Winter is the perfect period to explore Venice’s many galleries, museums and churches; during these quieter months of the year, the city’s cultural attractions and historic buildings are often remarkably free from visitors, and you can contemplate its artistic treasures in peaceful tranquility. Over the past few days, we’ve been enjoying some of La Serenissima’s gorgeous depictions of the Christmas story, to get us in the mood for the festive weekend ahead.
Nativity by the studio of Bonifacio de’ Pitati – Chiesa di San Sebastiano. Hidden away behind a discreet doorway in the Church of San Sebastiano, you’ll find a serenely beautiful sacristy richly decorated with paintings by masters such as Tintoretto and Bonifacio de’Pitati, including a dramatically illuminated portrayal of the Adoration of the Shepherds – one of whom is tenderly lifting a sheep to peer into the manger.
Adoration of the Magi by Antonio Vassilacchi – Chiesa di San Zaccaria. When most people visit the church of Zan Zaccaria, they head straight for Bellini’s celebrated altarpiece depicting the Madonna enthroned. This Christmas, take a few moments to enjoy some of the other fine paintings adorning the walls of the Basilica, including a lively depiction of the Adoration of the Magi, whose exotic costumes contrast markedly with the simplicity of the stable setting.
The Polyptych of Conversano by Bartolomeo Vivarini – Gallerie dell’Accademia. Signed and dated 1475, this exquisite portable altarpiece was produced for the Cathedral of Conversano in Apulia (southern Italy) where it remained until 1883, when it was purchased by the Italian government and brought back to Venice. Recently restored by Save Venice Inc., it is an extremely rare example of a 15th century Nativity scene; of the 105 known altarpieces commissioned in Venice between 1450 and 1530, only five represented the birth of Christ.