The Aesthetics of Water: Wellheads, Cisterns, and Fountains in the Venetian Dominion

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Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 6:30 pm8:30 pm


A lecture by Patricia Fortini Brown, Professor Emerita, Princeton University and Director, Save Venice Inc.

When we think of Venice, we think of a city in the sea, surrounded by water. And yet, before the modern era, the city had no source of fresh water other than the rain from heaven or barges from the mainland. Therein lies the paradox: Venice is in the water and has no water. This lecture addresses how Venetians rose to the challenge by creating a unique system of water collection, and a unique genre of public art: the Venetian wellhead. It addresses as well a different challenge that came with the expansion of the Venetian empire: the gift of running water and the need to harness it. Again, the Venetians seized the initiative and created fountains that transformed urban spaces from the Terraferma to the Stato da Mar into places of encounter and aesthetic delight. Finally, this lecture explores the afterlife of the Venetian wellhead. After water was brought into Venice in the late nineteenth century, the wellhead lost its original raison d’être. Instead, it became an enticing collectible for such notable patrons as Mary Scott Townsend in Washington, William Randolph Heart in California, and Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston. In the golden age of collecting, a fixture that had once graced public squares and private courtyards of Venice now became a desired feature of gardens and museums throughout the world.

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In collaboration with Save Venice.


Thursday, September 28, 2017
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
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Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò (NYU)
24 West 12th Street
New York City, NY 10011 United States


Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimó (NYU)
24 West 12th Street