Had you been walking around Venice just a few decades ago, Peggy Guggenheim in a gondola would have been a familiar sight. Two distinctive signs would have given her away: her lap dogs and those butterfly-shaped glasses of hers which had been specially designed for the famous American ‘art addict’ by artist Edward Melcarth.
It’s never easy to settle into a new city and when Peggy arrived in Venice in 1946, she walked right into a café and asked where she could go to make new acquaintances: namely, artists, critics, and people with whom to talk about her art collection (in Paris, before the War, she had been known as the lady who used to buy one painting a day). Someone scribbled the name Emilio Vedova on a box of matches, together with the address of a trattoria called “Angelo”, behind St Mark’s Square. Off she went… and indeed found Emilio and Venice’s entire artistic circle there (the abstract one, to be precise).
Although many years have gone by, in our mind’s eye we can still see the scene: they’re all sitting there around the table, amidst the clinking of glasses and the bartering of paintings and unpaid meals (the legend goes that the first time an artist paid his bill with a banknote, it was framed). Naturally, all this is going on under the vigil, bespectacled eyes of the Last Dogaressa.
St John Cantius