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The Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture on Italian Art: The Aesthetics of Water: Wellheads, Cisterns, and Fountains in the Venetian Dominion

Patricia Fortini Brown, professor emerita of art and archaeology, Princeton University. When we think of Venice, we think of a city in the sea, a city surrounded by water. And yet, before the modern era, the city had no source of fresh water other than the rain from heaven or barges from the mainland. Therein lies the paradox: Venice is in the water and has no water. In this 20th annual Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture on Italian Art recorded on November 6, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, Patricia Fortini Brown addresses how the Venetians dealt with this deficiency of nature by creating a unique genre of public art: the Venetian wellhead. Also addressed are the change and the challenge that came with the expansion of the Venetian empire: the gift of running water and the need to harness it. Again, the Venetians seized the initiative and created fountains that transformed urban spaces from the Terraferma to the Stato da Mar into places of encounter and aesthetic delight.