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Eve Sinaiko
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I've been meaning to post some photos I took recently of the side facade of Palazzo Lezze in Venice, showing the alchemical relief panels. The building is by Longhena, who is sometimes said to have had esoteric or alchemical associations. (Some scholars have seen Rosicrucian symbolism in his round-plan church of S. Maria della Salute.) But I have found very little written about the building or these images.

The photos aren't very good, but I have high-res versions if anyone would like them.


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Palazzo Lezze 2 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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Another one.

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Palazzo Lezze 5 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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Another

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Palazzo Lezze 1 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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Another

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Palazzo Lezze 6 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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Another

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Palazzo Lezze 4 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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Another

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Palazzo Lezze 7 small.JPG

Eve Sinaiko
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...and one showing the facade.

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Palazzo Lezze 3 small.JPG

Paul Ferguson
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Hi Eve,

There is a study of the palazzo by Marisa Dario:

M. Dario, Autoglorificazione patrizia e architettura: il caso della famiglia Da Lezze alla

Misericordia (secoli XVI-XVII), in "Studi Veneziani", n.s. 30 (1995), 167-209, qui 192 n.

79

http://www.infoteca.it/bwnet/FormTIT.asp?IDS=11827204&OPAC=BW4

...but whether she mentions the alchemical symbolism I know not.

Given Longhena's involvement with various synagogue projects I assume he was Jewish by birth, which may shed some light on the symbolism.

If he was Jewish then the following book (and I haven't read this one either :)) presumably describes the cultural milieu that he came out of - it also discusses alchemy in the Jewish ghetto during Longhena's floruit:

The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena's Life of Judah
See: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/4297.html

Regards,

Paul

 

Eve Sinaiko
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Thank you! These look promising.

Longhena is thought to have been born a Jew--his name was Baldassare and his father's name was Melchisedech--but as far as I know, that's speculation, based in part on the strong influence of Jewish culture on Venice at the  time. There's been quite a bit written about his supposed use of cabbalistic or other esoteric symbolism in his famous church of the Salute. 

I imagine that the alchemical decorations must have been ordered by the Lezze family (Venetian patricians originally from Lecce), or at least approved by them. They appear only on the small side facade of this very large and grand palazzo, above a side door. The rest of the exterior facade has more orthodox decorations, such as a series of busts of noble men and women in a Romanizing fashion, lion's heads, and so forth.



Paul Ferguson
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According to this Venetian blogger, it is said that Longhena's father might have been a rabbi well-versed in the Cabala:

http://ostrichedisaggezza.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.html
"Il Longhena si dice fosse figlio di un rabbino esperto interprete della cabala, tanto che il nome suo si ritiene sia una versione latinizzata. Nei numeri della basilica (proporzioni, decorazioni, fondamenta, ecc.) sono nascosti rapporti cabalistici."
...but he does not cite his sources :( 

Paul

Last edited on Tue Mar 18th, 2008 10:16 pm by Paul Ferguson

Eve Sinaiko
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Apparently Longhena's architectural plans for the church of the Salute included numerological notations. For example, the church is octagonal, and 8 is a number associated with the Virgin Mary (to whom the church is dedicated), but also has cabbalistic meanings.

This website also repeats some of the typical comments made about the church:

http://www.lyc-hoche-versailles.ac-versailles.fr/cdi/patrimoine/Site/Venise/batiments/Santa%20maria.htm

As far as I know, there's very little archival material about Longhena's family. I don't think much is known about his father, other than that the name suggests that he was Jewish. One of Longhena's other major commissions in Venice was for one of the Synagogues there. But the references to alchemy and Rosicrucianism are all rather oblique, and I suspect are mainly speculative. The alchemical images on Palazzo Lezze are the first concrete evidence I've found of Longhena's interest in esotericism.

Regards,

Eve

 

Paul Ferguson
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Here are some rather nice on-line tours of Venice with slides and commentary:

http://www.museumplanet.com/location.php/venice

There are tours of the Ghetto and Santa Maria della Salute. The Biography section says that Longhena was the son of a stonemason.

Paul

 

 

Paul Ferguson
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Another book worth mentioning in this connection is Raphael Paltai's "The Jewish Alchemists":

http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Alchemists-Raphael-Patai/dp/0691006423

Paul

 




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