Never Disappointed

I love the Museo Fortuny. It never disappoints.

The first floor was devoted to photos by women, and mostly of women. Many biggies like Julia Margaret Cameron, Leni Riefenstahl, Diane Arbus, and Margaret Bourke-White, plus new photographers to discover. Many nudes, every attitude. A buxom woman squashed up against a piece of clear glass, seen from below. Two different studies of women drowned in ponds, a la Ophelia. Sad eyes, blank eyes. Women with bodies covered but faces hidden in cocoons. Women clothed in bacon. Come to think of it, most showed oppression, sadness, blankness, rather than joy, agency, or liberty. Still, I wanted to caress the photos, lick them, do something more than just look at them.

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“A woman is a mirror for a man” was the title of a 1975 photo by Francesca Woodman. The museum continued this theme with a chair that had a mirror for a back, and a large mirror at the end of the room, so while I stood looking at photos, I was surprised to realize I was looking back at myself from the corner of my eye.

Then the always astonishing second floor, which makes me feel like I’ve entered Mariano Fortuny’s living room. Ah, couches! With deep squishy cushions! I could live here, hide behind the cushions at the closing hour, then creep out like a mouse and explore the room in the dark, feeling the Mishima glass sculptures with my hands. Or climb the wooden ladder and sit with the wooden mannequin and gaze out with wooden eyes into the dark.



The left side room is walled with frescoes. Fortuny had a thing for women’s backs, I believe, their shoulder blades and necks and flowing hair. It’s mirrored again on the far wall of the second floor on which hang 6 or 7 paintings of women from the back, in that romantic softness of a different century than ours.


Lots more photos by Dora Maar on this floor. A whole room where she documented the metamorphosis of Picasso’s Guernica. Also a boat riding the waves of a woman’s hair.

Of course, I entered the James Turrell “Red Shift” room reverently. It was red. I reached my hand into the infinity and felt that stomach flutter of vertigo. Behind me a couple entered, gazed for 15 seconds, then departed. They didn’t know. “Red Shift” shifted to indigo. I reached into indigo infinity. Another couple entered and almost immediately turned on their heels to depart. They didn’t know about infinity! I wanted to run after them and tell them, but I didn’t.


The third floor is the light to the second floor’s darkness. My shoes squeaked so terribly on the terrazzo floor, disturbing the quiet, that I wanted to take them off, but the guard apologized and said the noise “non e’ importa” but I must wear my shoes. Thirty seconds of floor had been so cool and smooth.


A nice final surprise–in the gift shop was working the same women whom I had talked to at the Murano glass museum, the one who had helped me research information. She told me that she had searched some more, and even contacted a friend, but that she could not find the information I wanted. What a coincidence and what a nice person!


About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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4 Responses to Never Disappointed

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    This sounds like a wonderful museum. Part of this sounds like “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”

  2. Yes! Or someone’s magical closet.

  3. Jo'anne says:

    ….. Fortuny will be on my ‘list’ for my next trip to Venice! It was closed for renovation when I got there (about two weeks after you did)! Speaking of Margaret Bourke-White: I saw an exhibition of her photos in The Hague, earlier this year. Wonderful. What a remarkable and brave lady.

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