Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Search of Islamic Venice

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Search of Islamic Venice

Article excerpt

INSPIRED BY THE Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition "Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797" (see July 2007 Washington Report, p. 43), this reporter recently traveled to the canal-laden city to seek out the art, in situ, which was influenced by the Islamic world.

Armed with the exhibit's 300-page catalog as our guidebook, my Italian-speaking photographer husband and I wandered the streets and alleyways of La Serenissima seeking examples of Islamic-inspired art in statuary and façade decorations.

At the Scuola dei Calegheri in the Campo San Toma, we viewed the brilliant 15th century marble low bas-relief, attributed to sculptor Pietro Lombardo, depicting Saint Mark healing the cobbler Anianus. According to one legend, the shoemaker converted from Islam to Christianity following this encounter.

Continuing on to the Campo dei Mori, we found the delightful 14th century bas-relief of a merchant with his camel on the façade of Palazzo Mastelli, originally home to "the Mori brothers," as they were known locally. Across the Rio della Madonna dell'Orto and adjacent to the home of Tintoretto are life-size sculptures of the Mori brothers, silk merchants involved in trade with the Levant, wearing Ottoman-style turbans and robes.

Beginning in the ninth century, Venetian merchants became regular trading partners with their counterparts in the Near East. …

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