Venice has 'captured' the heart, mind and imagination of so many writers, poets, artists and historians. Venice is one of my favourite subjects in art, literature and history, and I am always eager to learn more and look more at this unique and special place. This Venice blog is my way of collecting the wealth of images, poems, prose and impressions of Venice.

Monday 3 September 2012

Disappearing well-heads

Still on photographer Carlo Naya, here is his image of the well-head inside the Palazzo Ducale.

I've been reading John Pemble's histiography of Venice, Venice Rediscovered (Oxford University Press, 1996).  Pemble notes that in the 19th century, Venetian well-heads had become highly prized by collectors, particularly in Britain.  He writes that in 1814, there were 5,000 well-heads in Venice.  By 1856 - less than 50 years later - there were only 2,000 well-heads left in the city, and only 17 of these dated from the earliest, Byzantine era. 

So where have the well-heads gone?  I started searching the collection of London's marvellous Victoria & Albert Museum, and found four Venetian well heads...

Two of the V & A's Venetian well-heads came from the Cavendish-Bentinck collection from Brownsea Castle on Brownsea Island (the island is now administered by the National Trust).

One well-head, dated 1490-1500, had been purchased in Venice in 1882 from a house in the Fondamenta dei Mori where Tintoretto had lived.  The other, of red Verona marble, is dated 1425-1430 and was purchased from Venice in 1874 from Palazzo della Zoya near SS Giovanni e Paolo.  The museum's notes indicate that a similar well-head is in the courtyard of Ca D'Oro.

A third well-head, dating from the 9th century was bought by J.C. Robinson in 1882 from Murano.

A fourth well-head dates from around 1450.

So that's four well-heads accounted for...only a few thousand more to find...


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