|photo credit: Larry Castek|
Today we're lucky to get a striking glimpse of the Venice of 47 years ago, courtesy of Larry Castek, during the era when pigeons still ruled Piazza San Marco.
John Berendt describes the city administration's unsuccessful and often clandestine attempts to control (and sometimes poison) its pigeon population in his best-selling book The City of Falling Angels, published in 2005. In May of 2008 a law was finally passed which banned their feeding and put the 19 licensed vendors of feed out of business.
At the left of the photo you can see one such vendor in the act of filling a small paper bag of seed from a podium-sized green stand.
And just to the left of him, further in the background, you can see what looks to be a sizable canvas on an easel, with more canvases leaning against its legs. Was this someone licensed to sell his or her works in the piazza, or someone simply painting?
The unlicensed sales of paintings in the piazza has long been banned, but in the last couple of years so, too, has the mere painting of pictures. Artists long used to working there have been chased out by the police. There is no actual law against painting in the piazza, but local authorities have adopted a "zero tolerance" policy toward even the smallest of easels set up in the city's most famously picturesque space.
But though police now keep a watchful eye out for artists, on most sunny days it's not hard to find an illegal vendor or two of pigeon food....