THE FAERIE TALE OF VENICE AND THE INCENSE TRADE ROUTE

La Fiaba di Venezia e della Via dell'Incenso

A mysterious space-time journey…
Looking for anancient lost fragrance…
Solving arcane riddles…
A fairy tale of eternal value…
Narrated through artistic images and poems…

Corridor of access to the storage rooms of The Fairie Gate of Venice.
La Porta delle Fiabe (The Faerie Tale Gate of Venice) creates Epochs and new spatio-temporal features

Introductions

The artistic creation “The Faerie Tale of Venice and the Incense Trade Route” is the result of an extraordinary work carried out by Lucia Oliva, Luca Moretti and  Luca Rajna with passion, enthusiasm and a spirit of friendship towards the Sultanate of Oman.

The artistic journey about to be told highlights the close relationship and the links which bind together Italy and Oman.
They are described through a fairy tale about the quest for the perfect perfume, using frankincense as a symbol, jointly with one of the most appreciated touristic destination in the world, the city of Venice, as well at the center of the story.  

From the narrative style to the multi-disciplinary storytelling, this project is based on respect, dialogue and the importance of peaceful relations.
It tells, above all, the story of a friendship between the peoples of Italy and Oman, with their tradition and history and aims at highlighting a bridge between cultures and to showcase an example of wise and fruitful cooperation.

Against this background, the venue chosen to host this artistic project, the Bait al Zubair Foundation, is also a sign of attention and respect towards the Omani history and traditions by the Italian artists.
This Institution provides the cultural space to develop projects relating to culture and heritage, arts, community, history and publishing, while displaying an enchanting collection of Omani artefacts that spans a number of centuries, throughout the rich Omani history.
It is therefore the ideal setting for an event which has at its core the bridging of cultures and the cooperation between Italy and Oman. I am sure you will enjoy this artistic journey.

H.E. Dott. Pierluigi D’Elia
Ambassador of the Republic of
Italy in Oman


‘A very well-calibrated multidisciplinary artistic project, where the suggestions of visual art substantiate themselves in stories of essences and perfumes, source of inspiration and historical evidence that bind Venice to the incense trade routes throughout centuries.

It represents a strong heritage bond between Italy and Oman, which qualifies the careful reflection of shared cultural processes, from filming to poetry, to painting and literature, sublimated in the eternal rhythmic universe of the Comedy, as an unparalleled instrument of cooperation among peoples.

A syncretism of modern anthropologies and memory, that deserves the concrete attention of the representatives for UNESCO together with the most important Italian-Omani institutions.’

Prof. Massimo Ruggero,        
International Action Art Italy for UNESCO – President         


‘The Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route is a project that allows to escape from the hardness of reality and dive into the mystery of an ancient atmospheres rich in scents and perfumes, that allows to discover a faraway and always dreamt of land. Intriguing and delicious.’

Prof. Catherine Dalimier,        
Humanist, Sorbonne University         

‘It’s my great pleasure to be a witness of Lucia Oliva and Luca Moretti’s multidisciplinary artwork “The Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route”.

I have known this wonderful couple for many years now and I am not surprised by the quality of the innovative storytelling they proposed in it.

The sublime quality of the plot, the beauty of the photos by the co-author Luca Rajna, the mastery of the filmmaker Tom Giusto and the scrupulous care in all the philological details of the scenes donate a rare pleasure to the viewer, who perceives a perfect equilibrium in all its parts.

This amazing story, rich in deep cultural values, highlights a strong link between two significant eastern and western civilizations and landmarks, Oman and Italy.

The viewer can’t but be fascinated by the poetical narration about how a charming incense fragrance has travelled through space and time from the East to the West to reach Venice, connecting two faraway lands, both symbols of enchantment.

I’m sure of the huge public success this artistic project will have everywhere in the world.’

Carlos Freire,      
Photographer and Writer       


‘As I write these introductory remarks, I am with Luca Rajna at the art symposium The Culture of Making for the Desire of Beautiful. Our common goal consists in sharing and permeating our different artistic expressions to achieve a complete synthesis, which composes a picture that represents the heterogeneous aspect of universality of art.

I’d like to highlight that The Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route, created by Luca with co-authors Lucia Oliva and Luca Moretti, is exactly the application of our concept: ‘the culture of making for the desire for beautiful’ and consists in sharing and sociality in its multifaceted and heterogeneous essence. This leads to happy thoughts, free from any kind of negativity, which is the most difficult thing in all the arts.



The Faerie of Venice and The Incense Trade Route is a complex project where photography and cinematography go hand in hand together with literature, poetry, fashion and even chemistry, all of them involved in creating art. Indeed, the olfactory quality and the fragrance of the story depend on the action of the molecules that the compounds used contain.



To you, favoured user, may flow the final benefit the whole art that this book contains, that the desire for beautiful has created.’

Michele Sangineto,     
Master Luthier and Iconographic Researcher      


– The project was recognised of high cultural value by The Embassy of the Republic of Italy in Oman.
– Under the patronage of the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Culture, Sport.
– Under the patronage of the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Information – Directorate of Electronic Media.
– Under the patronage of International Action Art Italia and Associazione Internazionale Club UNESCO Genova.
– Gold Medal Awarded by Ioannis Maronitis,  General President & CEO of International Action Art – UNESCO.
– Hosted at the Pavilion of the Sultanate of Oman, la Biennale di Venezia 2024

  

The Faerie Tale of Venice and the Incense Trade Route hosted at the Omani Pavilion, la Biennale di Venezia 2024.

The Faerie Tale of Venice and the Incense Trade Route hosted at Biennale di Venezia 2024, National Pavilion of the Sultanate of Oman, during the opening ceremony.
Slideshow version with the rhyming verses recited by actress Mascia Musy

The Faerie Tale of Venice and the Incense Trade Route in words:
Inspiration and contents

Once upon a time an eclectic couple of Italian artists and scholars of essences and perfumes arrived to contemporary Venice, through a space-time journey, coming from the year 1754.

