Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Mermaid on the Grand Canal, This Morning

In the weeks after the Covid-19 lock-down first went into effect last March, there were a series of reports about how with the abeyance of water traffic the canals of the historic center had become pellucid and still as reflecting pools. Nature had returned: you now saw schools of fish instead of herds of mass tourists; egrets and cormorants replaced mototopi and taxis; a prolific pair of Common Sheldrakes could leisurely lead their ducklings down the length of the Grand Canal, and there were even sightings of dolphins! 

Though this last claim was not intended to be taken seriously. 

(Though a native Venetian fireman told me nine years ago that he had in fact seen dolphins in the lagoon, but in each instance they were dead.)

So why not a mermaid? I thought this morning, upon seeing the sight above.

Who else would stretch out nearly nude on the cold slimy stones of Ca' D'Oro on a brisk autumn morning?

I suppose the absence of a fishtail, and the presence of stiletto heels, were clear indications this was not some rare mythical creature from the ocean deep but just a kind of person--a model--spotted far more often in the city center than the Common Sheldrake (which I'd previously only ever seen out near Torcello). 

And the appearance of mermaids and/or mermen in the Grand Canal wouldn't necessarily be all that positive a development, as they'd likely just encourage more tourists to dive from bridges and go for swims. 

So I guess I'll stick to looking out for those magical creatures once abundant in the lagoon but now rarely seen, like the sea horses John Ruskin refers to in a letter written in May of 1857 to his friend Charles Eliot Norton, recommending that Norton put "two or three cavalli di mare in a basin in your room [to] see them swim. But don't keep them more than a day, or they die, put them into the canal again." My son discovered one among the sea weed on a mooring pole at Certosa, but I've never seen one in the city. 


This model didn't have to lie down in cold water, but I doubt her draping provided much warmth  

No fewer than four different poses to choose from


  1. The wonderful mosaic floor of the Ca'd'Oro seemed to suffer a lot of damage from floods some years ago, and needed time for repairs - did it escape further damage in last November's floods?

    1. I imagine that it was submerged again, Ella, but I didn't hear anything about the damage--though it's possible there was some.