Room 6. The itinerary of the exhibition begins, in room 6 of the Museum, with a selection of rare 18th century editions and prints, that offer the opportunity to confront an aspect of art that is not well known. In Venice, the production of books of quality returned to the European summit in the eighteenth century. Impressive as forms of art in printmaking, such books reveal skill and accuracy of all phases of production and a complex illustrative apparatus, featuring the greatest painters of the period, such as Giambattista Piazzetta and Giambattista Tiepolo. Special attention was paid to the choice of paper, the characteristics of the fonts and printing processes, and the bindings in leather stamped in gold or in cartoncino (card boards) covered with refined decorated paper. Exhibited here are some examples of this precious production, such as La perfezione religiosa, a collection of poetry by various authors, published in Padua on the occasion of the monastic vows taken in 1763 by two sisters, Orsola and Cecilia Santonini. Nearby appears the double portrait of Charles Emmanuel, King of Sardegna (the first one signed by Francesco Zucchi), to which one may compare the powerful portrait of Giovanni Dolfin, author and patriarch of Aquileia active in the seventeenth century (work of the same engraver on the design of Giambattista Tiepolo). In the rare Vita di san Giuseppe, of 1750, the figures enclosed by rich frames, engraved by Giorgio Fossati, were run through the press twice with inks of different colors. Classical bucolic motifs are evident in the Pastor fido of Guarini of 1787, engraved by Francesco Zucchi from designs by the Frenchman Picart. By contrast, the figurative language appears precociously Neoclassical in the publication for the marriage of Giambattista Corner with Maria Mocenigo, (Venice 1746), on parchment with a tailpiece engraved and then illuminated. Beside it is shown a Dutch edition of Vergil (L’Aia 1753), with the text entirely engraved (that is, not set in movable type) interspersed with vignettes and plates of an archaeological flavor, work of the Venetian master Marco Pitteri.
Room 7. Books for Special Occasions. Sumptuous Bindings, Refined Covers. The attention of Aldo Ravà was attracted as well by collections in verse or prose published to celebrate some of the protagonists of formal events both public and private. This genre is distinguished by three categories: publications for marriages; those for promotion to public office (Gratulatorie); those for taking the veil or religious profession. Other events might merit an occasional publication: death notices, cycles of prayers for the Forty Hours or Novena, first masses, exhibitions of singers or dancers. The preparation of the text was entrusted to a Raccoglitore. Together with the family and the printer, he would oversee the preparations and the printing, sometimes with the unusual languages and alphabets as in the publication for Foscarina Garzoni’s taking the veil, displayed here. The apparatus of the illustrations was consigned to one or two masters of engraving or acquatint, who were numerous in Venice, thanks above all to the entrepreneurial activities of the Remondini of Bassano and the workshop of Joseph Wagner. These editions typically provided on every page next to the images in a large format (portraits, or allegorical frontispieces, noble coats of arms), smaller illustrations of such items as headpieces, friezes, historiated initial letters, vignettes, tailpieces, and cul de lampes. Towards the end of the 18th century, instead of collections of poetry, such publications began to feature antique manuscript documents or brief historical memoirs such as the Orazione of Alessandro Vaninetti (of the Clerks Regular, followers of S. Gerolamo Emiliani), in honor of Alvise Contarini the Second. In the frontispiece the protagonists of a far-away episode that took place in the second half of the fifteenth century are portrayed in contemporary dress, together with the Virgilian motto “Vincet amor Patriae” (Love for one’s country conquers all). In front of the palace and the pavilion the ancestor Giorgio Contarini, with the lion of St. Mark at his feet, repels three war-like personages disembarking from two sailing ships, thus maintaining the crown of the Queen of Cyprus for the Venetian Caterina Cornaro and securing the dominion of the island on behalf of the Serenissima. The most sumptuous volumes were the Gratulatorie, particularly those celebrating the nomination to the Procuratorship of St. Mark [Procuratore di San Marco], the highest office of the Republic and the only one held for life other than that of the doge, of which one may admire a number of examples in this room. The Gratulatoria was made in addition to prints of portraits and sheets for posting in public spaces: truly costly campaigns of self-promotion, for which families might go seriously into debt. The editions were completed by bindings of colored paper stamped with the coats of arms of the family. In the publications for funerals the austerity of the subject inspired a Neoclassical style of sober elegance and solemnity, as one can observed in the Pianti d’Elicona sulla tomba di Teresa Ventura Venier, published in 1790 by the Stamperia Reale of Parma, under the direction of Giambattista Bodoni. Among the decorated papers that form the paperback covers, it is possible to distinguish that of xilografate (wood engraving); impressed with a wood matrix; that of marmorizzate (marbled paper) made by floating a solution of oil colors in a water bath on which the paper is laid; and precious papers goffrate (embossed), dorate (gilded) or argentate (silvered). This last technique, worked out in the seventeenth century in Germany, was introduced into the area of the Veneto in 1746 by the Remondini of Bassano, who had already supplied all Europe with sacred images and popular booklets and who had a monopoly on the fabrication of decorated papers. After the closure of the business in 1861, the prints were acquired by the paper manufacturer Giuseppe Rizzi of Varese, who for many years continued the production of decorated papers that were then called in Italy “carte di Varese”.
