Above, a picture taken a couple weeks ago of one of my absolute favorite works of art in Venice: Andrea Verrocchio’s statue of the condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni. “We have a right to say that this equestrian statute is the finest in the world", wrote 19th century Swiss cultural historian and art history pioneer, Jacob Burkhardt. I couldn’t agree more.
Here, Colleoni commands Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo with an inscrutable power, his stern, intelligent eyes cast almost sadly downward toward some unseen field of victory. Even beauty-inured Venetians will often stop at the feet of Verrocchio’s masterpiece for a few moments, a place too splendid to pass in blind routine.
“Verrocchio’s statue continually recomposes itself before your eyes as you walk around it”, writes art critic Andrew Butterfield . It’s true. No matter where you stand in the campo, it’s masterful. There’s no wrong place to gaze upon it.
In this close-up we can see the mighty profile of the stallion, with the flesh of its strained neck more like pure, raw muscle than the skin of a warhorse.
And here, the bust of Bartolomeo himself. Verrocchio spared nothing, sculpting facets and character that simply cannot be seen from the campo paving stones.
Yes, I am being a little sarcastic. Accordingly, I want it to be known that I feel a kind of urgent gratitude to the organizations and talented workers that have undertaken the restoration or conservation of the infrastructure, buildings and monuments of Venice. The battle against entropy is valiant. They are soldiers protecting artistic frontiers from time.
Yet I admit it is an uneasy gratitude. Because at any given moment, some city’s most beautiful faces are covered with veils that keep us from enjoying them for long stretches of time -- almost always far longer than originally promised. Selfishly, I miss these masterworks. Yes, there’s the rational, dental logic: “take care of your teeth or they’ll all fall out“. But there’s a child inside me that won’t shut-up and doesn’t care what the grown-up inside me has to say about the matter. I want candy. Where’s my statue?
It would be easier if, like an actor who drops out of sight for a few weeks to get a little face adjustment, the process were relatively quick and discrete. The Gazzettino reported recently that the work should be done next Spring, roughly 2 years after it began. In the meantime? You get the architectural masterpiece you see above, something akin to a three-story, graffiti-covered grey outhouse, only much uglier. The pictures were sent to me by a Venice resident who lives close to the campo, and who gets angrier and angrier every time he passes through.
(At least the restoration, when it’s finished, will be peerless. It’s in the hands of a genius, Giovanni Moragi. Go Zani go!)
Here’s the English version of the official Colleoni restoration website. There are many cool pictures and a fascinating little video of the work in progress.