Palladio, Royal Academy

Today I went to the Palladio exhibition at the Royal Academy.

There were some amazingly detailed models of villas, palazzi and assorted other things from the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio. [Yeah that’s right – you heard me. It’s in Vicenza which is about 70km west of Venice. Knowledge. I has it.] and a whole heap of his architectural drawings.

Now apart from it being oh, about THREE YEARS TOO LATE what with Palladio being one of my specialised modules in the third year and having to give countless (or – more accurately – TWO) presentations on particular quirks of his architectural style and the merits and influences thereof, it was actually pretty cool to see it laid out and experience jolts of familiarity with each item.

It was also tinged with melancholy, however, as I had hoped the information I worked so hard to keep in my head for a year would come rushing back as a cresting wave eventually splooshing the sandy beach of my brain with facts. Sadly it looks as though most of it has gone forever leaving just a soggy sandcastle disintegrating on some litter-strewn patch of shingle. Probably near Broadstairs.

A soggy sandcastle of intelligence was more than a match for an elderly lady, though. She decided to interrupt my explanation of the main features of San Giorgio Maggiore (as depicted by Canaletto) to my mother with “Well if you were paying attention the guide over there is actually explaining this”.

She seemed to be furious with me at this point so I raised my eyebrows, gave what was hopefully a withering look, and pointed out that the guide was talking about a completely different church (corroborated by the fact she was on the opposite side of the room). Undeterred the woman raged on. “No! This is painting by The Canal* and the guide is talking about The Canal’s painting! It must be this church so be quiet and listen!”

I was so fed up with her that I just started talking over her at this point, “This is one of a PAIR of CANALETTOS. The guide has talked about this one already. She is now ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM discussing IL REDENTORE – a completely different church – ALSO painted by Canaletto.”

There was the smallest of pauses while I wondered (not for the first time) if I was going to be thrown out for making a scene, but the woman underwent some sort of miraculous personality shift and asked sweetly whether I knew if the guided tour was for a particular group or if ordinary visitors could join in. After she had gone I turned to mother to express my rage at such an attack but found her grinning as if she had just seen the best street theatre of her life.

Rage follows me like a cougar tracking some sort of easy meat…

*No, really – she called Canaletto “The Canal” – you can be a snob and call him Canal (well, you can if you don’t want anyone to understand what you’re talking about) but The Canal implies outrageous levels of stupidity and an inability to read the text beneath a picture.

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