Venetian Gondolas, Jewelry and Romance on Lake Merritt

By Lorna Moglia, November 16, 2012

Lake Merritt, Oakland
Lake Merritt, Oakland
Once upon a time (c’era una volta), a Great Egret with snowy white plumage, long neck and a yellow dagger bill, was perched on the dock of Gondola Servizio–a rare occurrence (una rara occorrenza), watching a young romantic couple board an authentic Venetian gondola. As the gondolier lifted his oar, this magnificent bird (magnifico uccello), gracefully took flight, with an impressive wingspan, across the blue-green, rippling waters (acque increspate) of Lake Merritt. Very surreal (Molto surreale).
Lake Merritt, Oakland
Lake Merritt, Oakland

And so begins the romantic tour (giro romantico), and the high hopes and expectations of the young fellow who has a white gold ring hidden in his pocket. They slowly and gracefully begin to glide. Today the wind and current require the gondolier to quickly perform an intriguing Venetian rowing maneuver. He raises his left leg behind him and expertly pushes his foot off the dock’s rail, veering the rear of the 36 foot long, half-ton gondola away from the dock. He holds this position for a brief moment (un breve momento), as if waiting for the snap of a picture. The dock is now behind them. Patrons sitting on the adjacent dock of the Lake Chalet Restaurant are enjoying their food and wine, watching brown pelicans dive for fish. They’re intrigued by the odd vision of a gondolier on Lake Merritt, rowing past them in his distinctive Venetian black and white striped shirt and straw hat with its red ribbon fluttering in the breeze (svolazzanti nella brezza).

The gondola grew smaller and smaller (la gondola divenne sempre più piccola). It was a perfect day. The sun reflected off the water, the young couple appeared to be enjoying their Prosecco; the parasol opened as they disappeared around the bend following the path of the white Great Egret. A few of us on the dock knew the secret and were anxiously awaiting their arrival, pacing back and forth between the dock and Gondola Servizio’s boutique where authentic Venetian masks taunted us with mystery and romance (dove autentiche maschere veneziane ci provocano con mistero e romanticismo).

Maschera Veneziana
Maschera Veneziana
The gondolier too was hoping that the young man received a “yes” for, should it not be so, the ride back would be long and quiet. On this day, the Great Egret soared in large circles above the couple and watched as the young man carefully opened a small box and offered her a shiny round metal ring. After a few seconds the young man gently wiped small water droplets for what seemed an eternity as the white Great Egret flew towards the sunset. The gondola returned with the couple full of smiles and laughter wafting across the lake. They spent a few more minutes with the gondolier as he photographed them, capturing their happiness (registrando la loro felicita’).

There was one more surprise… As the couple left the dock and entered the boutique, they were suddenly captivated by a shimmering pure silver handmade pendant, flashing an aqua-blue glass gem. This Lorna Moglia-designed piece will remind them of all that was beautiful on their special day.
End (Fine).

La Gondola sul Lago
La Gondola sul Lago

Discover Lorna Moglia’s unique pure silver, glass art jewelry designs online at www.finestitalian.com and www.LornaMoglia.com. Her work is also showcased beautifully within Gondola Servizio’s boutique, overlooking Lake Merritt with their majestic authentic Venetian gondolas. For reservations visit www.gondolaservizio.com. And, enjoy the amazing views, including the Necklace of Lights shimmering in the evening, while you wine and dine at the Lake Chalet www.thelakechalet.com
 
 
Gondolas on Lake Merritt
Gondolas on Lake Merritt

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The Nativity Scene in Italian Art – 1

Nativity scene
Italian Nativity Scene

The Nativity Scene, called the “Presepe” in Italian, began with Saint Francis of Assisi, who re-enacted the scene of Christ’s birth in a living tableau in Greccio in 1223.  While conventional two-dimensional representations of the Nativity were plentiful in medieval and Renaissance Italy, the idea of a three-dimensional representation achieved via sculpted figures was slow to take off.  The earliest known artist to have attempted this was Arnolfo di Cambio, who, in 1283, created a representation “del tutto tondo”, in his own words.  But it was not until the first half of the Seicento that great advances in this new art form were made, starting in Lombardia  and Liguria and then extending elsewhere.  The artists associated with these advances were Antonio Bagarelli at Modena, Guido Mazzoni a Piobbico, Federico Brandani at Urbino, etc.

There are three themes that are played out in the Presepe.  They are the Mystery, the Annunciation, and the Diversorium.  The Mystery is of course, in Christian doctrine, the mystery of the Son of God taking on a human nature for the salvation of mankind,  The Annunciation in this context refers to announcing the fateful event to the world, symbolised by the shepherds receiving word from the Angel.  The Diversorium is a fancy Latin word which refers to the location, in this case the hut, in which the holy birth takes place.

The tale of the Nativity on which the Presepe is based can be found in Luke and Matthew.  Origen added the now canonical bue e asinello in the third century.  A point of deep theological import was the depiction of the Virgin Mary.  Should she be represented as a woman who had just given birth, attended by midwives and fortune tellers, as was common at that time?  Or should she be shown immune to the stress and the pain of human childbirth?  The former representation emphasised heavily the human nature of Christ; the second brought to the fore His divine nature, making it seem that his birth had not been of the normal human variety.

The Presepe as an art form reached its zenith in the Bourbon Naples of the 18th century.  A later article will detail its progress from these small beginning to the baroque masterpieces housed at the Museo di San Martino.

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