Searching for the Perfect Fragrance, this couple had already carried out a series of other space-time journeys since 1751, along the mythical ‘Incense Trade Route’, starting from Omanum Emporium, the place where the most precious incense was kept and traded.

The Perfect Fragrance was mentioned in old books that had gone lost, but the two scholars still remembered the enchantment of that unforgettable fragrance and its ineffable sensory quality, which they had experienced in that land called ‘Arabia Felix’ by the Romans, in those archaic times when the resin was not harvested yet, but whose scent was everywhere in the air.

Later on, when the story of incense began, reaching its climax with the purity of that mythical fragrance, the Queen of Sheba (the Regina Antiquorum, or The Queen of Old Times, as Her Majesty is called in the tale) became the exclusive guardian of the noble essence after receiving it with its alchemical formula as a gift from a wise man coming from Ubar (also known as Iram of the Pillars), the mythical city of the Arabic Peninsula that with Sumhuram was a significant landmark in Arabia Felix.

After many previous fruitless space-time journeys to Venice, the couple of scholars found this Enigma written in Latin (actually, it was the Enigma that found them):
‘SOLVE ET COAGVLA – VIGESIMO PRIMO – QVAERENDO IN VENETIIS – UNVS FIT DVO . DVO FIT TRIBVS AC PER TERTIVM QVARTVM FACIT VNITATEM’, ending with an artistic Arabic calligraphy: ‘AL BUNDUQIYYA’ (Venice is one of the few western big city also having an Arabic name).

The first part of the text was very easy to understand for our protagonists, who were used to solve this kind of Enigmas.
It was an invite to start a new time travel journey to Venice (‘Solve and Coagula’ that is ‘Dissolve and Recreate’, by excellence the most famous alchemical motto), going to the 21st century (‘Vigesimo Primo’), searching in Venice (“Quaerendo in Venetiis”) aiming at last to find the Perfect Fragrance because ‘Quaerendo in Venetiis’ is a pun that recalls the famous latin motto ‘Quaerendo Invenietis’ (‘By seeking you will find’, as the classical latin form has been forced by adding the preposition ‘in’, which is not grammatically required for names of cities.

By referring to the most ancient alchemical formula (which probably belongs to the first documented alchemist in history, that is Mary from Alexandria, who lived around the 2nd century B.C.), the hidden meaning in that case was that the Enigma (the ‘Unus’) invited the two scholars (‘Unus fit Duo’) to meet a third (the wise man from Ubar – ‘Duo fit Tribus’) so to meet a fourth who would lead them to the unity and perfection, that means the achievement of success (the Queen of Sheba – ‘ac per Tertium Quartum facit unitatem’), putting each element of the story in its correct place.
But… why again phrased in a completely improbable Latin?
Surely, the mission of the two protagonists had to pass through Solve et Coagula also once arrived again in Venice.
Moreover, why was the name of Venice mentioned also in Arabic (‘Al Bunduqiyya’)?

The arrival in the XXI century ‘Serenissima’ (as Venice was called) took place in San Marco square, at nightfall, on a gondola.
The two were welcomed by one of the Magi (wise men), just one of those who once was part of that caravan that moved along the Incense Trade Route bringing the precious gits to Jesus, as described in the Gospels: gold, frankincense and myrr.

The Magio was ‘the third’ mentioned in the Enigma.
Time traveller himself, he was used to coming back to Venice twice a year on recurring special occasions: in fact the wise man’s memory nowadays is still celebrated in Venice through the statues in the Clock Tower of San Marco Square.
This is the reason of their meeting there and why in the Enigma the name of Venice was written in Arabic too (Al Bunduqyya)!

The wise man introduced the two scholars to La Porta delle Fiabe (the Faerie Tale Gate of Venice), something that apparently looked like a brick wall but that, if crossed, allowed to travel through time and live in new Epochs and space times realities never existed before.

Entering together that mystical gate, the wise man guided the two scholars to find ‘the fourth’ mentioned in the Enigma.

Our protagonists thus began their new journey inside the Epoch created by the Fairie Gate, living extraordinary experiences through history and legend, during which a significant role is played by the appearance of the artwork ‘The Scent’ (see note*), as a metaphor of the alchemical transition that is going on and the research path that evolves and progressively reveals itself.
It symbolises the development of the journey: from hope, a longed-for goal, to achievement of completeness as synonymous of perfection.

In the poetic visions and narratives expressed through the evolution shown by diptychs VII and XII, the artwork ‘The Scent’ appears as an allegory of this ideal itinerary: from a reality in the making, still unfinished, decomposed, to unity finally achieved, symbol of the attained perfect equilibrium.

The research reach its turing point when… ‘coming out of the dimness’, the protagonists found on an antique palace this writing: ‘REGINA ANTIQVORVM VIAM TIBI DEMONSTRABIT’ (The Queen Of Old Times will show you the way).

The two scholars were surprised when they understood that the mentioned “Queen of Old Times” was the Queen of Sheba, guardian and sole user of the Perfect Fragrance in her era (and for centuries ahead) but willing in her generosity to make it available for everybody in the other times and epochs from that moment onwards.

According to the Queen’s will, in order to give honour to the two travellers, the Perfect Fragrance and it’s alchemical formula would be delivered to them in an ancient pharmacy and perfume factory belonging to the XVIII century, the age the couple came from and where it would in the end go back.

(*) Lucia Oliva (Instagram: @luciaolivaartist), ‘THE SCENT’ – Sculpture – painting (mixed media on marble). Installation with mirror. 2016. See below in this post.
Lucia Oliva’s artistic concept involves mirrors and various accessories to create original scenic set-ups that combine sculpture and painting into installations rich of theatrical effects and optical illusions. Her peculiar interpretation of the anamorphosis phenomenon gives life to artworks that consist in a tangible side and an ethereal one, “body and soul of the same entity”.

The authors

Lucia Oliva, Luca Moretti, Luca Rajna.

