Friday, February 5, 2016

The World of Carnevale, and Piazza San Marco, in a Soap Bubble

I'm not sure that the entertainers making soap bubbles this afternoon in Piazza San Marco with their long string loops thought of them as having any particular connection to Carnevale--after all, you can find people making bubbles that way year-round in Venice (and elsewhere), especially during the warm weather months. But bubbles in Western Art (as evident in paintings by artists like Jean Siméon Chardin (Soap Bubbles) and Rembrandt (Cupid Blowing Soap Bubble)) are all about the transience of human life, as Carnevale itself is.

Carnevale aims to present an iridescent pageant of pleasures, a shimmering world of surface effects and diversions: life stripped of its usual heaviness of being, its usual order turned upside down or reflected in surprising ways. It doesn't last for long, of course (though in the eighteenth-century Venice extended it as long as it could for the sake of business), and then, poof!, it's gone and Ash Wednesday and Lent is upon us.

I wouldn't have thought of any of this except for the curious fact, which I'd never noticed before today, that you can see the whole of Piazza San Marco in a soap bubble (as you can see in the images above and below; none of them processed in any way other than being lightened or darkened a bit). There it all was, the whole magnificent space: the campanile, the basilica, the temporary Carnevale pavilions, the huge video screen, even the people filling it (if you enlarge the image enough). A miniature, twinned, yin-and-yang image of the whole Piazza floating through the actual Piazza itself: a flock of such images, in fact. Or rather like a cluster of clone cells cast out into circulation, carrying the exact genetic material of the Piazza. If the wind carried one such cell to an uninhabited island in the lagoon might a new Piazza be spawned there?

But of course the bubbles never even last long enough to escape the confines of the Piazza itself. Carnevale, on the other hand, will be around for another five days and I'll have more pictures of it this weekend.        

Crop of the image above

A second soap bubble, the same Piazza


  1. The transience of human life is just brought home to me as I cancel our long-planned month in Venice. My husband has just found he has cancer and little time left. One day I will come. But not yet. I will still enjoy your interesting blog.

    1. I'm so very sorry to hear this, Freda, I don't know what to say. My best wishes to you both, and I hope that while you do your best to care for your husband you won't forget to take good care of yourself as well.

  2. Wonderful pictures of such transient, nay, fleeting art.
    Freda, you are in our prayers,

    1. Thanks, Rob, I never knew there was so much to be seen on a bubble's surface.