Scuola Grande dei Carmini, Santa Maria dei Carmini and the S. Sebastiano
We walk from the hotel and via the Campo dei Margherita to the scuola Santa Maria dei Carmini.
Campo dei Margherita
Campo dei Margherita and the scuola Grande dei Carmini
Scuola Grande dei Carmini
|Scuola Grande dei Carmini
two sides of the facade
Next to the main church of the carmelites, the Santa Maria dei Carmini, this scuola was constructed. The building was designed in 1670 by Baldassare Longhena, but was completed by another developer. Longhena did oversee the completion of the ‘beautiful staircase’.
|stairs to the Sala del Capitolo|
|the entry hall and a detail of the ceiling
Sala del Capitolo
Ceiling of the Sala del Capitolo
Just as in the scuola Grande di San Rocco, there are mirrors for you to view the ceiling frescos without getting a stiff neck.
1. Angel carrying the book of the Scuola
2. Angel showing the scapular to the people in purgatory.
3. Angel with lillies who is given the scapular by a putti.
4. Angel saving a worker who is falling down a scaffold.
|Angel saving a worker who is falling down a scaffold
Angel showing the scapular to people in purgatory
The four corner paintings with the virtues: faith (Cross and chalice), hope (anchor), love (mother with child), justice (sword), strength (Ionic column), vigilance (serpent), sincerity (?) and temperance adding water to the wine, patience (?), innocence (young virgin carrying a goat) and finally chastity (?).
vigilance, sincerity and patience, strength and justice
Tiepolo also made a sketch for the central canvas that can now be seen in the Louvre. In this preliminary sketch, Mary looks at Stock, while in the final version she is instead looking at the spectator.
Simon Stock receives the scapular in the large centre-most ceiling piece: two white pieces of fabric that are worn across the shoulder affixed with strings (scapular = shoulder). Simon founded the third order of the Carmelites in the 13th century. He founded monasteries in Cambridge, Oxford, Paris and Bologna. The ceiling of the Sala del Capitolo was relatively low, but the sharp bottom view makes it look optically larger. You are inside Purgatory, as it were, looking up: di sotto in sù. That’s when the beam at the top left of the image plane is noticeable. The beam shows legs and a part of the body. Simon is given the scapular because he was driven out of the holy land and revived the order in Europe. Simon is kneeled, an angel drapes the scapular over him from behind. Underneath Simon, at the bottom right, are figures that are in purgatory. According to the Carmelites, the one who wears the scapular will spend considerable less time in purgatory. A papal bull from 1322 confirmed this belief. This idea became very popular again during the Counter-Reformation.
Originally, the first floor only held a painting by Padovanino: the Assumption of Mary. The board complained that there was so little art available even with the scuola having so many members. Something had to be done. They turned to Giambattista Tiepolo. At that time, he was the foremost painter in La Serenissima. Tiepolo had just painted the frescos in the Gesuati, also known as the Santa Maria del Rosario: a gigantic wall piece of 1200 x 450 cm.
Tiepolo was swamped with so many assignments that he hesitated a while when this request reached him. Almost one year later, in 1740, he finally agreed to do it. He produced two designs for the scuola members to choose from. However, the ceiling did need to be renewed to accommodate it. This meant that the ‘Assumption of Mary’ by Padovanino had to be removed. The members were far from pleased, but it did eventually happen. The members opted for Tiepolo’s second design. Tiepolo committed himself to finish the central panel in 1740 just before Christmas, but when the hall opened in 1743 and the woodwork and gilding were all but done, the central painting wasn’t. It would take until 1749 for it to be complete. Documents from this scuola reveal that the frame maker and woodworker, Zanetti, had already completed his work based on Tiepolo’s design. Despite the delay, members of the scuola were very happy. Indeed, the Carmelites were so impressed by the eventual artwork that they proclaimed Tiepolo as their honorary brother.
The small chapter room that borders the large hall shows magnificent woodwork. This hall, where the scuola’s board took important decisions, has been well preserved.
|small chapter room|
|small chapter room|
Scuola Carmini (right) and the church Carmini
The 14th century Santa Maria dei Carmini church has a rather special interior. The marble columns are lined with expensive red fabric while the arches have rich decorations and boast many wooden, gilded sculptures. This church also has a number of striking artworks.
|Mary with child|
The aisles have two paintings to the left and right, exactly where they were originally painted.
|view on main altar and exit
The north side has an altarpiece by Lotto: ‘St. Nicholas in Glory. The frame lists the year 1527 and the name of the painter. The painting was commissioned by the Scuola dei Mercanti. The traders of this scuola had St. Nicholas as their patron saint. The three gold balls refer to the story about Nicholas before he became a bishop. The story is about him throwing gold through windows. That way the three daughters could still afford to have a good marriage. After all, they lacked the money for a dowry. Later on, the gold balls were interpreted as bread and thus Nicholas became the patron saint for bakers.
