VENICE, THE CITY OF TITIAN
 "Venice was precisely fitted for the part her painters had to play. Free,
isolated, wealthy, powerful; Venice, with her pavement of liquid chrysoprase
and her palaces of porphyry and marble, her frescoed facades, her quays and
squares aglow with the costumes of the Levant, her lagoons afloat with the
galleys of all nations, her churches floored with mosaics, her silvery domes
and ceilings glittering with sculpture bated in molten gold; Venice asleep
like a miracle of opal or of pearl upon the bosom of an undulating lake—here
and here only on the face of the whole globe was the unique city wherein the
pride of life might combine with the luster of the physical universe to create
and stimulate in the artist a sense of all that was most sumptuous in the
pageant of the world of sense."
SOMETIME in the fifth century, when the barbarians of the North were swarming
down upon Italy, killing and destroying everything which stood in their way,
a company of some forty thousand terrified men, women and children fled for
safety to some islands near the head of the Adriatic. Here they founded what,
in those early days, they called the Rialto. About this center grew what we
safely may denominate the most wonderful city of modern times Venice—the
"Bride of the sea," "white
 water-lily of cities," "Queen of the Adriatic," or any other fine name that
the imagination can conjure up.
THE RIALTO, VENICE
Some may dispute our naming it the most wonderful city of modern times, but
none can gainsay that it is the most unique. Situated on more than seventy
islands, connected by numerous bridges, with no streets but the soundless
water-ways, with no conveyances but the shapely gondolas with their
parti-colored awnings, with no fields or waving forests, it is indeed
the dream city that poets have loved to picture. It is a city to the
heart's desire of any artist, whether he be a disciple of color or of
line. Let us for a moment study a few of the things that would appeal
to the colorist.
The matchless play of light, the reflected hues brought out by the Italian
sun which transforms even the mists into gorgeous multicolored mantles for
her buildings, the distant peaks of the Alps veiled in splendor, the
restless, ever-shifting colors of the water, the very song of the gaily
dressed gondoliers make Venice the color center of the world and a sense
of color the most pervading influence of the city. We note that, while
the painters of Florence used the varying shades of brown, those of Venice
reveled in the shifting hues of the opal or of the wavelet that glistens a
moment in the sun and then breaks into opalescent spray at the foot of some
storied palace or against the side of a sliding gondola.
 This much for the color which this magic city makes one feel. But man cannot
live by beauty alone, so the practical one asks, what were the resources of
this island city, how was it ruled and what was its rank among the communities
of the earth? Answering the first question—no fleeing body of people ever took
refuge in so barren a region apparently. That the Venetians ever arose to wealth
and power seems a take of magic. They had no land to till, no forests to convert
into wood, no quarries from which to get stone, no mines from which to gather
precious ore. They even lacked good water to drink. A salt march with its
outlying islands ws their refuge, a haven so unattractive that the most
relentless foe would hesitate to follow them thither.
Their industry and pertinacity alone accomplished the magic of their
achievement. They saw wealth in the salt that lined their shores and
for centuries it was a source of enormous revenue. Gradually the
primitive, flat-bottomed boats which they used for carrying it
developed into the well equipped vessels which carried the standard
of St. Mark to all parts of the civilized world. They carried her
commodities, which had increased with her development, and exchanged
them for the treasures of the world which accumulated in the island
city or were sold at a goodly profit.
At the time of the Crusades a great tide of men with
 their supplies poured through Venice, the natural gateway of the East. This
gave a wonderful impetus to Venetian prosperity and settled the fact that
this "city of refuge" had become not only the mistress of the Adriatic but
of the Mediterranean as well, directing all its trade with the East. Not
only were her ships for trading purposes, but a time came when, within the
short space of a hundred days, she built and manned a hundred vessels for
defense and to extend the name and fame of Venice.
This was in the middle of the thirteenth century and marks the highest point
ever reached in her career. Her neighbors began to look with jealousy upon a
city so powerful that all through traffic had to gain her permission before
it could go on its way. Leagues were consequently formed to prevent her from
usurping still more power.
She first found it necessary to withdraw within herself, then she gradually
declined along with the other great Italian cities. Even to-day, however, she
is a very substantial shadow of her former self. Her palaces and churches
reflect themselves no less grandly than of old in the changeless waters of
the lagoons and age has given to much of her grandeur a mellowness that adds
to rather than detracts from the wonderful picture.
From the beginning the government was in the hands
 of a few of the nobles. The council of Ten and the Doge ruled the people so
well that for fourteen hundred years there was hardly a change. Venice thus
put herself down in the history as the most stable of the Italian republics.
