Le Giornate della Merla – What the colors of Venice look like during the coldest days of the year

Ponte Storto – Sant’Aponal Le giornate della merla – blackbird days: First article in the series “Mermaid Colors in Venice”. This year, I would like to introduce you to the unique Venetian color wheel, as I call the myriad of colors, giving examples of what they look like in the lagoon, and how artists make/made use of that source of creativity. Colors in Venice change every minute of the day – due to the ever changing angle of the sunrays, clouds or cloudless skies, warm or cold air, humidity or fog …

In the first post, you can see what the coldest days of the year look like in Venice. The last three days of January are dedicated to the blackbird in the Veneto, just like in other parts of Italy. There is even a legend attached: A female blackbird was looking for shelter from the cold for her young ones, and finally found a chimney where they could keep warm … with the result that the whole family turned coal black …

In February 2012, when snow fell in Venice, we even saw a black-and-white blackbird coming to the garden plot next to our house :-). The ever-changing colors in the lagoon adapt to the freezing cold too – “freezing cold” in my language means we get temperatures below zero, until about t -5 degrees Celsius in exceptional cases – though usually,  temperature doesnt fall below zero degrees Celsius. I found that in dark spots of town, where there is no light on a sunny January morning, the colors of the water turn ceruleo scuro (cerulean) while out in the lagoon the light is simply blinding in blu ghiaccio (ice-blue).

Below you can see the stark contrast in and out of town. These colors are reflected, for example, in the shimmering glass mosaics floor of Caffé Quadri. One January night, with only few guests around, I went there to try their bacaro offer on the ground floor (Caffé Quadri has extended its menu and offers luxurious bacaro dishes in the early evening). The light was just fine to take a closer look at the floor mosaics which have been in place since the 18th century. To my mind, they reflect the Venetian winter colors perfectly.

Detail of the mosaics floor, Caffé Quadri Ceruleo scuro and blu ghiaccio can be seen in the paintings of Gabrielle Bella who immortalized the freezing cold in January 1709 when the lagoon froze.Ice blue lagoon – Gabrielle Bella – when the lagoon froze in January 1709. View towards the northern lagoon and the pre-alps in the background, with the island of San Michele in isola in the foreground. Also, you can see how Fondamenta Nove were much wider than they are today.

 

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