The two main clients are: Giovanni Battist Donati and Giorgio de’ Mundis. Their names are on the frame. The name saints: St. John and St. George by Donati and de’Mundis are also depicted. John to the left below St. Nicholas and St. George in the landscape right below the image.
The frontal and unnatural looking posture of St. Nicholas seems a bit old fashioned for the period in which it was painted, circa 1528. Lotto painted it after an old wooden sculpture of St. Nicholas, with this painting replacing it.
The divide of the artwork: at the top ‘St. Nicholas who is carried to heaven’ and at the bottom the landscape, is based on the Assumption of Mary by Titian from 1518 in the Frari church. The bottom, the landscape and the top are iconographically connected. What’s completely new for Venice is the landscape from a bird’s eye perspective.
St. Nicholas intervened during hunger and was the patron saint of sailors. Hence the ships and the landscape used in this altarpiece. The baskets on donkeys who carry grain to the ships refer to the legend where St. Nicholas miraculously prevented famine. In the East, there was not a single ship after the 10th century who disembarked without an icon of St. Nicholas. The dead and living tree in the centre represent the power of Nicholas to resurrect the dead. This mostly pertained to the sailors.
The setting of the landscape is very reminiscent of Flemish painters. Presumably this painting even used a painting by Patinir as a model. Patinir was in Venice right when Lotto painted his altarpiece for the Santa Carmini. What we do know is that Lotto used one of Dürer’s wood carvings.
|two details of a landscape
St. Nicholas in glory
Michael fights the dragon
The brotherhood who commissioned this altarpiece owned a few stores at the Rialto. Their goods and profits came through the sea. This explains their choice for St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors and the dock in the landscape. The members of the brotherhood said the following prayer when kneeled in front of the altar:
|‘God and St. Nicholas, protect and save our fleet and ships of this city out on the open sea, and all those on deck, and return them to us safely.’|
St. Nicholas in glory
Across from this Lotto and behind the altar we can see another famous work by Cima da Conegliano from 1510, titled: ‘Adoration of the shepherds’. The merchant Giovanni Calvo commissioned the young and modern painter Conegliano to paint an adoration of the shepherds and he too had to be in the painting. The canvas shows St. Catharine with a broken wheel at her feet and St. Helena with a cross. To the right is archangel Raphaël with young Tobias at his side. According to the legend, God ordered the archangel Raphaël to accompany young Tobias during his travels. Tobias has a dog as attribute. Peter stands next to Mary. The merchant Giovanni Calvo, who commissioned this piece, is seen on the artwork as well as a simple shepherd. Still, the shoes he is wearing do not match his status.
|Cima da Conegliano
‘Adoration of the shepherds’
What is new is the iconographic freedom used by the young generation of artists. The shepherd is a portrait of the client. Calvo decided that St. Catherine had to be depicted, as his wife Catharine was named after this Saint. Calvo’s wife died in 1508 due to the plague. Calvo was afraid he’d follow suit. In any case, he wanted to at least ensure salvation of his soul. That is why Raphaël is added to the scene. This is now highly unlikely: an archangel in this context. Raphaël was chosen as Calvo’s patron. The angel guides Tobias out of the dark and gestures him not to look at the Child, but instead up to the cross that Helena is wearing. The background also shows some shepherds. Calvo is again depicted near the path that leads to the trough and the cross.
Giorgione’s influence is clearly seen. Conegliano often depicted his birth city Conegliano in the background. Just like in this altarpiece and the one he made for the Accademia: Mary between two saints
In addition, we will also be looking at some other artworks in this church along the Rio di Santa Margherita including one by Veronese.
|Santa Maria dei Carmini|
|Rio di Santa Margherita|
photos: Gary Ullah and Branislav L. Slantchev
Paolo Veronese lies buried in this 16th century church, to the right of the base of the organ of which he painted the shutters. Veronese, who was a parishioner of this church, completed considerable work for this church between 1550 and 1560. The Web Gallery of Art has some good images of his work for the San Sebastiano. Unfortunately, not all of his works are clear to see. While it was produced during the mannerism, his art is still categorised under High Renaissance. The sacristy is likely closed for restorations, so we won’t be able to look at the first paintings he made in ‘his church’. The church itself has a lot to offer: the organ, the ceiling, the frieze, tympanums, and the side walls of the main altar are painted. Vasari considered Veronese’s paintings to be cheerful, beautiful and well thought out. Earlier this morning in the Accademia you were able to see these traits at his painting: ‘Christ in the house of Levi’. Here too, as with the frescos on the church walls, you can tell Veronese’s preference for beauty and splendour. Hugh Honour describes Veronese’s work in his famed travel guide for Venice as:
|‘Cheerful’ is probably the best word to describe these paintings, as they reveal a kind of unhindered, sensual surrender to the beauty of the world, a preference for tough men and promiscuous women, for silk and satin and colourful dessins, for gold, silver and clear glass from Murano, for glimmering, marble palaces that are abundant in their columns, statues and towers. He loved abundance and being ostentatious, and whatever he painted would fit right on a float.’|
Hugh Honour, Venice, Amsterdam, Agon, 1988, p. 154.
