G. E. Street thought that the undulating floors of St Mark's were built purposely to resemble a petrified sea. Somehow, in Venice, the notion doesn't seem absurd when you stand on the magic stone carpets, though their gentle heavings are almost certainly caused by eternal interaction of underlying water and sand. The pavements, ancient, often renewed, and endlessly trodden, tell many stories about their designers and makers, the tastes and footprints of their successors. Tudy Sammartini's new book Decorative Floors of Venice (Merrell, [pound]35) shows the fantastic array under your feet in the great church: a virtual bestiary with peacocks and even a hedgehog, the sea, dodecahedrons, doges' caps, flowery meadows, geometric abstractions of the earth and heavens.
Sammartini has searched for the city's most marvellous petrified tapestries, ranging from the opus tessellatum in the basilicas of Torcello and Murano, where your feet are on stones cracked and worn by a thousand years of leather, to smooth twentieth-century work like Carlo Scarpa's mosaic floor at the Fondazione Scientifica Querini Stampalia. Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Modern (a bit too much of the latter for me), Gabriele Crozzoli has photographed them all with great sensitivity.
Author and photographer tell the story of La Serenissima through its pavements with love, subtlety and layered richness of knowledge. So what seems at first to be a coffee-table book becomes a moving and memorable celebration of a previously scarcely studied dimension of the most beautiful city in the world.
Decorative Floors of Venice by Tudy Sammartini, photography by Gabriele Crozaoli and foreword by Johon Julius Norwich is published by Merrell. [pound]35 (hardback). Architectural Review reuders can purchuse this at the special price of [pound]30 including post and packing (offer to UK readers only). Cheques [pound]30 inc p&p per copy, payable to Merrell Publishers.
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|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2000|
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