The characters

The scholars and time travellers
Lucia Oliva, Luca Moretti

The Queen of Sheba
Laury Diaz

The Magio King (wise man)
Mohammed Al Rawahy

The gondolier
Nicolò Ruzene (The Gondoliers of St. Mark’s Square)

EXCERPTS FROM THE TIME TRAVELLERS’S LOGBOOK

Solving the Enigma

«Everything started when we came across a mysterious enigma, containing a series of famous alchemical mottos and puns, ending with a fascinating Arabic inscription: Al Bunduqiyya.

Being experienced in alchemy and riddles we could easily decipher the first part of the codified text.

‘SOLVE AND COAGULA’ (Dissolve and Recreate) by excellence the most famous alchemical motto, was a clear invite to start a new time voyage, heading the 21st century ‘VIGESIMO PRIMO’ and, by seeking in Venice, they would find what their were looking for, because ‘QUAERENDO IN VENETIIS’ (Searching in Venice) sounds almost exactly like the famous alchemical motto ‘QUAERENDO INVENIETIS’, which means ‘He Who Seeks Finds’: it was very intriguing to realise how, to get the pun, the classical Latin form had been modified by adding the preposition “in” (which is not grammatically required for names of cities).

So we understood we would reach the goal only if we had fully respected the alchemical search method.

The text continued with the so called Mary’s Axiom, written in a corrupted Latin form, followed by the mentioned calligraphy:
“THE ONE” (UNUS, the Enigma)
was giving “THE TWO” (us, the Time Travellers)
the challenging task to seek in Venice (Al Bunduqiyya)
with the help of a “THIRD”,
who would lead us to “THE FOURTH”,
who would finally guide us to Unity (“PER TERTIUM QUARTUM FACIT UNITATEM”).

This would allow us to achieve the Perfect Fragrance, metaphor of our spiritual elevation to Perfection»

THE FAERIE TALE OF VENICE AND THE INCENSE TRADE ROUTE

Narrative photography project of twelve diphtycs with texts

PERIODO I
SOLVE ET COAGVLA
Dissolve and recreate – First Period

In a far away epoch still nowadays shrouded in mystery, an eclectic couple of scholars and time travellers experienced the enchantment of breathing a sublime scent, so as to charm their senses and become unforgettable.

In search for that ineffable fragrance, a sort of mystical goal, they explored various eras and places, with no result.
Back from a last unsuccessful journey in the middle of the 18th century, they suddenly encountered a mysterious enigma containing a sequence of famous alchemical mottos and puns.
It was written in a corrupted Latin form and ended with a fascinating Arabic inscription: Al Bunduqiyya.

Being experienced in alchemy and riddles, they could easily decode the first part of the text but could not understand why the so called Mary’s Axiom (‘Unus fit Duo, Duo fit Tribus…’) was mentioned in corrupted Latin and why the enigma was pushing them towards Venice (Al Bunduqiyya), with the implicit clear promise they would discover there how to move forward on their path and reach the treasure they had long been seeking.

Venetian house numbers on a wall.

Dopo avere molto cercato invano
Nel mezzo dell’età decimottava
Fummo raggiunti da un enigma strano:

Solve et Coagula – Vigesimo Primo – Quaerendo in Venetiis –
Unus fit Duo Duo fit Tribus ac per Tertium Quartum facit Unitatem

Ancor al viaggio il tempo c’invitava.

After vain crossing of time the secret line,
At the seventeen fifties a fruitless look.
A mysterious enigma gave us a sign:

Solve et Coagula – Vigesimo Primo – Quaerendo in Venetiis –
Unus fit Duo Duo fit Tribus
ac per Tertium Quartum facit Unitatem

A new invite to time travel we gladly took.

Showing in a mirror the Enigma of the Fable of Venice and the Incense Trade Route.

PERIODO II
TAM ETHICE QVAM FISICE
What in the Soul, in the Reality – Second Period

Reflecting on their nature of human beings, endowed with particular knowledge and cognitive abilities, they were confident they would be able to decipher the hidden meanings of the puzzle and, in the end, achieve the desired result.

They realised they would need to ‘unveil meanings of the arcane beneath the strangeness of the verses hide’. Lifting the veil of appearance was what they felt they were called for and ready to do: a search that went deep behind symbols and took place at a higher and more profound level of spirituality.

With this in mind, they set out for their journey… ‘thus we put on the deep open main’: the final verse is a clear eco of Dante’s famous reference dedicated to the mood of those who decided to sail towards the unknown.

The Faeire of Venice and the Incense Trade Route: the arrival in Venice of the two time travelers an scholars.

Considerata la nostra semenza
Fatti noi fummo a solver motti arcani
E conseguir virtute et canoscenza.

Certi che abbiamo l’intelletti sani,
Discerneremo il senso che s’asconde
Sotto ’l velame de li versi strani.

E mise noi per l’alto mare e l’onde.

Thinking on the seed we spring from, we were made
To study and solve weird mottos codified
Thus follow virtue and knowledge unafraid.

Given that we have sane intellects for guide,
For sure we will unveil meanings of the arcane
Beneath the strangeness of the verses hide.

Thus we put out on the deep, open main.

View of St. Mark's square from a gondola of the Gondolier's of St. MArk's Square.

PERIODO III
VENETIA VENI ETIAM
Venezia. Comes back again – Third Period

A significant moment in the story was when our protagonists met the Magio.

He introduced himself as one of those men of wisdom who made the journey along the Incense Trade Route, following the stars and bringing some precious gifts: gold, myrrh and frankincense. Thus they realised he was the “Third” mentioned in the enigma.

Using a metaphor that referred to the eternal flowing of time he revealed the reason for his presence in Venice. In the famous Piazza San Marco, the heart of the city, stands  the majestic Clock Tower, that dates back to the Renaissance; on its top a monumental sculpture representing three Magi is positioned. For centuries, its mechanism has been activated twice a year,  on the occasion of recurring traditional celebrations, when the statues of the Magi come out from the Tower and become visible to the public.

The  Wise Man addressed the scholars and encouraged them to follow him: it would have been his task to show them the hidden way.

The Wise Man of the Click Tower of Venice, St. Mark's Square.

