(upbeat music) – Good evening, I am Xavier Salomon, I'm the Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick Collection.
And of course this eveningI am not at the museum, but I am in my own apartment.
Like most people at this time of crisis, we're all in our own homes.
What I do for work is I travel a lot, doing research, visiting exhibitions and museums across the world, and giving lectures and right now, of course, like everyoneelse, I cannot travel.
So, this new online series of episodes called Travels With a Curator is very much about traveling virtually around the globe, lookingat lesser known museums and churches and trying to connect them to the Frick in some way.
So, looking at places thatshare a history with the Frick or places that aredirectly linked to objects that are held at the Frick Collection.
This evening I wouldlike to start in Venice and Venice is one of myfavorite cities in the world.
I work on Venetian art, I travel to Venice several times every year.
But of course Venice is verymuch in my thoughts these days because, as most of northernItaly, the areas of Lombardy and the Veneto areparticularly hit by this virus at the moment and so my thoughts go out to all those people living in this area, and especially friends and colleagues in the museum world, inVenice in particular.
People visiting Venice tendto visit the great sites of the city the Basilica of Saint Mark's, the Doge's Palace, theGalleria dell'Accademia, the Bridge of Sighs and of course there is alwaysthe inevitable gondola ride.
But what I would liketo talk about tonight is my absolute favorite Museumin Venice, the Ca' d'Oro.
The Ca' d'Oro is an incrediblepalace on the Grand Canal, at the very heart of Venice.
It was built in the late 1420sfor the Contarini family, an aristocratic family ofVenice, by the architects and sculptures, Giovanniand Bartolomeo Bon.
Why is it called the Ca'd'Oro, the golden house? Well, originally, some of its decoration of the facade was picked out in gold and so the name remained.
The Ca' d'Oro is in a nevralgicimportant site in Venice.
It is, as you can seefrom this photograph taken from the roof of the palace, just across the canal fromthe Rialto fish market and the Rialto vegetable market and that the market was the area, at Rialto, around which the city developed in the Middle Ages, so it'sreally the heart of the city and the Ca' d'Oro overlooks it from the other side of the canal.
It is a building, which like all of the great Venetian buildings, has this incredible relationship between the inside and the outside.
It sits on the water, literally, and this is its waterentrance on the Grand Canal, where you can see that boats would arrive and people would leavefrom this area on boats, and this is the main entranceand exit to the palace, just on the water level of the canal.
But of course if you goupstairs in the house, what is really beautiful about this, as in many other Venetian palaces, is this relationshipbetween outside and inside.
From within the palaceyou can feel the air, the water below, you canfeel the rest of the city and so this is one of the great lodges overlooking the other side of the canal, the rest of the city of Venice.
And so, there is thisreally incredible experience of being inside a palace butfeeling the outside of it in ways that really tend not to happen in buildings in other parts of the world.
Now the history of the Ca'd'Oro, that is interesting to us is the history in the late19th, early 20th century.
The history of the buildingat that time goes in parallel, in many ways, with thehistory of the Frick.
The house was acquired in 1894 by Baron Georgio Franchitti.
Georgio Franchitti wasborn in Turin, in 1865, he was about 15 years younger than Frick, but more or less a contemporary of Frick.
And if we think that Frick in the 19 teens is building his houseat One East 70th Street and filling it with great treasures, Franchitti is doing a similarthing he buys the Ca' d'Oro, and after moving to Venice in 1891, and he starts filling it, as a collector, with great works of art.
Both men wanted these houseseventually to become museums.
Now instead of building thegreat French style house of the Frick, Franchitti buysan already existing residence but a residence that hadundergone a series of changes and Restorations in the early19th century the Ca' d'Oro was very badly restored manyof the original features were either destroyed or sold.
And so, by the timeFranchitti buys the house, he embarks on a fullrestoration of the building to bring it back to its original splendor.
This is particularly visible on the ground floor in the portico.
The portico in Venetian is the area that crosses, in a way, traverses the building from front to back, andthis is on the ground floor, where he decorates the space with sculptures and a series of objects but he also lays down this incredible, marble carpet mosaic that he designs himself, and he keeps buying pieces of precious stones, porphyry, serpentine, other precious marbles, to create these designswhich he himself, it is said, was placing on the floor and working on, and he creates this greatfake medieval mosaic.
It's based on the floors ofthe Basilica of Saint Mark's and the cosmatesque floors of Rome of many of the early medieval churches, but it is entirely recreated in the 1890s and early 1900s, and it is still one of thewonderful features of this house.
But Franchitti goes beyond this in terms of restoring the house.
And so, for example, this is the wellhead by Bartolomeo Bon, carvedin 1427 for the Ca' d'Oro.
And this had been sold inthe early 19th century, and Franchitti spendsa lot of time searching for this, trying to buy it back and bring it back to the house.
He finally succeeds in buyingit on the open market in Paris and brings it back to Venice.
So, he's restoring the house, he's bringing originalfeatures back to the house and this is very moving and beautiful.
