25 June 2008

Real estate: Ca'Faisan

Early on the journey up the Grand Canal one can see this jewelbox palazzo with the name Ca’Contarini-Fasan or Ca’Faisan (apparently the Contarinis were fond of hunting pheasant). But since the nineteenth century, those who know Shakespeare’s Venetian tragedy Othello have called it “Desdemona’s house.” Indeed, many guidebooks and the gondolieri refer to it as such, although there is nothing in the way of facts to support the idea.

Still, that clever Venetian author Alberto Toso Fei, speculating that the Bard just might have visited Venice during “the lost years,” reasons that Ca’Faisan could have earned its soprannome in this way…

Shakespeare’s play opens late at night with a pair of evil tattletales outside Desdemona’s house, shouting to her father about her elopement with Othello. The whole point of engaging in such a charivari (old-style public denunciation of offensive behavior, such as a mixed-race marriage) was to get lots of attention and spread the story around quickly. Ca’Faisan is certainly close to Piazza San Marco, the most populated place in town, and it’s also situated directly on Venice’s busiest gondola route. Gondolieri have always been Venice’s most efficient “grapevine,” so a little shouting here would go a long way.

Fei also notes something eerie about the house: one of the wheels of the balcony decoration “turns” in the wrong direction, reminding us of the wheel of Fate, an idea that appealed greatly to Shakespeare. Perhaps this strange architectural error reminded someone of the ill-fated Desdemona, wrongly accused of infidelity and murdered by her husband, thus marking this house as hers. Look above and decide for yourself.

One time I asked my friend “E” which of the palazzi on the Grand Canal she would most like to own and inhabit. She answered instantly – Ca’Faisan. She likes its convenient location and Bacino view, as well as its compact size and graceful beauty.

And my choice...?