Pietre sbuse/piere sbuse: another mystery in Venice

It was in the excellent blog BluOscar (in my Blogroll),  that I first read about these stones set into the walls of some palaces. They protrude in a vertical manner, and have a hole near the end. There is speculation as to their use. Since they appear in pairs, or more, it seems logical that some type of pole could have been threaded through them. But, why? In the Scuola San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, you can see a painting (by Carpaccio), of St Jerome and the lion in the convent.  Once you have looked at and enjoyed the very lively painting, you will notice that there are pietre sbuse on the wall below the two upper windows. And, it appears that clothes are draped over one of the poles. There are other theories, such as: they could have been used to dry fabric that had been dyed. 

You have to look up to spot these stones. The ones I’ll show you here are to be found in Castello and San Polo. I also saw them in the Rialto area, and a single one in Campo San Luca. The partner to that one must have been removed or knocked off during some renovation work in the past.

13th century Palazzo: Sal. San Lio, 5674

Castello 5658

This private dwelling was not so old as the one in Castello. A gentleman I spoke to about it shrugged it off as “Quite new, maybe 200 years.” It’s all relative, isn’t it? Aside from many other eye-catching architectural features, this palazzo also had a number of  pietre sbuse.

San Polo

I hope you see some of these, next time you’re in Venice. You might also spot some that are set in a horizontal plane, with a solid stone a little distance below them. Happy hunting!



Filed under Venice

15 responses to “Pietre sbuse/piere sbuse: another mystery in Venice

  1. Pingback: Those pesky piere/pietre sbuse | Hello World

  2. There’s a Canaletto painting of a regatta on the Grand Canal, I think it’s in the National Gallery in London. I’d like to have a close look at that, because there’s certainly a lot of things hanging on the Palazzos, but I can’t seem to zoom in enough to see if the pietre sbuse are involved.

    I hope you discover even more of them, Annie.


  3. I’ll be looking for them now!


  4. I like Jan’s answer best! 🙂


  5. jan pag

    Perhaps they were there for hanging original Christmas lights and decorations?? ;-))


  6. Bert

    I think that BluOscar’s blog solves both mysteries pretty well. The Carpaccio painting (not the one Andrew found) actually shows clothes hanging on poles between the stones. Perhaps they are drying after washing or after dyeing. The stones with vertical holes are for posts to surround a terrace.
    I think it is significant that the stones with horizontal holes are just below windows, so that they can be easily reached from those windows, rather than just above windows, where they would be if they were to carry awnings for shade.


  7. Rob C

    A bit over-enginnered for a washing line don’t you think?

    I would have thought these were used to display the banner for the household or business within, a bit like the exhibition banners you see down the side of art galleries etc. Or these could be for an awning which could be extended out (a cantilevered arrangement) to give shade to the lower floors and the street outside.


  8. Andrew

    I’m intrigued. Looking through Carpaccio online I found a painting called Visitation ( Mary and Elizabeth, I guess). Hanging over the balconies are what appear to be silk rugs. Do you thihk your stone gadgets were to display these as signs of wealth?


  9. Andrew

    How about for hanging banners – heraldic or religious?


  10. Michelle , Best sometimes to keep eyes down, Canals don’t have barriers !!!


  11. Michelle

    That was my thought Yvonne but they don’t seem to be positioned correctly for that unless over time windows have moved (as in “been moved” I know they don’t do it on their own….or do they?).
    Something else to look for while I’m there.


  12. Someone I spoke to in Venice had the theory that they could have been used to hang ‘something’ in front of windows for shade and privacy.


  13. They almost look like curtian rod holders.


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