Magio sono e fui un dì tra coloro
Che lieti fe’ il luminoso viaggio
Portando in dono mirra, incenso ed oro.

A me compete, in quanto uomo saggio,
Salir là dove il tempo viene eroso
Da secoli, a gennaio poi a maggio;

E a voi mostrare e aprire il varco ascoso.

I’m indeed one of those wise men who one day,
Solemnly bringing gold, myrr and frankincense,
Traveled with faith along that bright astral way.

As per my pure soul I am called with no pretence,
Twice a year from centuries, in winter ‘n spring,
To ascend up there where time flows immense;

Then show ‘n disclose to ye the secret hiding.

Glass reflections with a Venetian landscape and the Church of the Most Holy Redimer.

PERIODO IV
QVI NON VIDENT VIDEANT
Those who do not see will see – Fourth Period

The beginning of their path together is celebrated with the wise man leading the time travellers in front of a legendary passage, ‘The Faerie Gate of Venice’: a hidden site that apparently looks like a brick wall but that, for those who can cross it, allows them to travel through time and live in new eras and space times realities, which never existed before.

Somehow tracing the words of the most famous door mentioned in Dante’s masterpiece, the Faerie Gate of Venice majestically stood in front of them, with the implicit meaning: ‘Through me  the way…’.

Solemnly celebrating the moment by lighting the precious frankincense, the wise man invited the scholars to open the eyes of their soul and be ready to understand.

Thus the reason of their journey became clear and why in the Enigma the name of the city was written in Arabic too (Al Bunduqiyya): it was the Wise Man of the clock tower the ‘Third’ mentioned in the alchemical riddle.

As if by enchantment, the door opened and they entered a new space-time dimension.

Meeting with the wise man of the Clock Tower of St. Mark.

“Per me si vivon le età precedenti,
Per me del tempo s’intende il senso,
Per me s’incontran le passate genti”.

Li occhi ci sciolse e disse intenso:
“Mirate su per questa porta antica
Per indi ove regal sale l’incenso”.

Sì entrammo in men che non si dica.

‘Through me the way is to eras of the past,
Through me the way is to get of time the sense,
Through me the way is to those who everlast’.

Freeing our eyes he spoke and his voice was intense:
“Look at this ancient door which is so sublime
Where most is ascending the royal incense’.

We suddenly entered the door in no time.

Incense at the Fairie Gate of Venice.

PERIODO V
FESTINAT ADVLESCENS SED SENEX VIAM NOVIT
The young walks fast but the old knows the way – Fifth Period

Following the Wise Man the travellers crossed the threshold: the deep poetry of this moment is expressed by quoting Dante’s famous words when he refers to his master and guide, capable of moving in the darkness as if inspired by Wisdom. He was holding a light in order not to benefit himself but generously those behind him ‘…but those who follow leads aright’.

As a significant first leg of the journey, the Magio led  the scholars to the place where there was the house, birthplace, of that Venetian traveller who reached the Far East along the Silk Road, which in some stretches coincided with the Incense Trade Route: in his famous memories ‘Il Milione’ (or ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’) the great explorer also reported about the land of Dhofar and the harvest of frankincense.

Venetian wise man leading the time travelers

ALCHEMICAL EXPLANATION FOR THE SIXTH PERIOD

Text: Dr. Arianna Gambirasi

Ei fece come quei che va di notte,
Che porta il lume dietro e sé non giova,
Ma dopo sé fa le persone dotte.

Seguimmo e ci condusse ove si trova
Il loco natio del viaggiatore
Che della seta tracciò la via nova

E dell’incenso pur fu narratore.

Thus he did as he who travels in the night,
Who bears a lamp behind him, nor befriends
Himself, but those who follow leads aright.

He guided us to that place from where descends
That Venetian traveller who got the chance
To explore and proceed till the silk road ends

And wrote of frankincense, the noble fragrance.

The wise man of the Cock Tower of Venice is showing the way to the time travelers at Corte Seconda del Milion, the place in which Marco Polo lived.

PERIODO VI
OBSCVRVM PER OBSCVRIVS IGNOTVM PER IGNOTIVS
To darkness through what is darker, to the unknown through what is more unknown – Sixth Period

With a benevolent gesture and a look, which was at one time bright and proud, the wise man took the scholars by the hand, accompanying them to solemnly take a big step: now they should have proceeded alone on the path, delving into the ‘secret things’ and growing in knowledge and awareness about the deepest mysteries of existence; although in a different way, this is another clear reference to Dante’s poetry and philosophy.

The narration then surprisingly changed with the metaphorical entry onto the scene of a voice-over that ideally addressed both the travellers and the audience “…sharpen thy sight, reader…” : we do not know who it was, perhaps the voice of Wisdom.
The mysticism of the moment is highlighted by the announcement that the understanding of the protagonists is reaching a higher level, so that it can be easy for them to cross and dive into the the mystery thresholds.

The allegory of the spiritual journey that permeates the narration from the beginning meets at the end a new precious symbolism, with the veiled perception of an enchanting perfumed aura: it foreshadows Beauty, to which the scholars morally bow (it is worth noting the different metaphors used in the final Italian and English verses to evoke the same atmosphere of enchantment, rich in hope).

Alchemical tiles at palazzo Lezze in Venice.

E poi che la sua mano a noi ei pose
Con lieto volto e sguardo saggio e fiero
Ci mise dentro a le segrete cose.

“Aguzza qui, lettor, ben gli occhi al vero,
Ché ’l velo ora è ben tanto sottile,
Certo che ’l trapassar dentro è leggero”.

Aleggiava nell’aere odor gentile.

His hand on us to upon our falterings
With look of cheers that bade the hope begin
He led us on into the secret things.

‘Sharpen thy sight well, reader, for so thin
Assuredly the veil of truth is now
That ’tis an easy task to pass within’.

The beauty we were reaching deserved a bow.

Representation of the alchemical Venice: Obscurum per Obscurius Ignotum per Ignotius

PERIODO VII
CREDENDO VIDES
Believe and see – Seventh Period

At this significant turning point of their journey, aiming at the ideal of pure Beauty and Perfection, the two time travellers had an intuition as if it were once more Wisdom itself to speak.