This is not saying that there was no tyranny and wickedness in the government.
Indeed, quite the contrary was true. The government of Venice was stained with
many of the crimes characteristic of the centuries through which it stood. Doges
were beheaded for trying to usurp power and citizens suffered terrible punishments
for conspiracy. Poisoning and intrigues were common, but under all were a stability
and a patriotism most admirable.
The outward life was gay and picturesque. It abounded in the orientalism which so
naturally came to it out of the East, for Venice was the stepping stone, as it
were, between the old world and the new. There was a romantic spirit no less
than a romantic exterior. Venice was devoted to her legends. The figure
representing their city was a stately woman bedecked with jewels and gorgeous
with rich satins and brocades. On her head was the crown of royalty and in her
hand the sceptre of power, and she sat or stood enthroned on a lofty pedestal.
Literally there was no such figure in existence, but such a woman reigned in
every citizen's heart and he was proud to be her obedient subject.
 Yearly was celebrated the picturesque rite of the betrothal to the sea when,
combining real with imaginary things, the ring of betrothal was flung far out
into the sea in token that the mystic marriage was accomplished. The city
boasted two patron saints, Theodore, their early warrior saint, and St. Mark,
whose wonderful lion is on every side of the island city. It is safe to say
that the heart of Venice was in her legends at the time when Titian and the
other great Venetian painters did their wonderful work.
Of their religion one can hardly say as much. To them it was a mere surface
matter and did not affect them so much as their legends or as their splendid
ceremonials. If their painters depict Bible scenes one at once detects the
sumptuous or gorgeous element. Indeed, if this is not evident in the original
the artist will in some way mark the scene so that it shall not lack this
quality. "The Marriage at Cana" by Paul Veronese illustrates this
point. We are used to think of that scene as a simple one in far away
Galilee, but one Venetian artist introduced himself and half the sovereigns
of the Europe of his time, all arrayed in richest costumes. So I say that
with them religion was merely one more ceremonial.
It is a difficult matter to take our attention away from Venice the city
even to consider her honored
 painters. We linger lovingly, wonderingly, over her glories—St. Mark's
Cathedral, all fresco, mosaic and gold within and quite as splendid without,
with its high altar over the very bones of the saint resting in the damp crypt,
with its wonderful enamel and gold altar piece, its columns gathered from the
East and its beautiful mosaic floors. We know its exterior quite as well—its
flat domes telling too plainly of its relation with the buildings of
Constantinople, its five grand openings in the facade with superb mural
decorations above, its exquisitely carved stone work, its canopied saints
and its renowned bronze horses.
FACADE OF ST. MARK'S, VENICE
INTERIOR OF ST. MARK'S, VENICE
In the plaza in front, very near to the water's edge, stand the two great
columns of the city. On one, resting secure at a great height, is St.
Theodore, in the other the famed lion of St. Mark. The latter, with his
eyes of splendid gems, was stolen and taken to Paris. He was later returned
by treaty but when he came back he was blind. He could not see the humiliation
of the city over which he had presided for centuries. Perhaps it was a mercy
that the French plucked from his head the jewels that had been his eyes. More
likely it was greed.
Near at hand stands the campanile, or bell tower, in its lovely softened colors
with the doves of St. Mark swarming about its top or peacefully feeding at its base.
 Somewhat farther away is the Bridge of Sighs about which so much has been written
of truth and of fiction. Its lovely arch spans the canal and connects the palace
of justice with the prison. It is a covered bridge and windows look out upon the
canal. Many a prisoner must have grudgingly passed over here as he felt the last
rays of day fading forever from his sight.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS
Or we may stand before that other bridge, the Bridge of the Rialto, celebrated
for a very different reason. Here was the original centre of the city and here,
in later times, bankers plied their calling or Shylocks pursued their unholy
vocation of taking usury. Here even common merchants and vendors exchanged
goods and provender.
Our interest, too, turns instinctively to the island of Murano where, almost
from the earliest history of the city, the glass blowers had turned out their
fairy-like creations flicked with gold and silver and colors richer than the
Tyrian purple of old. The Sido, that long tongue of land lying to the east,
where are gardens of goodly extent is another point of interest to us and an
object of love to the native Venetians.
GRAND CANAL AND BYZANTINE PALACE, VENICE
From the beautiful and stately city, with its unending charm of color and
silence and storied buildings, let us turn to some of her sons who have
added glory to the history of painting.
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