March 12, 2012
By Mary Jo Gibson
If you are wishing for a trip to Europe to explore great art, but the expense of travel has placed this dream of out of reach, virtual tourism at its finest can be found on the App Store. At first glance there wasn’t much offered, mostly wiki stuff and tourism information. Not enough of what I was looking for, until I found Museum Planet. They changed my mind about what is possible with an app devoted to individual destinations, history and art.
Their Venice, Italy tour app encompasses the usual tourist destinations, but includes several off the beaten path areas as well. Each chapter of Museum Planet‘s Venice library covers the founding of the site, history of construction, architectural design and religious influences. Panoramic views of the exterior and interior fill each tour. The greatest attribute of this app is the ability to zoom into each photograph, allowing the user to inspect the details of statues, paintings and architectural nuances. The narrative covers a myriad of subjects emphasizing the history and description of the picture. But the text includes so many other items in regards to the individuals and their lives. All things I search for endlessly while compiling posts on subjects that interest myself, and my readers.
The depth and intricacy of coverage is incomparable to any other app discussing history and art. My personal favorite of the chronicle is the pronunciation of complicated names. Having a limited vocabulary of the Italian language, Ciao and other such greetings amount to very little; but Museum Planet keeps it simple, and now I manage to pronounce even the most obscure sculptor’s name.
Ease of use is another plus to this app. A YouTube clip shows just how simple it is to use their library, remove the text from the narrative and concentrate on the images. There is even a searchable Ad Hoc that allows you to look for specific items when you may not remember where you heard the information in an earlier chapter. I have repeated their tours more than once in order to glean all the information from the image and the text. Purchasing several tourist books and possibly a textbook or two would not come close to what is offered in this versatile app.
I have two personal favorites from the Venice tour; The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari obviously one of the ‘must see’ places in the city. A Google Earth image shows the location of the Basilica in relation to other churches, and the distance to the Grand Canal. An exterior view of a typical, quaint Italian church belies the beauty that lies within. Titian’s “Assumption of the Virgin” graces the altar, flanked by marble columns with semicircular Gothic windows as the back drop. This stunning painting is only the beginning of the many artworks, sculptures, and monuments found in this building. The tomb of the sculptor Antonio Canova is located in this Basilica. The doorway of the tomb is open, with many sculpted figures in mourning, each a symbol of their own. A mourning woman to the right of the doorway actually holds an urn containing Canova’s heart. The informative narrative details each of the sculptures and their significance to the tomb.
The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is one of those great churches with an incredible amount of religious art that Venice is known for, including another Titian, “Ca’Pesaro Madonna”. The walls are filled with sculpture, reliefs, extravagant monuments; I am sure precious hours could be expended here on a visit while filling the senses with wonder; but there is one sarcophagus that must be mentioned, if only for the unique features of the sculpted figures.
Doge Giovanni Pesaro has an impressive monument to his seventy years of life, designed by Baldassare Longhena and sculpted by Melchior Barthel. Dramatic use of black marble against the white makes a unique statement, and two bronze figures representing death are particularly realistic. But the images of the four slaves holding up the monument strike the most memorable image. Their individual facial features convey strong personalities and the statement, or protest, on slavery itself is evident in these pictures.
Following the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari on my list of favorite destinations from Museum Planet’s tour of Venice is the Palazzo Labia. The opening photo shows the approach by boat from the canal, at one of the busiest intersections of Venice, the Grand Canal and Canareggio Canal, which has been depicted through history by painters such as Michele Marieschi to John Singer Sargent. Views of the exterior show the carved heads along the façade and eagles from the Labia family crest. Disembarking from the boat at the entrance hall, the stairs leading to the great hall of the Palazzo seem nondescript in comparison to the artistic beauty upstairs in the Palazzo. How many dignitaries, heads of state, warriors and courtesans have trod these steps over the centuries?
The great hall is over two stories high with an entire wall covered with windows. Frescoes cover the walls giving the illusion of balconies and intricate architectural details. The frescoes on the walls follow the subject of the marriage of Cleopatra and Anthony. Great use of perspective by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and his assistant Gerolomo Mengozzi Colonna is evident in every image.
The ceiling fresco tells the story of Bellerophon and Pegasus riding to Mount Olympus. The use of false perspective sets the scene, and the fresco immediately recalls the story of Pegasus throwing off Bellerophon because of his arrogance.
The Labia’s banquets were so lavish they tossed sterling and gilt serving ware into the Canareggio Canal to amuse their guests. Only in the morning, the servants were directed to retrieve the expensive plate from the canal. The rise and fall of the Venetian wealth is encapsulated in the history and art of this grandiose Palazzo.
Museum Planet’s Venice, Italy is truly a gem amongst a great many other choices in the app store. It seems that anybody with a bit of programming experience can create an app, but how many are truly worth the few dollars? Touring Venice on a quiet Sunday afternoon, birds singing, the spring sun shining, a cappuccino within reach; this is the next best thing to visiting the ancient city. I just might have enough time to tour the cemetery near the Jewish grotto before the kids get home.
Until next week, Ciao!