Friday, 7 June 2013

Notes From Venice: Ostaria al Garanghelo and Manet Returns to Venice

Annabel Dover, our Garageland Venice Correspondent, gives us her guided tour of this year's Venice Biennale. Today we start with Manet and a light meal; stay-tuned, there's more to come.

'Food first, then morality' Bertolt Brecht.

When I posed in the RA life room years ago, my fellow subjects were the flayed smuggler in a case and Stubbs' horse cast, respectively crouching and standing nobly. These two figures bring to my mind Venetian speciality cuisine: Sfilacci di cavallo (frayed, dried horse) a smugglers treat, and the mud loving goby fish with its gormless expression, floating open mouthed along the milky waters of Venice, squeezed into a net and onto the plates of Ostaria al Garanghelo, a small, cosy restaurant furnished with knick-knack tat, Venetian glass lights and friendly waiters and waitresses.

Sardines, polenta, and Vongole all feature here along with a lot of other delicious oily pasta dishes. Cheap, basic and pleasant.

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538
After Carpet Clams from the lagoon at Ostaria al Marghelo you might like to see Manet Returns to Venice in the Doge's Palace. This is an exhibition of Manet's influences. The inspiration he took from the Spanish painters (such as Goya and Velázquez) is well documented, but this show exhibits the Italian paintings he loved and admired. Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538) is hung adjacent to Manet's Olympia (1863) and it's thrilling. 

This continues throughout the exhibition. Guardi, Andreo del Sarto, Carpaccio, Lotto, and the Venetian Pietro Longhi alongside portraits, swathes of still lives (my absolute favourites), paintings of Venice that he made near to his early death (51 years old), society paintings, portraits of Zola and Mallarmé and Dejeuner sur l'herbe (1863). The poor trapped woman on the balcony in Le Balcon (1868) and the luminous peonies of his later years. My favourite painting of all was of a lone, sturdy, pale asparagus stalk made from Velazquez-like wisps of oil paint; the quick strokes miraculously forming the illusion of a solid form.

Manet, Asparagus, 1880

I was disappointed by the Manet show at the Royal Academy, hot, sweaty, airless full of the drone of audio-informants. Two whole rooms dedicated to educating us with ugly plastic coated boards that informed of the social classes of the time, the crowds of the Tuilleries, the Bois de Boulogne and the interior of the Folies Bergère.

The unfinished painting of the cat on a pink woolly lap I liked and the poor trapped lady waiting at the train station. Otherwise my lack of sufficient height and blood pressure led me to give up. I enjoyed looking at sparkly cardigans and the beam of the spotlights on the polished pates of observers, but I couldn't get near enough to enjoy the paintings.

In contrast the Manet show in Venice is a dream. Queuing outside the Palazzo Ducale, looking up at the lion victorious and the dragon being trodden on, and down at the pool of lagoon water rising in St. Mark's Square. The entrance is ludicrously grand, and you can rest your elbow on a marble column with 14th century graffiti on it. 

Annabel Dover

Ostaria al Garanghelo
San Polo 1570-1571, Calle dei Boteri, 30125 Venezia

Manet Returns to Venice
Palazzo Ducale, Venice
Until August 18

1 comment: