Interviewed by Mona Lisa

Well, not exactly, but I got your attention! Mona Lisa never lived in Venice or was a gondolier, but she was a Beautiful Woman, so I guess the topic fits in my blog.

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I was actually interviewed by the AUTHOR of Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, Dianne Hales. Turns out we live only a couple hours away from each other, and she’s working on a new book about passion–in all the raucous forms it takes. A mutual friend disclosed the secret that I’m absurdly passionate about Venice, so Dianne and I met at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco and had a lovely conversation. I’m confident that Dianne can make something interesting of my inane gushing.

But back to Mona Lisa. I recently finished reading Dianne’s book and thoroughly enjoyed being transported to a Renaissance Italian city other than Venice. Dianne includes not only the information she unearths about Mona Lisa’s family and Leonardo Da Vinci’s life, but she also recounts her own journey, which included dangerous forays to Tuscan villas and perilous glasses of wine. I posted a review on Amazon and Goodreads if you’d like to check it out. Mona Lisa review

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Next I’m dipping a toe into Dianne’s earlier book La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language. Her writing style is so seamless and fun to read, and I look forward to this next literary adventure.

(Thanks to this Pinterest site for the Mona Lisa on a gondola pic: https://www.pinterest.com/marieclaireart/ɽọω-ƴọʊґ-ɓọąᎿ/)

 

 

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Casanova Location Gets Recognized

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A friend recently sent me this photo. I knew about this general location, where Casanova aided Bragadin after the party, but I didn’t know that someone had found the precise site of the former caffe. Or did they? Is this sign an approximation? And who put up this sign? A couple friends of mine in Venice have been trying to get permission to mark more Casanova sites and have been refused. So how did this one come to be there?

Does anyone have more info on this? If you’re in Venice, can you go to this place and ask the local shop owners if they know anything else?

And by the way, don’t you love that they used the word “maecenas”?? I’m not going to define that right now, because I know I have a few followers who will have a lot of fun explaining the reference.  🙂

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Venice: Writing Under the Influence

I wish that were my title, but it actually belongs to a little book of poems by Rita Bottoms. I am often “under the influence” of Venice, so this book appealed to me. Turns out that Rita also has a larger-format book titled Riffs & Ecstasies: Venice, which includes many of the same poems, and they’re paired with photos and paintings by her husband Tom. If you want to see one, visit Rita’s Facebook page, which shows the arcade in front of Florian Caffe, the perspective inviting you past the Florian windows and signature tables down to the light flooding the Piazzetta.

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I enjoy coffee at Florian Caffe

Rita and I apparently share a love for some specific Venetian delights, such as the Drogheria Mascari, which she rhapsodizes about in one poem. She liberally sprinkles in Italian words here, listing the spices passersby might see in the window–a window I myself can never pass without pausing to admire the colorful view. We also both love mirrors. Rita mentions some of her favorite mirrors in Venice, and her husband features the mirror in the restaurant Al Peoceto Risorto in one of his paintings. (I’ve actually named my publishing imprint Ca’ Specchio, House of Mirrors, in recognition of the many mirrors in my house.)

Of course, one of my other favorite Venetian items shows up multiple times in Riffs & Ecstasies–the gondola. Both paintings and poems capture that black boat and its stripe-shirted master. Rita writes about leaving a piece of herself behind in the Grand Canal when she’s out on the water.

Rita reached out to me recently via email and shared her books with me. What a delight! If you need a Venice fix, check out her and her husband’s work.

(Photo of Drogheria Mascari comes from https://everplaces.com/nbm/places/03f1fa0f87e1429aa81015dd4849679e/. All other photos are my own.)
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Redefining Beauty: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

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Palazzo Loredan, home of Elena Cornaro Piscopia

Remarkable women have been thwarted throughout the centuries. One story that never fails to break my heart is the story of Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in the world to earn a university degree.

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Watch this video to learn her story and why it pains me to tell it to you, or click on this link if you are viewing this blog on your phone: Elena Cornaro Piscopia video

But I shouldn’t open with that sad introduction to her life. Really, she should be lauded and applauded and remembered for her accomplishments. She was a deft mathematician, spoke numerous languages, was an accomplished singer and musician, studied philosophy, theology, astronomy, and so much more. After becoming a Benedictine oblate in her teens, she devoted her life to study and to doing good works for others, often giving her meals and clothing away to those less fortunate than her.

To tell her story, I’m standing in front of her family’s palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, the Palazzo Loredan.

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Palazzo Loredan (Cornaro Piscopia)

One of Elena’s joys was to go with her Nonnina (her nurse Lorenza) to the nearby Church of San Luca to pray. It’s not too hard to picture her there.