This is an incredible work of sculpture one of the most wonderfulwellheads of Venice, carved in pink Verona marble, and it shows various virtues around it and here inthis particular case, you see the virtue of fortitude, a virtue that we all need and need to refer to inthese difficult times.
But their collection is a varied collection whichgoes from early medieval works to more recent works ofart, and it spans in media and chronology, just likethe Frick Collection does.
Here are some of my favoriteworks at the Ca' d'Oro.
These are four small panels by an artist from the late 15th centurycalled Carlo Braccesco, who actually worked inLiguria around Genoa, for most of his career, and I find these absolutely exquisite and beautiful and ofcourse they relate directly to the gold grounds that Helen Clay Frick was buying eventuallyfor the Frick Collection.
But like the Frick, the collection at the Ca' d'Oro, thecollection of Franchitti, spans chronologically andgeographically vast areas.
And so, this is the greatVan Dyck at the Ca' d'Oro or the portrait of Marcello Durazzo, a Genoese aristocrat from around 1624.
This was recently beautifully restored.
And, again, it relates, if you think about it, to the Van Dycks that Frickis buying in those same years.
Frick is buying works by VanDyck for the Frick Collection in the 1890s and early 1900s, and two of our own works, actually three, are also from the Genoese period.
Like the Frick, Franchitticollects paintings and sculpture.
This is one of my favorite sculptures, there are many bronzeobjects at the Ca' d'Oro by great Venetian and Italian sculptures, like the great bronzes at the Frick, but this is a work in marble it's the bust by Alessandro Vittoria, of a parish priest, Benedicto Manzini, who was a parish priest of the church of San Gimignano, a church that doesn't exist anymore that was destroyed duringthe Napoleonic period, but this is the very powerfulbust of this parish priest, that ended up also at the Ca' d'Oro.
The great masterpiece of the Ca' d'Oro in the same way that I would argue that Bellini, Saint Francis, is the great masterpiece at the Frick, is theMantegna, Saint Sebastion.
This was actually painted at the very end ofMantegna's life in 1506, and it's this incredible life size, life size also, full length image of Saint Sebastian covered in arrows.
It's a very haunting and moving image, but for it, as an importantwork, Franchitti creates an entire chapel.
So, this chapel that you see with precious marbles with aframe, with a wooden ceiling, it's an entire invention by Franchitti to set this paintingin this wonderful space that he creates around it.
And this is one of themost beautiful spaces in the whole of the Ca' d'Oro.
Both Franchitti and Frickconceived these houses as museums.
Frick already in the19 teens knew the house was gonna become a museum, after his death in 1919, and the museum eventuallyopened in New York in 1935, after the death of Frick's widow.
Franchitti thought the same and in 1916, he decides to leave theCa' d'Oro and everything in it to the Italian state.
But of course, from Franchitti's death, a few years after Frick's, is shrouded in tragedy.
He became very ill ofan incurable disease, and in December 1922, hedecided to take his own life and he shot himself inhis bedroom, in his house.
His ashes couldn't be buried in a Christian cemetery, as a suicide, and so it was decided thatthey would be interred at the Ca' d'Oro andso in that same portico that he lovinglydecorated, a few feet away from the beautiful wellhead that he had bought back thethe Bartolomeo Bon wellhead.
He is buried under this column and I think this is, to me, one of the most beautifultombs in the world.
It was partly designed by thewriter Gabriele D'Annunzio who was a great Italian writer at the time and a good friend of Franchitti.
And you have to imagine the ashes are under this brokenporphyry, ancient column on which very simply, the name of Franchitti is inscribed in Latin.
But of course the great monument to Franchitti is what is around this tomb.
So, he's buried at theheart of his own creation, the Ca' d'Oro and the great collection.
As a postscript, a littlelink to the Ca' d'Oro is much closer to us in North America.
In the 19th century, new balconieswere put on the Ca' d'Oro and Franchitti decidedto remove those balconies and substitute themwith different balconies and those 19th centurybalconies were acquired by a great collector in Boston, by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who, in the same years as Franchitti was restoring the Ca' d'Oro, was building her own Venetian Palazzo in Boston, Fenway Court.
And of course that is now the Isabella StewartGardner Museum in Boston.
So, I would like to finish withthis wonderful similarities and links between threegreat institutions, the Isabella StewartGardner Museum in Boston, the Frick Collection here in New York and the Ca' d'Oro in Venice.
And think of Isabella Stewart Gardner, of Giorgio Franchetti, and of Henry Clay Frick as these great figures whohave given so much to us today.
Now, we cannot visit thesemuseums today, in this time, as we're all locked at home, but of course as soon asthings will get better, I invite you all to come backto the Frick, to go to Boston and visit the IsabellaStewart Gardner and especially when you're next in Venice, aswe all hope we will be soon, go and visit the Ca' d'Oro and think about GiorgioFranchetti's great contribution to art, and to all of us.
Thank you and see you next time to travel somewhere else in the world.
Thank you, and good night.