In the quiet district of Cannaregio, a less visited part of Venice, I find myself in the brick-built campo of Madonna del’Orto. In front of me is a magnificent church originally built by a rather dodgy religious group known as the ‘umiliati’ (The Humble). The church was dedicated to St Christopher, and there’s a wonderful sculpture, above the main door, of Santo Cristoforo carrying his precious god-child passenger across a river in flood. A few centuries later the ‘umiliati’ were chucked out and the affiliation of the church changed to the Madonna (based on a supposed sighting of the Madonna in an adjacent garden).
Madonna del’ Orto is known as Tintoretto’s church. The famous artist lived round the corner and there are two magnificent paintings of his in the church, along with a large stone marking the great man’s final resting place. I’ve written about the church in the past: Saints and Angels in Venice…
But today I’m not here for the Madonna del’ Orto Church, even though the building is imposing and the architecture is impressive. Today I’m here for Lilli Muller’s ‘Global Supper’. The ‘Global Supper’ is an art installation created and assembled in the atmospheric cloisters of the church. It consists of three long tables set out for dinner. Each place setting has an embroidered place mat, a plate, glass and a denim mask. Each place setting represents a country, there are almost 200 countries represented. Each name card gives you details of the country, population, life expectancy and GDP (a measure of quality of life). Then in a stroke of genius, the level of the wine in each person’s glass represents the standard of living in that country.
The ‘Global Supper’ invites you to look closely, to examine the place settings and to think about the countries seated around the table. The themes of the exhibit are humanity, kindness, sharing and consideration. Each country is represented by a single word embroidered onto the denim mask. In the case of Italy the word is ‘passion’. In the case of Ukraine the word is ‘strength’.
Just like a guest at a wedding I find myself carefully examining every place setting, hoping that I’ll be sitting next to someone interesting! Perhaps Lilli Muller, the artist was thinking the same thing too when she devised the ‘Global Supper’. She was partly inspired by a rather raucous ‘Last Supper’ painting by Tintoretto which hangs in the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. A drunken affair with too much food and definitely too much drink!
Lilli Muller’s Global Supper is open to the public in Venice until 12 July. Entry is free of charge. There are plans to then move the exhibition to Germany, possibly to a ‘duomo’ type setting. I suspect this art installation will pop up in different venues repeatedly in the coming years. The idea of sitting down to eat together is symbolic of our humanity. A desire to eat together, share and break bread together predates any religious orthodoxy. In fact eating and sharing food was fundamental to survival in early tribal groups.
Lilli Muller’s themes of humanity, kindness, sharing and communication are fundamental to our future. As I contemplate for a final few moments each place setting; a uniquely embroidered place mat, a denim mask and a wine glass filled to a height that equates to the average living standard of that country. The simplicity of the exhibit contrasts powerfully with the importance of the message. We must share and appreciate all that is given to us with humility and appreciation.
- The artist Lilli Muller – web site: www.lillimuller.com
- Lilli Muller is on Instagram @thereallillimuller
- Tintoretto’s ‘Last Supper’ was a source of inspiration for Lilli Muller. This version of the Last Supper (painted c. 1594) hangs in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It is filled with movement, drinking, eating and bawdiness.
- You can read more about the Church of Madonna del’ Orto in an article that I wrote last year about Angels and Saints in Venice: Saints and Angels in Venice…
Janet Simmonds is the author of this article and numerous other articles on Venice, Italy, The Alps. She writes on her blog: www.educated-traveler.com
Janet also creates unique itineraries for travellers in Europe, featuring Venice, Rome, Sicily, Naples and numerous other destinations. For more information on exceptional journeys in Europe visit: www.grand-tourist.com
It’s not all art and history – we have a lot of fun too. Janet (right) and friend Sue (left) enjoy the fabulous Da Romano Trattoria, Burano in April, 2022. You can read more about this wonderful trattoria here: Da Romano – Burano, Italy
21st June 2022