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“The Vine Angle”: the Drunkenness of Noah

At a first glance the facades of the Doge's Palace in Piazza San Marco seem very simple. In truth, looking at them carefully, you can see sculptures in all its corners that recall episodes from the Bible.

Noah next to a vine tree, medieval sculpture, mid 14th-century

One of these on the corner of the Doge’s Palace towards the canal represents Noah next to a vine tree. John Ruskin called this corner of the Palace: “the Vine Angle” because of Noah’s drunkenness.

The episode recalls the Old Testament. Noah drank a lot of wine and went to sleep naked. One of his sons, Ham, saw him while he was sleeping and wanted to make shame of him. He told his brothers, Shem and Japhet, what happened. Walking backwards and without looking at their naked father they took a blanket and covered him. When Noah awoke and understood what happened, he scolded his son.

Noah is in the foreground, while his sons can be seen behind him. One of them is holding a cloth.

There are different interpretations of the vine tree.

The artist, probably Filippo Calendario, used a biblical episode to affirm a moral concept linked to the wise behavior of Noah’s sons, while Noah represents the foreshadowing of Christ’s birth and redemption.

As the sculptures are located on the facade of the Doge’s Palace, they are connected to a cycle that follows the same theme, that of divine justice.

By using religious and political self-imagery the Venetian government aimed at justice and harmony, at the moral rectitude and role of the government in upholding the law.

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