Through Dante’s quote that was chosen to illustrate this moment, the narration reaches  a level of high philosophy: they had a sort of foreknowledge of the Purity they were seeking, symbolized by the appearance of ‘The Scent’ that evokes the Perfect Fragrance as a metaphor of the alchemical transition that is going on and the path of research that is evolving and progressively revealing itself.

Being only a premonition, the vision appears as a reality in the making, still unfinished, broken up, symbolically divided in two sections symmetrically facing each other in the distance… ‘as though in a mirror, in double subsistence’.
The scholars’ ideal itinerary is still ongoing but the Unity, metaphor of Perfection, is what is foreseen here ‘… itself remaining one eternal light’, even though not reached yet.

Lucia Oliva, The Scent at Palazzo Grimani, Venice, in The Faeire of Venice and the Incense Trade Route.

Così indagando a ritrovar l’essenza
Solo mirando bellezza e perfezione,
Questo ci fece udire la Sapienza: 

“Quel che cercate il suo raggiare aduna
Quivi specchiato, in doppia sussistenza,
Etternalmente rimanendosi una”. 

A una svolta era giunta l’esperienza.

Chasing the pure fragrance and secret, having 
Only perfection an’ beauty in our sight, 
We heard a voice of wisdom calling and saying:

‘What ye are looking for its own rays unite,
As though in a mirror ‘n double subsistence
Itself remaining one eternal light’.

It was on us to keep on with persistence.

The Faerie of Venice and The Incense Trada Route at Palazzo Bembo.

PERIODO VIII
V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem

Visit the innermost of Earth with pure soul and you’ll find the hidden stone –  Eight Period

Their approach to Light, which they had only glimpsed and almost touched, came to a sudden halt: they were called to enter the depths of earth and pass through darkness: ‘…visita interiora terrae’. 

The intrinsic meaning of this alchemical message, which was guiding them in this tough experience, was a promising admonishment: once they had led their virtuous inner transmutation from a material level to a higher one of spirituality, with integrity of soul (‘rectificando’), they would overcome the trial and reach Harmony. Then they would meet an ‘occultum lapidem’, a cryptic but decisive sign to get to the final aimed for goal.

The description of such a significant step is almost entirely borrowed from Dante’s famous original words, where the author and his Master ‘toiled to return to the world of light’ with their uttermost effort.

And like them, our  protagonists too.  After a harmonious crossroads of darkness and light, omen of Beauty, at last they “‘.. beheld again the stars’. 

Alchemical motto V.I.T.R.I.O.L. inside the Fairie Gate of Venice.

Seguendo noi per quel cammino ascoso
Intrammo a ritornar nel chiaro mondo; 
E sanza cura aver d’alcun riposo.

Andammo poi, con spirito giocondo
Sorpresi dal cangiar di cose belle
Tra l’ombre che scorgemmo giunti in fondo.

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.

Filled with trust, entering that secret road,
Toiled to return into the world of light,
Nor thought or any resting place bestowed.

With cheerful soul we proceeded till to sight
Appeared those things of beauty that heaven wears
Shining through shadows and darkness, faintly bright;

Thence issuing, we beheld again the stars.

Alchemical motto Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem. Venice.

PERIODO IX
VIS ANIMI MARMORA SCVLPIT
The strength of the spirit sculpted the marble – Ninth Period

And now our travellers, as a reward for their perseverance and fortitude (‘Vis Animi Marmora Sculpit’), ‘coming out of the dimness’ found the ‘occultum lapidem’, an inscription with an unknown and mysterious yet promising meaning: ‘REGINA ANTIQVORUM VIAM TIBI DEMONSTRABIT’ (The Queen of Old Times will show you the way).

Once again following Dantes’ famous words,  they couldn’t but express their gratitude to the stars, a metaphor for the Light that had  been accompanying them to their destination, by reciting the solemn ode ‘Oh glorious stars!’.

The two characters at Rialto while the writing "Regina Antiquorum Viam Tibi Demonstrabit" is appearing.

Queste parole usciti dall’oscuro
Erano a dar, solenni come un segno,
A noi l’avviso: il tempo era maturo.

O gloriose stelle, o lume pregno
Di gran virtù, dal qual riconosciamo
Tutto, qual che si sia, il vero sostegno.

Ora la via splendea: era un richiamo.   

Coming out of the dimness, these words we espied
Carved upon a wall, where as a sign they stayed
To solemnly announce it was the time: we sighed.

Oh glorious stars! Light pregnant with arrayed
Virtue, which we in recognition thank
For whatsoever pure precious aid.

Now the way ahead shined, its call was swank.

The two time travelers at the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, Rialto, finding an alchemical writing.

PERIODO X
REGINA ANTIQVORVM REVELATVR
The Queen unveils herself – Tenth Period

A vision stood out before the travellers: it was cloaked in radiant splendor both in the person and in the luminous aura that enveloped her. This was then the long-awaited ‘Queen of the Ancients’, the Fourth guide mentioned in the Enigma that had led them from the beginning.

The parallel with Dante’s narration of  the encounter with the ideal figure of Beatrice comes natural and resonates in the opening words ‘Sovra pallido vel…’, in which Dante’s ‘Sovra candido vel…’ echoes re-contextualized. The Queen’s veil was not white but slightly pink and she was cloaked in light rather than crowned with small olive branches: minor variations that, instead of differentiating, amplify the regal nobility of both the evoked ideal female figures.

The Queen invited the scholars, delighted by their encounter, to follow her towards the longed for goal.

The arrival of the Queen fo Sheba at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista

Sovra pallido vel cinta di luce
La donna apparve, sotto lieve manto
Era colei la quarta che conduce.

Regalmente s’ergeva e per incanto
Si mostrò come colei che dice:
“Venite meco ho da insegnarvi tanto”.

Ecco della Purezza la tutrice.

