In the Sestiere of Cannaregio, the Ca’ Bembo-Boldù palace stands on the background of the small square of Santa Maria Nova, on whose facade an elaborate niche in white Istrian stone can easily be identified with at the center an enigmatic statue of what, at first glance, it would seem to appear as an old man with a long beard and his body completely covered with hair: “el vecio pien de peo” (the old hairy man). It was the owner of the building, Gianmatteo Bembo, who commissioned the realization of this work. The meaning of the sculpture is still shrouded in mystery and there are several interpretations.
According to some it represents “Saturn”, according to others the “Time”, in the act of supporting the disk of the sun. Still others believe it is a Masonic figure. The most accredited thesis, however, is that related to alchemy, both for the choice of the figure of the elderly person and for details that are well recognizable for alchemists, including the solar disk and the shell of San Giacomo. The shell, which appears twice, in fact represents the search for universal knowledge, while the old man would symbolize the union of intellect and nature. All elements related precisely to this art.
Below the Istrian stone niche, in which the statue of the bearded old man is placed, a shell with a bas-relief depicting three faces of elderly people expressing wisdom and authority, qualities and virtues essential for the essence of knowledge, is visible. A dear topic for alchemists.
Location: Campiello S. Maria Nova