Another Use for Campo San Polo

People dressed as clowns lasso bulls and oxen. Dogs bite at men fallen to the ground, and black hatted officials brandish swords. Masked ladies and men in plumed hats ogle the scene from their balconies. While children scuttle over the well head, other folks flee in terror.


Joseph Heintz the Younger painted this scene in the 17th century of bull baiting in Campo San Polo, in Venice. Venetian entertainments were varied, from opera to comedy, concerts to clowns, regattas and card games. As in many parts of Europe, bull baiting and bear baiting offered another form of entertainment, where animals were taunted and teased into a frenzy as people tried to lasso or capture them. Bets were certainly placed. It looks here like barely controlled chaos.



Here’s a more recent picture of Campo San Polo, though this shot is taken from the  opposite end. (Sorry, I’m not in Venice right now to go get a shot from the proper angle!) Following it is a shot of the Palazzo Soranzo, which can be seen on the right side of the painting, though it looks quite different. The current building actually consists of two of the previous buildings joined together.

Campo S PoloPal Soranzo 1

Nowadays, the entertainment in Campo San Polo includes summertime outdoor movies, and a winter skating rink. I’m pretty sure they don’t allow oxen onto the ice, though I once saw for sale sausages that look like little piglets.IMG_1997IMG_2001

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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1 Response to Another Use for Campo San Polo

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    And the English used to tie a bull or bear to a stake and then turn dogs on it, laying bets about whether the dogs would defeat the bull or vice versa. I’ll never understand this kind of amusement. But the painting is great. I hope someday I can see it in person.

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