A lady, bright-crowned over veil of light,
In the Enigma the fourth and final guide,
Under a mantle soft, stole on our sight.

Regally standing like a majestic bride,
When addressing us she went on to say:
‘I’m here for ye Purity to provide’.

Our Beauty chase was on the right way.

The two time travelers artists meeting the Queen of Sheba in a typical Venetian square.

PERIODO XI
SI SEDES NON IS SI NON SEDES IS
If you sit you do not proceed – Eleventh Period

And at last it was on joining the Queen of Sheba that the protagonists experienced again the ineffable enchantment of breathing the sublime, unforgettable scent that had charmed their senses long ago.

Moved by such a noble soul, they couldn’t help following her and going through blowing away moments: this exaltation of visual and poetical metaphors implies the crescendo the two scholars are called to live before getting to the yearned last page of their spiritual research, which was about to be written.

The Queen of Sheba leads the two character to the right way through an alchemical journey: the alchemical Venice.

Lieti riconoscemmo la fragranza
Onde seguir colei fu naturale,
Palpitavano i cor per l’esultanza.

Lungo fu il viaggio e con lei regale,
Esperienze mirabili vivemmo:
Già s’annunciar l’esito trionfale.

Poscia l’ultima pagina scrivemmo.

All at once we recognised the pure essence,
So enchanted we couldn’t help following:
Our souls were shining as a radiant presence.

The long journey with her was fascinating
Mirabile dictu it was what we lived!
The triumphant result we started breathing:

We were writing the last page, this we believed.

Dolphins at the Bridge of Sights. The characters are riding on a gondola.

PERIODO XII
QVAERENDO INVENIETIS
He who seeks finds – Twelfth Period

Like all fairy tales, our has a happy ending too.
But with much more to it: a final metaphor seals the joyous conclusion of the research, fulfilling the aim of the entire allegory of the journey.

The saga of the scholars’ experience achieved success with the gift of the priceless fragrance and its alchemical formula, delivered to the by the Queen both with Her incomparable elegance and in a surprisingly conversational way.

‘Quartum facit unitatem’ was the promise of the Enigma and indeed Unity was in the end recomposed, the longed-for Perfection achieved, together with unveiling of the secret path that led to it (precisely the ‘formula’), the supreme spiritual goal.

The principle ‘Quaerendo invenietis’ (by seeking you will find) came true, the circle was closed, harmony was accomplished.
For them this meant knowing that they would not be able to stop: echoing the immortal final lines of Dante’s greatest poem ‘but like a wheel… already on our desire and will prevailed’, they were called to look beyond.

A new journey was on the horizon.
Because everything happens, as it must be, according to the will of the One who is ‘the Love that moves the sun and the other stars’.

The couple of scholars receiving the formula from the Queen of Sheba at the Farmacia Storica dell'Ospedale di Imola.

Ma perché paia ben ciò che non pare,
Capimmo chi era, e la cagion che ‘l mosse
A noi la pura essenza consegnare.

La perfezion raggiunta ci commosse;
Ma già volgea il nostro disio e ‘l velle,
Sì come giusto al fin era che fosse,

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

But that what still is not clear maybe clear,
We understood who it was who came unveiled
To bestow the pure fragrance and do it here.

By high perfection our souls have been regaled
But like to a wheel whose circling nothing jars
Already on our desire and will prevailed

The Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

Back to the XVIII Century with the frankincense fragrance.

The End.

The project

The Faerie Tale of Venice and the Incense Trade Route is a multi-disciplinary artistic creation that combines filming, photography, literature and poetry.

In its rich structure as a multi-hand production, the project can be defined as an artwork inside the artwork, inside the artwork… in which each component completes and enhances each other. It represents a feature debut for the authors as a team, being a new multifaceted fruit of their respective brilliant careers in various fields: photography, fine arts, cinema, direction of cultural events, theatre, etc.

Above all it is the result of a strong human experience that involved Italian and Omani top professionals, with the praiseworthy involvement of some amateurs from both countries. Authors and participants worked all together side by side with passion and enthusiasm, with a clear vision and purpose: creating a bridge between cultures and an example of wise and fruitful co-operation.

The narrative style that was chosen to present the story is that of the classical fairy tale (in poetry as well as in prose), an expressive genre that has ancient roots in all cultures and that for this very reason deserves to be protected and preserved.

The interpretative key is focused on the never ending journey that every human being is called to undertake: what is life if not a continuous search for elevation towards a higher goal?

The story develops at an allegorical level, which hides a series of profound messages behind a simple and fascinating plot.

The scenic action involves a large amount of symbolisms, here mentioned in order of appearance:

The Enigma, that represents the turning point of the story, followed by a sequence of famous alchemical mottos our protagonists come across during their journey. Mottos introduce each chapter of the story in poetical verses: alchemy is part of the narration in its philosophical dimension, as a metaphor of the constant voyage, of the eternal search that represents the essence of human life, of the inexhaustible transformation that can help one reach the sense of inner Completeness and Unity. This is the longed-for goal, as shown in the heart of the Enigma “Unus fit Duo, Duo fit Tribus, ac per Tertium Quartum facit Unitatem” (One becomes Two, Two becomes Three and out of the Third comes the One as the Fourth ).

The Time Travellers, protagonists of the story, symbol of the human being in constant search who, at each stage he reaches, keeps perceiving a sense of foreignness and the need to resume the journey: at the end of the story, with the long sought answer finally achieved, nevertheless the protagonists become aware they cannot stop and are once again called to move towards a new goal: “But like to a wheel whose circling nothing jars already on our desire and will prevailed…”

The Magio (the Wise Man): he is the Incense bearer, symbol of the Wisdom that mechanical sculpture of the Magi in Venice Clock Tower .

guides the scholars throughout their journey. It is important the reference to the

The artwork “The Scent”, as a metaphor of the alchemical transition that is going on and the path of research that is evolving and progressively revealing itself. Being only a premonition, its first vision appears as a reality in the making, still unfinished, broken up, symbolically divided in two sections symmetrically facing each other in the distance. Then at the end of the story a new appearance will show it in its completeness: Unity was attained, Perfection reached.

