John Taylor Arms, Venetian Mirror, 1935. Etching. Private collection.
John Taylor Arms, an American printmaker and architect, co-authored and illustrated several travel books with his wife Dorothy Noyes Arms. Applying his architectural knowledge and drafting skills, Arms created images with painstaking details using various needles, dental and etching tools, and a magnifying glass. The sketch, Venetian Mirror, was created in 1930, but the etching was not produced until 1935 and was included in the volume Hill Towns and Cities of Northern Italy. 1 (This book is on display with the exhibition). For those who have been to Venice, there are several recognizable buildings, including Palazzo Stern, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Balbi, and the bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa di Frari in the background. But this image is in reverse, a mirror image—following the traditions of James McNeill Whistler’s ideas about creating the image as one sees it. Due to the intaglio process, if the image is “right-reading” then the print will be in the reverse, or a “mirror image.”
All of the buildings included in Arms’ print have significant architectural, historical, or ownership history. Among one of the interesting residents in the Ca’ Rezzonico was Cole Porter. In 1923, Porter came into an inheritance from his grandfather, and the Porters began living in rented palaces in Venice. He once hired the entire Ballet Monte Carlo to entertain his house guests, and for a party at Ca’ Rezzonico (seen above) which he rented for $4,000 a month ($55,000 in current value), he hired 50 gondoliers to act as footmen and had a troupe of tight-rope walkers perform in a blaze of lights. 1
Compare this photograph with the Arms image for a “right reading” study.
1. Denker, Eric. Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940.
University of Washington Press, Seattle. 2012
2. “Obituary: Cole Porter is Dead; Songwriter was 72”. New York Times, October 16, 1964.