Room 8. Adventures of the Novel and Celebrations of the Antique. This large room allows the presentation of two important aspects of the collecting interests of Aldo Ravà: on one side in the central cases, that of the literary genre of the novel, and, on the other, in the library cases, that of monumental illustrated editions. Regarding the novel, a number of examples of editions for popular circulation are shown. Composed of only a few number of pages, or in a small format, these were bound with boards covered in paper of a coarse weave, made of rag, in uniform colors, often blue, obtained from natural extracts such as indigo or woad that covered the irregularities. These low-cost booklets gave life to the series that the French call “Bibliothèque blue”, at one time widely diffused. It eventually disappeared in large part because the volumes were read over and over and destroyed by use, or because they weren’t considered worthy of preserving-literature to consume. Through these volumes the book also reached women who had earlier dedicated themselves exclusively to books of a religious or hagiographic character. Many Venetian printers thus turned to the novel and to the translation of French and English works. They privileged, in particular, translations from the French language, as well as true masterpieces written originally in English, such as Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, present here in a very rare Venetian edition by Domenico Occhi dated 1730, and Le avventure di Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, translated from the French by novelist and dramatist Pietro Chiari. The Ravà collection boasts all the works, with numerous first editions, of Chiari, an ex-Jesuit abbot and instigator of literary polemics with Gozzi and Goldoni. Among the examples displayed here are the Lettere scelte di varie materie piacevoli of 1750, La ballerina onorata, o sia Memorie d’una figlia naturale del duca N.V. scritte da lei medesima of 1757, La contessa del nord ovvero Memorie ed avventure di madama di G. of 1762, and La viniziana di spirito, o sia Le avventure d’una viniziana ben nata, of 1762. Other titles represent unusual views into the Italian cultural horizon of the epoch, such as the Vita di Marianne di Marivaux of 1746, the Racconti orientali dall’idioma tedesco nell’italiana favella recati di Amed Ben Mohamed and the anonymous Viaggiator francese ossia Piacevoli avventure d’un cieco. As reguards expensive editions, in the library cases several volumes representative of Venetian production are exhibited. One may note in particular the two folio volumes displayed in the central case, containing the catalogue of ancient sculptures from the anteroom of the Marciana Library commissioned by the noble librarian Lorenzo Tiepolo. The authors of the volumes are the homonymous cousins Anton Maria Zanetti il Vecchio (the Elder), predominantly draughtsman and engraver, and il Giovane (the Younger), predominantly scholar and cataloguer of manuscripts. Of similar intentions was the large volume of the reconstruction of ancient Rome that puts before the eyes of the reader not the actual ruins but the magnificence of Roman buildings, depicted in the moment of their construction. On the opposite side is a volume that represents Antiquity as the realm of the irrational, mysterious and magical. The album is completely engraved, from the text in cursive to the images, Oracoli [Oracles], Auguri [Augers], Aruspici [Haruspex], Sibill [Sybils], Indovin [Fortunetellers], della Religione Pagana [Pagan Religion], published in 1792, in which the author Jacopo Guarana, student of Sebastiano Ricci and Giambattista Tiepolo, looked at 17th century models.
