18th Century Venice: The Magic Box

This Zomponi engraving shows the Mondo Novo (New World), a type of “magic box” that became popular in Europe in the 18th century and frequently made appearances in Venice. You looked through a peephole and saw an image backlit by candlelight that could be quite dramatic depending on how sophisticated the artist was. The “New World” nickname came about because many images were of the Americas or other far-flung foreign parts. The public was charged a small fee to view these wonders. There is an amusing reference to the box in Carlo Goldoni’s play I Rusteghi when Lunardo, the Venetian merchant, recalls his childhood. “My father, when I was a little boy, used to say to me: would you like to see the New World? or would you like me to give you the two sous? I opted for the two sous” I’ve always felt this sums up perfectly the robustly inward-looking and typically Venetian tendency that was at once the foundation of the Republic’s greatness and of its eventual undoing.

2 thoughts on “18th Century Venice: The Magic Box

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s