The Perfect Fragrance, metaphor of the metaphysical treasure: it’s the intimate reason of the ideal journey, a mystical goal, “the answer of all answers”, the Perfection the travellers are seeking.

The Queen of Old Times, the treasure keeper, who embodies the symbol of eternal value of Beauty in its poetical and philosophical dimension.

What the whole project consist of

A Storytelling through 24 photographic images and poems. This work is focused on the second part of the story, that takes place in Venice. Photos by Luca Rajna. Poetical texts edited by Lucia Oliva with reference to verses chosen from or inspired by the Divine Comedy (masterpiece by the famous medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri).

The narration is structured in 12 periods, introduced by alchemical mottos .

A Short Docu-Film, result of the fruitful cooperation among the authors Luca Moretti,Moretti Lucia Oliva and Luca Rajna with filmmaker Tommaso Giusto. The film includes a narrative introduction focused on the first part of the story, mainly set in Oman, followed by a documentary section including backstage scenes from the filming in Venice.

A Video Presentation of the storytelling through photographic images and poems,poems recited by the Italian actress Mascia Musy. This short movie includes also readings of Dante’s poems by Italian, Omani and international amateurs, to create a bridge between different countries through poetry and art.

An exhibition of significant scene objects used in the film.

An Exhibition of a few artworks by Lucia Oliva, that are protagonists or themed with the photo-poetical storytelling and the film.

An exhibition of backstage photography, highlighting moments of the filming in Venice and Oman, by photographers Saeed Al Riyami and Erfan Arafat. Seminars about “narrative photography” with Luca Rajna and “multidisciplinary event creation”, especially focused on the interconnection among art, poetry, theatre and cinema, conducted by Luca Moretti and Lucia Oliva.

Poems bibliographical References

The storytelling in poetry includes sometimes Dante’s verses from the Divine Comedy in their original form, in the majority of cases a free adaptation of the original verses together with new ones especially created to complete the narration, always accurately maintaining Dante’s “terza rima”rima style (third rhyme) with hendecasyllable and alternate rhyme prosody.

It was a demanding and patient artistic job, aiming at keeping the original rhythm and structure of the alternate rhyme for the 6 verses and the 7th one to close the stanza, with a meticulous respect of the poetical structure in Dante’s Divine Comedy (re-contextualizing and readapting the original verses).

For the English version, the reference was to Dante’s verses as per Lawrence Binyon’s translation (1869-1943)

I. SOLVE ET COAGULA – Lucia Oliva and Luca Rajna
II. TAM ETICE QUAM FISICE – Inferno, Canto 26, verses 100 and118 and Canto 9, verses 61
III. VENI ETIAM – Lucia Oliva
IV. QUI NON VIDENT VIDEANT – Inferno, Canto 3, verses 1 and Canto 9, verses 73, V.
“FESTINAT ADULESCENS SED SENEX VIAM NOVIT” – Purgatorio, Canto 22, verses 67
VI. OBSCURUM PER OBSCURIUS IGNOTUS PER IGNOTIUS Inferno, Canto 3, verses 19 and Purgatorio, Canto 8, verses 19-21
VII. CREDENDO VIDES – Paradiso, Canto 13, verses 91
VIII. V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – Inferno, Canto 34, verses 133
IX. VIS ANIMI MARMORA SCULPIT – Inferno, Canto 3, verses 10 and Paradiso, Canto 22, verses 112,

X. REGINA RIVELATUR – Purgatorio, Canto 30, verses 31

XI. SI SEDES NON IS SI NON SEDES IS – Lucia Oliva

XII. QUAERENDO INVENIETIS – Paradiso, Canto 13, verses 58 and Canto 33, verses 142-145.

Names of the partners with their Instagram accounts

A project by
Luca Moretti
Lucia Oliva
Luca Rajna

Filmmaker
Tommaso Giusto

The Scholars and Time Travellers
Lucia Oliva
Luca Moretti

The Queen of Sheba
Laury Diaz

The Wise Man
Mohammed Al Rawahi

The Young Scholars and Time Travellers (in the film)
Aylah and Ahmed Ibrahim

Narrator (in the film)
Hussain Ali Hamed Al Rashdi

Story Creation
Luca Rajna
Lucia Oliva

Texts
Lucia Oliva
Luca Rajna

Venetian Backstage Photography
Saeed Riyami

Omani Backstage Photography
Erfan Arafat

Art Direction for Venetian Scenes
Luca Rajna
Tommaso Giusto
Lucia Oliva

Art Direction for Omani Scenes (in the film)
Sarah Ahmed Farid Al Aulaqi
Lucia Oliva

Omani Footage (in the film)
Sohail Noor
Saleh Al Moqiemi
Said Saif
Said Alkhanbashi
Shihab Hamed Al Shandoudi
Jamil Said Al Yaqoubi

Voice Overs (in the film)
Abdullah Ismail Al Riyami (Luca Moretti)
Sabra Suleiman (Lucia Oliva)
Ihsan Kharouf (Luca Rajna)

Calligraphy
Mohammed Al Rawahi

“The Scent”, artwork by
Lucia Oliva

Alchemical Consultancy
Arianna Gambirasi

Alchemical Latin Mottos Consultancy
Catherine Dalimier

Omani Historical Consultancy
Dalia Al Bassami
Sarah Ahmed Farid Al Aulaqi

Arabic Translations, Dialogues And Subtitles (in the film)
Hassan Hakeem
Hussain Ali Hamed Al Rashdi
Mohammed Ali Hussein

Italian and English Poetical Texts
Lucia Oliva
Luca Moretti

English Poetical Texts Supervision
Giovanna Mannino
Abdulrauf Wood
Ihsan Kharouf
Maggie Jeans
Maggie Norris
Joe Sopala

Style and Etiquette Supervision
Giulia Carli

Costumes
Baroque costumes: Ludica Antiqua & Starlight Masquerade
Outfit for the Queen of Sheba: Amal Al Raisi
Omani heritage clothes (in the film): Omani Heritage Gallery 

Jewels
Maurizio Manzi – Laboratorio di Oreficeria Manzi, Genoa

The Fragrance
Amouage

Frankincense
Hojari

Gondolier
Nicolò Ruzzene, The Gondoliers of St. Mark’s Square, Venice

Italian & Omani relationships’ coordination
Luca Moretti

The project was recognised of high cultural value by The Embassy of the Republic of Italy – Oman
Italian Embassy, Muscat, Oman. Logo

 



Sultanate of Oman, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth





Sultanate of Oman, Ministry of Information – Directorate of Electronic Media

Ministry of Information, Oman. Logo

 




International Action Art Italia and Associazione Internazionale Club UNESCO Genova
Club per Unesco, Genova. LogoInternational Action Art, Department of Italy, logo.






