Corto in Venice

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Dedicated to Corto Maltese

03/01/2013 16:40
Venice is full of wonderful terraces where to stay quietly sipping coffee or spritz and meanwhile keep an eye on life passing by just in front. There is one which is peculiar enough, despite not having any notable feature, its metal tables are ordinary, the premises has no special charm that...
31/12/2012 18:53
Sometimes in dreams, I recreate in absolute detail my own neighbourhood, but the streets are transformed and change their name and appearance. Squares are rearranged in the new urban grid and even bars are transformed inside renewing their parishioners and bartenders. Interestingly, from one...
30/12/2012 16:51
Pratt pleased to invite to his stories personalities that had existed in real life, logically contemporary with the development of the Maltese adventures that have been interlinked seamlessly into the plot, especially when it is stitched in its historical context. This bring credibility even more...
29/12/2012 18:26
At Meydani, Istanbul, 2009 The Golden House of Samarkand,  Mandraki Harbour, Rhodes, 1921- 2009 The Golden House of Samarkand, Odos Socrates, Rhodes, 1921- 2009 The Golden House of Samarkand,  Odos Ippoton, Rhodes, 1921- 2009 The Golden House of Samarkand,...
28/12/2012 19:00
Campo Santa Maria Mater Domini, 2010 Campo San Trovaso, 2009 Ponte Chiodo, 2007 Campo Santa Agnese, 2008 Campo Santa Agnese, 2010 Campo San Stefano 2010 Ponte di Trearchi, 2009 Bacino Orseolo, 2010 San Giorgio Maggiore, 2008 Campo di Santa Maria...
27/12/2012 19:33
Fields have an indefinite colour in early fall between Corbie and Vaux-sur-Somme, in French Picardy. Plowed surfaces, ready for sowing, alternate with the remains of rapeseed and maize crops. Gentle hills following one another in the landscape with meandering Somme have a radically different...
22/12/2012 19:02
The Celts, Concerto in O minor for Harp and Nitroglycerin,1918; Monasterboice, Ireland, 1986  The Celts, A Mid-Winter’s Morning Dream, Stonehenge, Wiltshire, 1918; 2010 The Celts, A Mid-Winter’s Morning Dream, Stonehenge, Wiltshire, 1918; 2010 The Celts, A Mid-Winter’s...
22/12/2012 14:03
Caporetto On 23 May 1915 the Kingdom of Italy had joined the Western Allies of the Triple Entente declaring war on the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Isonzo river stream, in the Julian Alps, was the border between Italy and Austria, and the key that must...
22/12/2012 11:01
Near Guglie bridge, and besides fondamenta della Pescheria, there’s a small porch that easily goes unnoticed. A small yellow plate in the manner of those pointing the direction to San Marco or the Academy, indicates the entrance to Venice Jewish quarter. Just crossed the bleak threshold, on the...
21/12/2012 19:51
The Ethiopian, In the Name of Allah the Merciful,Yemen, 1918; Tassili N'Aggahar, Argelia, 1991 The Ethiopian, In the Name of Allah the Merciful,Yemen, 1918; Gizeh, Egypt, 2008 The Ethiopian, In the Name of Allah the Merciful,Yemen, 1918; Between Riad...
21/12/2012 22:18
The Celts, The Angel At the Window of the Orient, 1917; San Francesco dil Deserto, Venecia 2008  The Celts, The Angel At the Window of the Orient, 1917; Casino degli Spiriti, Venecia 2009  The Celts, The Angel At the Window of the Orient, 1917;  Malamocco,...
21/12/2012 18:26
The Early Years Gizeh, Egypt 1903;  2008 Ballad of the Salt Sea, The Hidden Island 1913/1915; Moorea, French Polinesia 1999 Ballad of the Salt Sea, The Hidden Island 1913/1915; Palawa, Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2005 Ballad of the Salt Sea, The Hidden Island...

To track the shadow of Valletta’s marine isn’t easy. Impossible in time, perhaps plausible in space. Sometimes I approached it. Sometimes I have crossed with it. Others I think I've been more precise and I managed to stumble upon one of the milestones of the route sailed by the character born from the pen of Hugo Pratt. Neither has been, at the beginning, intentional searches, but casual encounters I've finished realizing after years. Images that have ended almost matching from a file to a cartoon frame. Sometimes I must admit I have been in the same cities purposely looking for the same scenes, I walked the same streets looking for similar frames but identical to those set by the artist in his stories of the Maltese.

Not accidentally has been Venice where I stayed more than once trying to step on his shadow almost evanescent. Pratt recreated Corto Maltese's visits in three of their comic books. The first, The Angel of the East Window, belonging to volume The Celts, places him in 1917, against the background of the First World War, where the sailor and other adventurers seek information on the whereabouts of the seventh golden cities of Alto Marañón: the mythical Eldorado. Pratt uses the landscapes of the Venetian Laguna as he wishes, accurate tracing the details, vague in its location. They are simply the setting for his stories. Today no gondolier would accept rowing for any tourist or anyone from San Francesco dil Deserto up to Malamocco where by the other hand is perfectly portrayed the restaurant where Corto enjoyed a sea bream fished in the waters of the lagoon. The vignettes where the Dogana point, the Basilica of San Marco and the Ducal Palace appears are perfectly drawn decals of the real subject.

In the second story, Corto Maltese in Siberia, the first board starts in the Venice Ghetto. Specifically in a courtyard door that actually exists and even today can be located, though, I imagine Pratt changes prudently portal number for the year when action started: 1918. Once the sailor fell asleep while reading the Thomas More Utopia by December 34 he will not visit the city until two years later, in 1920, when accidentally lands at the headquarters of a Masonic lodge.

On the third visit Pratt recreates himself even just starting with the title of the story: the Fable of Venice or Sirat al Bunduqyyiah, or A:. L:. G:. D:. G:. A:. D:. L:. U: .where the acronym is an Masonic abbreviation  À La Gloire Du Grand Architecte De L'Univers (To the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe); Sirat al Bunduqyyiah is just the phonetic Arabic transcription.

In the latter, and more complete, Venetian journey, Pratt, logically, enjoys urban landscapes, even describing impossible walks: Only three vignettes elapse from the one at the bridge of fondamenta San Felice, ponte Chiodo, only without rails left in the city, up to campo Santa Agnese. Two pages away the relate continues in Tre Archi bridge and then to the Hotel Cavalletto. A good walk.

Corto admits the purpose of his visit: he’s searching a magical emerald: a Bareket, a Solomon’s clavicle. The emerald which once belonged to Lilith,  Adam’s first wife before Eve, and was part of the pectoral of King Solomon. The piece travelled from Antioch to Alexandria and arrived in Venice brought by Buono di Malamocco and Rustico di Torcello, hidden among the relics of Apostle Mark in the year 828. Also it’s said to have recorded some hidden characters, perhaps the same that were printed in the volume of 1641 that did nothing but play earlier manuscripts. In 1350, Pope Innocent VI sent burning a manuscript entitled Book of Solomon.

In Fable of Venice the Hebrew sage Melquisedech suggests that the magic formulas give the necessary information to find one of the treasures of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the subject of the investigation that, in his youth, heads Corto to Gizeh in Egypt. Clues tracked by the sailor behind the Solomon’s clavicle bring us back once and again to landscapes and scenes in the lagoon city. The Chair of Peter at Antioch in San Pietro di Castello, the lion looted in the Greek port of Piraeus, now guarding the Arsenal gates, campo di ​​Santa Maria Formosa, and, of course, the Basilica di San Marco.

© J.L.Nicolas

 

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