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S Luca

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If you would like to learn a fuller story of her life, I have a chapter on Elena Cornaro Piscopia in my book A Beautiful Woman in Venice, which you can learn more about here: http://kathleenanngonzalez.wixsite.com/beautifulwoman
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Dancing the Casanova Dance

 

33161_fullScantily-clad ballet dancers? Okay!

Casanova’s life has been depicted as numerous films, TV dramas, graphic novels, fiction, and cartoons. The latest–a ballet.

Check out the website here: Casanova by Northern Ballet

There’s a trailer, behind the scenes video, some stills shots, and more, and finally the plot outline.

Choreographer Kenneth Tindall has taken parts of C’s life and created a new narrative in dance. As someone who has spent years reading and writing about Casanova, my first reaction is annoyance that they’ve taken such liberties with C’s story. The website outlines the ballet’s plot, and, while principle characters and some events are true, great liberties are fabricated. So the purist in me rebels.

But the dancers and costumes and scenes look so lush and sexy, that it’s hard to not be pulled toward them.  Besides, what is art if it is not about creation? Tindall was inspired by C’s life and used it as a starting point to create his own work of art. In this podcast where he is interviewed, he shows his admiration for Casanova, particularly pointing out that Casanova was about so much more than just seduction (though the ballet website’s images only promote the sexy part). In fact, the ballet ends with Casanova yearning to pursue writing.

Here’s a link to the podcast. The first 20 minutes is about Tindall himself and his start as a dancer; if you wish to hear just about the Casanova ballet, skip ahead to 19:05.

Podcast: interview with choreographer Kenneth Tindall

Kenneth Tindall also talks about working with Ian Kelly, who wrote the biography titled Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy. Tindall initially only knew of Casanova as the great seducer, which is where most people’s knowledge ends. He then learned C’s full story and became fascinated by the man, the times, and the place, which he tries to bring to life through dance.

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How I wish I could see the production in person! It premieres in March and runs through May. I’m pretty sure there’s no way I can get there to see it, given the cost of a plane ticket and my limited time off from work during that period. Those of you who do go, please write and tell me what you think. I’d also love to hear from you all about your opinions regarding the creative process of art–Is it okay to take a real life and deviate so drastically from the facts? What is gained and what is lost? Should we all be purists or should we sometimes shut off that voice and let a different part of us take over?

Thanks to my friend Linda for telling me about the podcast.

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New Book About Our Man C!

Laurence Bergreen’s new book about Casanova is finally available! It’s titled Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius (just a little reminiscent of my own title, Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps.) I got my copy a couple days ago and have dived right in. Looks like he organizes the information around the women in Casanova’s life, reminiscent of Judith Summer’s book Casanova’s Women. The book is also divided into the first half of C’s life, primarily in Venice, and the second half, primarily outside Venice. Bergreen quotes liberally from Casanova’s memoirs–always a good choice considering that C could turn a phrase with wit and erudition.

The New York Times ran this review, which is a bit more of a summary of C’s life than it is a review of Bergreen’s book:

Or click on this link if you’re viewing this on your phone:

Book review

I met Laurence almost exactly a year ago at the Casanova conference at UCLA. (In fact, you can see my blog post from then, showing how Laurence signed his Marco Polo book for me.) And here’s some happy news: My book appears in Bergen’s bibliography! He had contacted me a few years ago and used my research. I also got a brief mention on his acknowledgements page. I’m the last name in the next-to-last paragraph. Woohoo! I may be a small fry writer, but it turns out that my research has been useful!

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Venice Wins a Medal!

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What is it??

That’s what I was wondering when I received this gift from my generous friend Marco. He sent it as a birthday gift all the way from the Netherlands. It’s heavy, it’s abstract, it’s about Venice….but really, what is it?

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After a bit of searching, I finally found this link with details. The text is in blue.

Unesco medal

The devastating floods in Venice and Florence in 1966 rendered thousands of people homeless and destroyed priceless works of art, a disaster to which UNESCO immediately responded by launching an international campaign. When its numismatic programme started in 1974, UNESCO minted one of its earliest medals to mark this event.

Founded in the fifth century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the tenth century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists. Venice and its lagoon were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987. 

The medal was designed by Italian sculptor Pietro Consagra, many of whose works are closely identified with Venice. The obverse side shows an abstract spiral, characteristic of Consagra’s style. The reverse features another abstract rendition of man’s role in a changing environment, with the inscription Pro Venezia, UNESCO.

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Thanks, Marco, for sharing this medallion with me that I might share it with others.

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