The production would like to thank:
Bait Al Zubair Museum, Muscat
Museum Bait al Zubair, Muscat. Logo




Amouage
Amouage, logo.

Oman Cables
Oman Cables logo



Ego Boutique Hotel Venice
Ego Boutique Hotel Venice. Logo





and also:
Ekaterina Tchakarova – General Manager at Egò Boutique Hotel
Muna Ritchie, Ibtisam Al Bulushi and Sarah Ahmed Farid Al Aulaqi – Omani Heritage Gallery
Raffaella Rimassa – General Manager at L’Esedra di Santo Stefano
Valeria Finocchi – Director of the Museum of Palazzo Grimani
Guido Jaccarino – Technical Director of Uni.S.Ve. (Union of Venetian Plasterers)
Uni.S.Ve. Union of Venetian Plasterers – fitters of the Tribuna Grimani
Luca Storelli – Photoshop consultancy
@juliet.in.venice (Instagram) for a relevant insight about the alchemical Venice
Giorgia Framenti Director at Imola Historical Pharmacy Jamal Mohammed Ali Trad., Mutrah Souq, Muscat, Oman

Workplaces

ITALY
Historical City of Venice
L’Esedra di Santo Stefano, Sestri Levante (GE);
 (in the film)
Ego’ Boutique Hotel, Venice
Grimani Palace Museum, Venice
Palazzo Bembo, Venice
Old hospital pharmacy of Imola (Bologna)

OMAN (in the film)
Omani Heritage Gallery – Muscat
Qantab Village
Bait Al Zubair Museum Theatre – Muscat

About "The Scent"

Lucia Oliva (Instagram @luciaolivaartist), “THE SCENT” – Sculpture – painting (mixed media on marble). Installation with mirror. 2016.

Lucia Oliva’s artistic concept involves mirrors and various accessories to create original scenic set-ups that combine sculpture and painting into installations rich of theatrical effects and optical illusions. Her peculiar interpretation of the anamorphosis phenomenon gives life to artworks that consist in a tangible side and an ethereal one, “body and soul of the same entity”.

In the “Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route” the artwork “The Scent” by Lucia Oliva plays a peculiar role, as a metaphor of the alchemical transition that is going on and the research path that evolves and progressively reveals itself. The ethereal vs. tangible duality, cornerstone of the artist’s language, manifests itself in the fairy tale as a symbol of the evolution of the journey: from hope, a longed-for goal, to the achievement of completeness as synonymous of perfection.

Lucia Oliva artist, The scent

Amouage takes part in the spectacular exhibition “The Faerie Tale of Venice and The Incense Trade Route” at
Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman (January 23rd - February 12th 2024)

Gold, the first creation of the Omani International High Perfumery House, is starring in a unique fairy tale that explores the link between Italy and Oman across time.
Amouage, the independent Omani High Perfumery House, is integral to an extraordinary storytelling endeavour of high cross-cultural value that combines heritage, film, photography, literature, and poetry.

The Faerie Tale of Venice and The Incense Trade Route tells a story about the linkages between two lands, Italy and Oman, across ages. Gold, Amouage’s first historic fragrance created by the legendary perfumer Guy Robert, is the protagonist of the story that is the theme of a multifaceted exhibition at the Bait Al Zubair Museum. Recognised by the UNESCO International Action Art, the exhibit recently opened under the patronage of His Excellency Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth and the Italian Embassy in Oman. The exhibit at the iconic museum is open for the public to visit until 12th February, 2024.

The exhibit ingeniously demonstrates how bridges between two different countries and cultures were created, while placing Amouage’s Gold on an even higher pedestal. Linking perfume and incense to cultures and different eras through time travel, the exhibition at Bait Al Zubair Museum is dedicated to a mesmerising fairy tale scented by Amouage’s Gold while it combines art and heritage. This project was created and presented by three Italian maestros; Dr Lucia Oliva, an eclectic artist and Art Director of UNESCO International Action Art, Luca Moretti, a reputed cultural and artistic event manager, and Luca Rajna, an acclaimed photographer and visual storyteller.

The Faerie Tale of Venice and The Incense Trade Route guides one across Oman and Italy while capturing different zeitgeists during a quest, a hunt for a treasure that is triggered by the scent of Amouage’s Gold perfume and the aim to find one’s purpose and reach full potential. The fairy tale partly traces the history of Frankincense, while Royal Frankincense is one of Oman’s iconic treasures used in Gold Man and Gold Woman, Amouage’s first perfume creations in 1983 that became gifts of His Majesty the late Sultan Qaboos to guests from around the world.
The exhibit includes a short documentary film, a display of 24 photographs, poems, and a selection of significant scenography items and artworks by Dr Lucia Oliva. It also features a display of backstage photography, while a series of upcoming events, including seminars and workshops, connected to the central theme will be announced in due course.

Luca Rajna and Lucia Oliva during the exhibit set-up at the Bait al Zubair museum.
The Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route: exhibit set-up backstage at the Bait al Zubair Museum, Muscat, Oman, January 2024.
Luca Rajna's exhibit at the Bait al Zubair Museum, Muscat.
The Faerie of Venice and the Incense Trade Route: backstage of the exhibit at the Bait al Zubair Museum, Muscat, Oman, January 2024.