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An exhibition at the Doge's Palace 

June 19th to November 13th 20016

Editor's Note;  This article deals with an exhibition of art of some importance   and an equally important social topic  at an important time in history.  This has been a difficult translation from the Italian, especially since we desire to maintain continuity of thought.  RJM

Venice - The place was surrounded by two doors which, as was pointed out, on March 29, 1516, the Senate  would be convened  in the morning to the sound of "Marangona" (St. Mark's bell that dictated the pace of town).  At night it was closed by four Christian keepers, who were paid by the Jews.  These keepers were required to reside on site, with no companions or family in order to be more vigilant.  Two boats of the Council with ten guardians, paid by "the castle", circulated at night in the channel around the island to ensure its security. 

Organized on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the institution of the Ghetto of Venice, curated by Donatella Calabi with the scientific coordination of Gabriella Belli and the contribution of a large pool of scholars , the exhibition Venezia, Jews and Europe 1516 - 2016  aims to describe the processes that have led to the creation, implementation and the transformation of the first "fence" in the world for the Jews. 

At the same time, look at the wider story, embracing the relations established with the rest of the city and with other Jewish neighborhoods Italian and European.  To emphasize the richness of the relations between the Jews of Venice and civil society in different periods during their long stay in the lagoon, in the Veneto area and in the European and Mediterranean area is an awareness of existing cultural diversity in the cosmopolitan beginning of the sixteenth century Venice and the mix of knowledge, skills, habits that remain important assets.

Not only a specific area of investigative work of the three ghettos (New, Old and brand new), but also a reflection on the cultural and linguistic exchanges, the craftsmanship and the trades that the Jewish community has shared with the Christian population and other minorities in a mercantile center of extraordinary significance. The time span considered beyond the fall of the Republic and the opening of the doors at the behest of Napoleon will also showcase the role of Jews in the age of assimilation and during the twentieth century.

Important paintings - by  Bellini and Carpaccio, from Foraboschi to Hayez and Poletti, from Balla to Wildt up to Chagall - period architectural drawings, volumes on very rare original editions, archival documents, liturgical objects and furniture, multimedia reconstructions allow you to create behalf of a long-term affair, also made ​​of permeability, of relationships and cultural exchanges. 

The hypothesis of the project starting fact is that the history of the institution of the Ghetto in Venice should be studied as part of the more general management by the Veneta Republic of national minorities, ethnic and religious who lived in the city, the capital of a "world economy", as he called the historian Fernand Braudel. But it is also to explain how these relationships will be gradually extended to a much wider geographical area and have persisted over time, adapting to changes in political, social and cultural rights.

In the early decades of the sixteenth century the Venetian Republic had put in place an urban strategy of welcome, offering guarantees and surveillance at the same time , more or less rigid with respect also of other national and religious communities, which are important for their economic activities like the peoples North (with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi), Greek Orthodox (with the concession to build at their expense, a church and a college) and gradually Albanians, Persians, Turks, the Jews, like the other minorities, were "precious" for the Serenissima (as we read in some documents): its judiciary, some nobles, the same Doge Leonardo Loredan, who was "Prince" at the time of the establishment decree (29 March 1516), they were well aware. 

Nevertheless Venice, which had granted to the Jews in their territory - even when Europe was chasing after them the known expulsion decrees from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1496) - enter the city as war refugees, following the tragic consequence of the league of Cambrai and the defeat of Agnadello, he will soon pose the problem of how to treat the Jewish minority.

"At stake was the defense of fundamental cultural values ​​to their perception of themselves. Namely - according to Robert Bonfil - all those values ​​that "the myth of Venice" deemed the most essential of all: justice, freedom and well-being, all rooted in good governance and not least in the defense of Christian ethics, without which they are not conceivable nor justice nor well-being. "

The choice not to expel the Jews but to keep them inside the ghetto was seen as the lesser evil and closing, overt discrimination, eventually also become a useful defense , because the Jews, politically weak person outside the walls, inside became autonomous, almost masters of their actions, in many cases well over many inhabitants and subjects who lived at the mercy of the Doge, the prince, the pope or the king. In Venice this Hazzer (Hebrew word for the fence), the ghetto - took a negative pattern throughout Europe as a physical reality and as a term - was transformed gradually into an institution almost to himself , "a shield", as writes Riccardo Calimani, "which, despite rampant insecurity disposal, despite everything, the powers and privileges that allowed him to be heard and to deal with its stakeholders on the outside, with a freedom of initiative in some cases surprising." Cosmopolitan inside - where they came to live with German and Italian Jews, Levantine Jews, Western Liguria and Portuguese -the Ghetto was therefore a highly permeable reality, in constant interaction with the outside world, and first and foremost with the lagoon city, itself extraordinarily, multinational and multiethnic.

The exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale, which takes us on a fascinating journey through art, history and culture, thus showing the distribution of Jewish settlement in Europe after 1492 ; the establishment of the first real ghetto in the world; the debate about its location; growth and urban and architectural shape of successive expansions (the Ghetto Novo, the Old and the Novissimo); relations with the rest of the city (the Realtine workshops, the cemetery, the excavation of the Hebrew Channel),the twentieth-century reinstatement .

They are highlighted rules but also bans abuses, conflicts and exchanges ; It tells the Ghetto company , made ​​up of different communities together to religious ritual, languages ​​spoken, eating habits ; and then the rich Jewish cultural production .Alongside the narrative of settlement events, interwoven meetings with significant personalities, travel stories, literature, music, theater. 

Distributed in 10 thematic and chronological sections in the halls of the Doge's apartments - Before the Ghetto, The cosmopolitan Venice, The cosmopolitan Ghetto , synagogues, Jewish Culture and the female figure, the trade between the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Napoleon: the opening of the gates and assimilation, the merchant of Venice, collecting, collectors, the twentieth century - the exhibition is also accompanied by multimedia and innovative equipment very impressive technology, developed by Studio Azzurro.

Venice, the Jews and Europe, 1516-2016  is sponsored by the City of Venice and by the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice, with the support of the Committee of "The 500 years of the Venetian Ghetto", the Jewish Community of Venice and Union of Italian Jewish Communities, with the support of the Veneto Region, Save Venice Inc, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Venetian Heritage, David Berg Foundation New York, Ugo and Olga Levi Foundation. The multimedia project is implemented in cooperation and with the support of the Foundation of Venice. 
Very rich contributions of the catalog published by Marsilio Editori.

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