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The Venetian diarist Marin Sanudo observed: “Venice is in the water and has no water.” Indeed, the city had no source of fresh water other than the rain from heaven or barges from the mainland. The Venetians learned early on how to capture this precious natural resource by devising an ingenious system of water recovery, with cisterns hidden beneath almost every campo, cloister, and courtyard in the city. Each was topped by a vera da pozzo, or wellhead. Jacopo de’ Barbari depicts no less than fifty-seven such wellheads in Venice, the Giudecca, and Murano. Chapter 13 tracks the stylistic development of the wellhead over time until the construction of an aqueduct in the nineteenth century. The wellhead was then transformed from a utilitarian necessity into a collector’s item, with the finest examples dispersed to museums, parks, and private estates throughout the world.

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