosaic in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (below).
The church of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe (just outside Ravenna) is one of those places (like Torcello or Durham cathedral) which always brings tears to my eyes … Sant’ Apollinare, like his Master, is a good shepherd to his happy flock as they graze among the flowers.
Outside the city art gallery in Ravenna, a golden glass haystack.
And finally (though I could, as always, go on and on), a lovely detail from an anonymous ‘Triumph of David’ in the archiepiscopal palace. The young David sits with Goliath’s head on his upright sword; behind him is Saul’s general, Abner. A dog looks up at the passing show, while among the flowers strewn on the road is a Tulipa acuminata.