Who’s that girl?

The week when certain cultural sites in Italy offer free entry occurred while I was last in Venice. Fausto (Alloggi Barbaria) kindly made arrangements for us to join a tour of Ca’ Foscari, which is the main building of the University of Venice, and was part of the cultural week.

The sculpture shown above, is in a small enclosed courtyard within the Palazzo. I found out  that this  represents Niobe, but I knew nothing about the subject.

My search for information has led me, once again, to the world of Greek mythology, and another example of hubris gone badly awry.

Niobe was the proud mother of  six sons and six daughters. (Some sources say seven of each: bad record keeping existed even in those days!) She made the grave error of bragging about this to Leto (the goddess of motherhood), who had only 2 offspring: Apollo and Artemis (Diana). Her pride was punished when Apollo and Artemis killed all of Niobe’s children. Niobe morphed into stone, and that is how we saw her in Ca’Foscari.

So, today’s lesson, boys and girls. Do not brag in the presence of Greek gods and goddesses. Bad things happen!

There is a family connection to the name Niobe. Our father served in the Canadian Navy during the First World War, on  HMCS Niobe. My brother has just confirmed that the Niobe was docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia when a munitions ship exploded there in December, 1917. Our father was among those who were involved in the search for survivors, and the clean up, subsequent to the explosion.



Filed under Art

18 responses to “Who’s that girl?

  1. Steven

    By the way, does it strike you that nothing good can come of naming any kind of ship after a mother who lost all 12 of her children?

    It’s as bad as the good ship SS Job or something.


  2. Steven

    Funny, I never thought of Niobe the famous grieving mother ever looking like that or striking any pose even vaguely resembling that one and in such a state of undress. I love the pic, as I find it completely puzzling. I keep thinking the pose is somehow related to Courbet’s painting “The Origin of the World”…


    • Steven, you are introducing me to nooks and crannies of the art world I never knew existed. Literally! 🙂


      • Steven

        Is that a good thing? It’s just that the emphasis on the uncovered or bare (in both senses of the word) womb seems almost as pronounced to me as Courbet’s. I found out that it was sculpted by an artist (Napoleone Martinuzzi, who died in 1977) to honor those grads of Ca’ Foscari who died in WW II. The sculptor was D’Annunzio’s fave, according to one site… You probably know this already, but I wanted to see if it was as recent as I thought it might be (even more recent, as it turns out).


  3. Buona sera, bella

    I should have gone straight to your father for the story! 🙂

    How many days until NY and Puglia??


  4. Katina Janakis

    Grazie bella!! very interesting, and will talk to my dad about Niobe. He will know this for sure as he studied Greek Mythology, and while in the new Athens Museum this year, he acted as our tour guide.



  5. Maité, you are welcome! Buona giornata a tu, anche.


  6. Merci pour ces deux belles histoires ; buona giornata, a presto !


  7. Little did I know when I took that photo, that it would lead to such interesting findings, Michelle.


  8. Michelle

    hmm, bears a striking resemblance to me…about 40 years ago!…except I don’t have those lovely slender toes.
    Wow, your blog is educational as well as entertaining.


  9. Dad was in the Canadian Navy for about 3 years during WW1. I have vague memories of him telling us about that experience in Halifax.

    (Talk about child bearing hips, eh?)


  10. Voluptuous wench! I didn’t know that about my grandfather!


  11. Hi, AnnaLivia. The Greek myths are so interesting, so blood thirsty!

    Yes, I’ll be following in your footsteps, very soon. 🙂


  12. Very interesting Yvonne! I knew nothing about that woman. Thanks for the info : )
    Two more weeks… ; )


  13. It sure does, Jude. I was fascinated with her toes, for some reason!


  14. Her body looks pretty good for having given birth 12 (or 14) times!!!


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