Room 10. Aldo Ravà a Scholar Between Art and Literature. In Aldo Ravà inclinations of the enthusiast and the collector emerged while still at a young age, leaving time to temper him into a refined scholar and indefatigable researcher. Particularly successful in his investigation of unpublished works, he studied his preferred century, producing, in the period of little more than ten years, some 60 publications between monographs and articles, that followed one after another without a break until 1910. Displayed in this room are his studies, collected in monographic volumes, on Pietro Longhi (1702-1785), of whom he appreciated the value of primary evidence above all; Giambattista Piazzetta (1682-1754), little studied at the time; and Marco Pitteri (1702-1786), together with portraits (of Piazzetta and of Pitteri) executed by the same Marco Pitteri from drawings by Piazzetta. The monograph on Piazzetta brings together, among other things, the fruits of his research into the activity of the artist linked to the world of publishing. To Ravà we owe the discovery, in the Royal Library of Turin (la Biblioteca Reale di Torino), a series of more than 200 drawings. These are identifiable in great part as preparatory sketches from which different engravers traced their illustrations for some of the most celebrated and prestigious Venetian editions of the time, published by Giovanni Battista Albrizzi, friend and patron of Piazzetta. Indeed, Ravà’s studies in this field lead one to conclude that the numerous engravers of the works of Venetian artists did not always render faithful interpretations. A single exception, Marco Pitteri, master of the burin (the engraving tool), truly succeeded in reproducing and penetrating the spirit of the art of the great painters. And it was appropriately to Marco Pitteri that Ravà dedicated his last monograph, a work of great value for the scholars of today.
Room 14. Giacomo Casanova and Carlo Goldoni. Two Protagonists Between Venice and Europe. The room is dedicated to Giacomo Casanova and Carlo Goldoni, two of the major personages representative of 18th century Venice, that has as its scenario their interaction with all of Europe. For Casanova one seeks to recover aspects that distance him from the stereotypical figure of the adventurer, reevaluating him as a refined intellectual. Displayed here are numerous and rare editions of his Histoire de ma vie, in different languages and from different periods. There is moreover an exhibition of essays, critical writings, and pamphlets, that quote parts of the Memorie accompanied by apposite prints. Among the other works of Casanova exhibited in this room is a rare exemplar of theMessager de Thalie, a pamphlet serial that chronicled the world of the prostitute and the theater. It was rediscovered by Ravà to whom we also owe the attribution to Casanova of some texts formerly thought to be anonymous, including the Opuscoli miscellanei. These demonstrate, in his judgement, Casanova as an acute, truthful, cultivated and intelligent writer. Particularly important were the studies conducted at Dux, in Bohemia, where Casanova spent the last years of his life as librarian of the Castle of Waldstein. Ravà gathered and studied many of Casanova’s manuscripts preserved there, as well as letters sent to him by women, and minutely reconstructed the personal events and histories connected with each one. The fruits of this research were collected in the volume Lettere di Donne a Casanova – displayed here – that consecrates Ravà as one of the founders of modern Casanova studies. As regards Carlo Goldoni, his pages faithfully represent, in Ravà’s view, a realistic mirror of everyday. Life of the epoch to which he felt greatly attracted. Nearly all of the 18th century publications of Goldoni are represented in his collection. Among them are the fundamental editions by Bettinelli (1750-1757), Paperini (1753-1757), Pasquali (1761-1780) and Zatta (1788-1793), here displayed next to ancient and modern editions, 20th century series of complete works, including popular editions, redactions for didactic use, translations, rewritings and comedies inspired by Goldoni productions such as the Trilogia di Ludro of Francesco Augusto Bon shown here together with Goldoni a Udine of Ullmann. Indicative of his interest in 18th century theater, Ravà also included in his collection considerable number of comedies and tragedies and various opera libretti, discovered among antiquarian bookstores and art markets. Among the rarities presented in this room are I giuochi di Agrigento created for the grand opening of the Fenice Theater (Gran Teatro la Fenice) in 1792 and an intriguing sampling of works of the Venetian librettist Giovanni Bertati, nearly all of whose librettos are represented in Ravà’s collection. Bridging theater as music and theater as text are the complete theatrical works of Pietro Metastasio and the numerous editions of Il teatro alla moda of Benedetto Marcello.