|foto: Branislav L. Slantchev|
Paolo Veronese, the man from the city of the same name, painted the San Sebastiano between 1555 and 1560. Later on, around 1575, he painted the ceiling of the nave, the frieze, the east side of the choir and the high altar. The stories on the ceiling are about Esther, king Xerxes’ wife who saved the Jewish people. The San Sebastiano was completed right when Veronese started painting. The earliest works can be found in the sacristy: ‘Coronation of the Virgin’ and the ‘four evangelists’ at the corners. These do not yet rank as masterpieces (access to the sacristy is left below the organ).
photos: Branislav L. Slantchev
photo: Branislav L. Slantchev
In 1555, Veronese and a number of brothers placed the paintings on the ceiling of the sacristy. The Coronation of the Virgin in the centre and the four evangelists on the sides next to scenes from the Old Testament. Veronese already had some experience with painting ceilings in the Sala dei Dieci in the Doge palace. Veronese was interested in keeping these scenes understandable.
Mark and John
Veronese painted the next paintings on the ceiling of the nave. One year later, and of much better quality, three paintings: “Esther before Ahasuerus”, ‘Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus” and finally “Triumph of Mordecai.” Esther was regarded as the old-testament prefiguration of Mary. Her involvement with the Jews was compared with Mary’s involvement with mankind. The story on the ceiling of the nave is based on the book Esther (old testament) that goes as follows:
|Xerxes (Greek name for Ahasuerus) exiled his wife. At the entrance of this building, Xerxes searches for a new wife. Esther does not divulge she is Jewish when she is chosen by the Persian king. In the middle-most oval (five meters in length), Esther is crowned when she marries Xerxes. When a murder attempt at Xerxes is uncovered, the king’s advisor, Haman, who was also part of the murder conspiracy, tried to blame it on the Jews. Especially on Mordecai, the stepfather who raised Esther. However, Esther manages to uncover the truth and thus prevents her husband from retaliating against the Jewish people. The gallows that were meant for Mordechai are now used for Haman (Michelangelo depicts the same thing in the Sistine chapel). In the last oval, Mordecai rides in triumph through the streets of the imperial capital Susa.|
In these three ovals, Veronese introduces a new element, namely a steep bottom view. Especially in the last oval, ‘Triumph of Mordecai’, the horses seem to be trampling the below spectator.
|‘Esther crowned by Ahasuerus’|
|‘Esther before Ahasuerus’
‘Triumph of Mordecai’
To the east of the nun choir (reached via stairs), Veronese then painted the sibyls with the ‘white candy cane columns’, ‘Sebastian before Diocletian’ and ‘the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian’, The altarpiece, ‘the Glorification of the Virgin with Saints Sebastian, Peter, Catharina and Franciscus’, was completed several years later with a stone frame. It was painted from a bottom view.
|the Glorification of the Virgin|
In that same period, Veronese also painted the organ shutters (click here for the paintings of the open shutter). The organ was installed in 1558 and the painter himself proposed to paint the shutters.
open and closed
epitaph and portret
The client for the works of the San Sebastiano was the prior of the neighbouring monastery Fra Bernardo Torlioni. This prior also commissioned Veronese back in Verona, the latter’s birthplace, namely ‘the Lamentation of Christ’. In December 1555, Veronese signed a contract for the ceiling in the nave. These three large ovals were installed one year later. These large artworks were fully made by Veronese. With Paolo becoming more famous, he is no longer able to handle the massive workload. Other parts of the church were therefore completed with the aid of some students. The large meals stem from the 1560s and later include Feast in the House of Levi. The strongly reduced staircases are inspired by Serlio, especially that part of his book, Trattato di Architettura’ dealing with theatre stages which was released in 1545. The bottom view is extremely difficult to pull off, especially if the figures have to look authentic.
In 1565, Veronese began with two giant scenes from the life of St. Sebastian to the left and right of the choir. Vasari mentions that Titian finally embraced Veronese after seeing his work in public, regarding him as the official successor of La Serenissima. In this period, Veronese fell back on fresco techniques that are also seen in the San Sebastiano. The frescos in the top part of the walls of the nave come from the same period as artworks that Veronese painted in Palazzo Trevisan (now quite weathered). The sides show St. Sebastian in theatre scenes Veronese painted an Announcement in the spandrels of the large arch. As well as numerous monochrome prophets and sibyls. Across from the monk and the black boy heading through a door, there is an actual door used by monks to reach the choir.
Veronese pulled off a similar stunt with St. Sebastian who is struck by arrows on one wall. The opposite wall shows the archer who struck Sebastian. Both Sebastian and the archer, stand between turned, monochrome coloured columns.
detail and restoration
The restoration 2009 and 2015
Youtube restoration ceiling (3.46 minutes)
source: savevenice.org plafond
|Youtube restoration wall frescos (8.42 minutes)|
source: savevenice.org wall frescos