The memory of the day when a terrible tide swept over the city of Venice, the fateful November 4, 1966, echoed inside the Italian Cultural Institute in New York during the meeting held to present historian Christopher Carlsmith’s new book, Save Venice Inc.: American Philanthropy and Art Conservation in Italy, 1966-2021.
The Save Venice organization, initially called the International Fund For Monuments, was born out of that tragic event, initiated by a group of Harvard University professors and intellectuals fascinated by Venice’s artistic heritage and determined to preserve it.
At the event, the third in partnership between the Institute and the Association, Director Fabio Finotti, together with Save Venice President Charles Tolbert, greeted the audience, recalling the effective collaboration. The floor was then turned over to Christopher Carlsmith, professor and head of the history department at the University of Massachusetts, who traced the history of the association, which was founded after the shock of the flood and became the largest nonprofit dedicated to preserving the artistic works and monuments of the Serenissima.
Among the most important activities completed by Save Venice are the restoration of the marble sculpture by Sansovino, titled Madonna and Child and placed on the tomb of Livio Podacataro, and the restoration of the Tintoretto work displayed in the church of San Marziale, which depicts the saint after whom the church is named.
1986 was the breakthrough year for Save Venice, thanks to the arrival of major investments that enabled the association to carry out very important projects of great economic value such as the restoration of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello and the Church of San Sebastiano.
Today Save Venice is not only involved in the restoration of artistic works in the Lagoon, but is also involved in organizing conferences and events with internationally renowned art historians, setting up the “Rosand Library and Study Center” library and archives, allocating scholarships, and conducting cultural trips to Italy, Egypt and other parts of the world.
“Two years ago we launched the Women Artists of Venice initiative to rediscover the sculptors, painters and artists who have contributed to the city’s artistic heritage. They had identified just over a dozen until then, Save Venice has identified 90,” Carlsmith says proudly.
Save Venice is also noted for its fundraising galas. Among the most famous are the one in Venice during the historic regatta week, and the one in the Big Apple that happens in the spring, with guests coming from all over the world to toast Venice’s timeless beauty.