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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

Canestrelli: on Mirrors and Witches

Updated: Mar 11, 2018

Right in the heart of Dorsoduro, a few minutes from the Galleria dell’Accademia, there’s a small workshop that might go unnoticed by the most. Yet, it is a magnificent chest that contains an indefinite number of handmade convex mirrors. These unique objects, that originally had strong allegorical and magical meaning, were believed to ward off the evil eye and the witches curse. Found in people houses around XV and XVI centuries, they later worked as monitors in public spaces such as banks, money changers or jewelry stores.

Stefano Coluccio, the architect who owns the workshop, inherited and learned the carving art from his maternal grandfather Emilio Canestrelli, who opened a frame store in 1952. Years later, Stefano had the merit of reproducing this extraordinary object, beautifully combining his family’s knowledge with his art studies.

In fact the convex mirror, known in France as the “oeil de sorcière” (the witch’s eye), was represented in several, mostly North European paintings, among which Jan van Eyck’s work is probably the most famous. While Quentin Metsys’ “The moneylender and his wife” is preserved in the Louvre Museum, Italian painter Parmigianino left us a convex mirror self portrait that can be currently found at the Kunsthistoriscshes Museum, in Vienna.

Surprisingly enough, the technique currently used by Coluccio to produce the mirrors’ frames, is exactly the same Cennino Cennini reported in his “Il Libro dell’Arte” at the end of 1300. Involving components such as chalk, rabbit-skin glue, whisked egg-white and agate stone, the “doratura a guazzo” (gilding) with gold or silver leaves is still performed in order to obtain the highest quality.

Talking to Stefano, who once used to count on the cooperation of other local craftsmen, we can easily figure how difficult became to operate in a city that’s slowly losing its network of artisans. As many of his colleagues in Venice, who have to deal with narrow spaces and expensive leases, Coluccio wishes his creations to be recognized and supported, especially by Italian institutions.

We personally think artisans’ work has an enormous value in cities like Venice. In our small way, we are happy to help, introducing them to our guests and including their workshops into our off the beaten path tours. A small step in order to regain the authentic Venice.

Have a Glass in Venice is proud to include Canestrelli's lab into Dorsoduro tour off the beaten path.

For more info visit:

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