The Serenissima Republic daily life described in 67 paintings by Gabriel Bella

28 December 2021

Venice, December 15th, 2021 – “Il volo del turco '' (the flight of the Turkish), the Historical Regatta, the marriage of the sea, the Carnival, and the famous bull hunting. People are gathered along the shores and at their windows. There are parades and State ceremonies. In these 67 paintings there is the whole Serenissima Republic. These are paintings by venetian artist Gabriel Bella, displayed at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, providing a unique glance that proves how vibrant Venice was in the 1700s. A heritage that shows rituals and traditional costumes used at the time by the whole community. A view of the Serenissima Republic that this year celebrates its 1600 years of life.  
“The Querini family used to own hundreds of views painted by Gabriel Bella, representing both public and private life in Venice in the 1700s – explains the director Marigusta Lazzari -. This could be defined as an artistic reportage of public events, games, and regattas. Here, the public presentation of the newly elected Doge at the Scala dei Giganti is represented, as well as the Ridotto theatre, the San Beneto theatre – which doesn’t exist anymore -, the visit of the Pope to San Giovanni e Paolo, the marriage at the Basilica della Salute, the bull hauntings and the several regattas, such as the one of the Redentore. Moreover, theatres and fairs are represented, such as the one of the Sensa in Saint Mark’s Square and the Fat Thursday with its wooden fireworks machine, that used to be exploded at the end of the day although were later banned since venetian roofs could easily get on fire. This was the way in which the aristocracy brought the city inside their houses in the countryside, representing how daily life Venice was in the 1700s”. 
Originally, there were 100 paintings, which used to decorate villa Querini at Campo di Pietra, in Treviso. Of these paintings, 67 were saved and are now displayed at the Fondazione while the other 33 have never been found. 
In the 1700s Venice was the capital of social life - there were hundreds of public events every year – and of Carnival, that used to begin in October and end in May. Among the most unique paintings there is “La festa del Giovedì Grasso in Piazzetta” (Fat Thursday party in the Piazzetta) where Castellani and Nicolotti defied each other playing at “Forze d’Ercole” (Forces of Hercules), a competition which consist in creating a human pyramid. In the meantime, the public watched “the flight of the Turkish”. From a raft in the lagoon, an acrobat tied with a rope, descended towards Saint Mark’s bell tower, reached the pinnacle, and began doing astonishing moves and exercises and, after that, descended towards the loggia of the Doge’s Palace to give the Doge a bunch of flowers and and a poem. 
In the painting “La regata delle donne in Canal Grande” (The women Regatta along the Grand Canal) we can admire women from Pellestrina and Sant’Erasmo competing, while the public, approaching the competition field, was forced to back off by means of “balote”, tiny red-brown clay balls used for hunting animals in the lagoon. 
In Bella’s paintings, Venetian aristocracy as well as prostitution are represented. Elegant and intelligent women, able to entertain men in lively conversations, accompanied noble men and foreign guests throughout several events such as during the “ridotti”, where originally people used to gamble. In Bella’s “Il nuovo ridotto” (the new ridotto), the ridotto of Palazzo Dandolo after the 1768 restorations is represented. In 1638 Marco Dandolo obtained the first permit to open a public gambling house in his palace in San Moisè. That was the first casino. Inside, there were almost seventy tables where people could play cards or dice. Customers, men, and women from every social class had to wear the typical bauta, traditional costumes that included the tabarro (a black cloak), a triangular hat (tricorn) and a white or black mask with a veil that covered the head which had the shape of a beak, used to eat, or drink. There are also institutional moments, such as “Il giro della piazza del doge in pozzetto” (the Doge’s tour of the Square), with the Doge carried on the shoulders of eighty soldiers of the Arsenale. Moreover, there is also “L’incoronazione del doge sulla scala dei Giganti (The Crowning of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti) where the head of the State of the Repubblica Veneta was crowned with the “zogia” the luxurious ducal horn. 
The museum of the Fondazione Querini will be open on Christmas holidays: from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm (Monday closed), with extra openings on December 8, 24, 25, 26 and on January 1, 2 and 6, 2022.