La Serenissima, with building works


Clichéd or not — personally, I think the cranes almost redeem the rest, shimmering shot-silk Bacino and all — this view goes some way toward explaining why Fugitive Ink has gone a bit quiet recently. As does this, the lack of English-language commentary notwithstanding. As, for that matter, does the concept of the school half-term holiday.

Normal service will, however, be resumed very soon indeed.



Filed under Venice

6 responses to “La Serenissima, with building works

  1. Gaw

    It looks as if Venice is lifting itself up by its own bootstraps…

    Welcome back!

  2. Thanks, Gareth. There are precisely two places on earth which induce in me ‘homesickness’, in the sense that I do genuinely pine for them once I’ve left them — London (more so, oddly, before I was living here full time) and Venice. At present, I’m still feeling the rocking motion of the traghetti every time I close my eyes. Oh well, with any luck, I’ll be back in a year or so …

    To cheer myself up, why not admire a photo of what surely must be Venice’s greatest crane?

    Commissioned by the Italian navy from Armstrong Mitchell & Co of Newcastle, 1883, this spectacular artefact, sinking slowly into rust-cankered decrepitude, has recently benefitted from the attentions of quite a lot of Italian schools of engineering, backed up by Venice in Peril — despite the fact that it continually sabotages even rather good Biennale offerings, as what present-day sculpture could begin to compete with its brooding moral gravity or, as far as that goes, its ever more marvellous patination?

  3. Gaw

    Thanks for that – sublime and almost unworldly (the wonderful, big, red-bricked bottom anchors it). I bet you couldn’t tear yourself away.

    Nice Fugie touch, by the way. You come back from Venice with a critical appreciation of cranes…

    Having said that, wasn’t the Arsenale the most high-tech shipyard in the world in its day, almost inventing Fordism a few hundred years early?

  4. Oh, don’t get me started on the Arsenale, Gareth! My unfortunate tendencies towards practical Buonaparte-bashing on one hand, and romantic separatist and world-hegemonic fantasies regarding Venice on the other, while never exactly what you’d call latent, are at present really only just being held in check. Suffice to say, I very much look forward to the day when this minor two-century blip in Venice’s geopolitical fortunes will have ended in the blinking of an eye, so that both East and West will once again tremble at whatever it is that is going on inside the Arsenale.

    Tiresomely, I have never managed to be in Venice during the one day a year when part of the Arsenale site is open to the public, although I have, at least, seen the Arsenale buildings that are used in the Biennale, e.g. the Corderie, and indeed that sublime crane, which mostly had the effect of making what might otherwise have been a rather good Richard Serra offering look frail and ineffectual.

    What’s truly surprising about the crane is, I guess, that as late as the 1880s, enough heavy industrial work was taking place in the Arsenale as to merit a commission on that scale. What is unsurprising, on the other hand, is the fact that the Italian navy bought a British crane. One of the best things about Venice, historically, has been its cheerfully pragmatic, magpie-like willingness to take on board every possible foreign product or personnel or habit, all in the greater service of La Serenissima, while in the process losing none of its distinctive local character. Rooted cosmopolitanism indeed … !

  5. Gaw

    Re crane: I meant ‘otherworldly’ rather than the fey ‘unworldly’. I can imagine it being used on Tatooine by those scavenger creatures (Star Wars reference). I do love that photo.

    I’ve only learnt about Venice from its peripheral involvement in some other histories I happen to have read. Most recently it featured in Roger Crowley’s Empires of the Sea, a quite terrific narrative about the 16th century clash of Ottoman and Hapsburg in the Med (a period I’ve always loved). Not a heavyweight academic work, a good old fashioned page turner with some engrossing set pieces (the siege of Malta is a cracker).

    Will leave you in peace now to pine for what seems to be your spiritual home.

  6. By the way, when I claimed quite a while ago now that normal service would be resumed on this website ‘very soon indeed’, this was what is technically known as a ‘cast iron guarantee’ ….