“A Gentleman of Venice”

A Gentleman of Venice

There are a thousand pigeons on the Piazza San Marco. One is called Arturo. “I was introduced to Arturo,” says cameraman DAVID SEYMOUR, “by a white-haired woman who sells corn for the pigeons. She was telling me about her life in Venice and she mentioned that she had a favourite bird whom she had known for years. Everyday at four o’clock, she said, he paid her a visit and was rewarded with a handful of corn. That afternoon I went back to the Piazza and sure enough there was Arturo. He was a little proud perhaps, but a perfect subject and so here is a day in his life.”

I am Arturo, a citizen of Venice, living on the Piazza San Marco. My family goes back to the time of the Doges and has always lived near the cathedral. By the way, do you like my profile?

Full-face I’m just as pleasing, don’t you think? If I appear to strut a little it is because I like posing for my picture. I do a lot of this sort of thing.

My home is a hole over the twenty-seventh water-spout on the left counting from the San Marco Basilica’s main entrance. It’s a good spot. I’m able to spot at once any generous-looking tourist down below.

When the Piazza clock strikes at nine and again at two the Campanile bells start ringing. At these times the City of Venice feeds us and its very official. The trouble is that every other pigeon hears too.

Photographers are our friends. They have a little horn full of corn which they shake to attract pour attention. When the corn is poured into tourists’ hands we fly over.

It’s tiring work being photographed every few minutes and a siesta is welcome. The crowds must be at lunch, but they’ll be back and then the camera business will start all over again.

This is scandalous! Some of these foreigners even dig their claws in my back and try to take the food from my beak. We San Marco pigeons earn our corn the the hard way, creating an atmosphere for tourists.

You see what happens? The strangers, who come from Dorsoduro, Canaregio, and Castello, can’t just eat their fill and go away, they have to leave the feathers of conflict behind. Our birds are not the fighting kind.

My Sunday feathers! There’s that Romeo from Dosoduro back again! I’ve warned him against following my girl friend about, but trouble is she seems to like it.

I’ll stroll over and look at the pictures taken this morning. That fellow Seymour said I’d be in Illustrated. They sell it on the news-stands so I’ll be able to see myself.

You know, life isn’t always a bed of corn. Those cats are out for trouble and we have to be very careful. The other day, a select group of my friends were sharing some excellent food when a nondescript tom appeared. He eyed us for a long time and then crept up in his nasty way.

He sniffed around for a bit, but didn’t like our food and stalked off. But just to show you how mean a cat can be he went to sleep so close that we couldn’t risk going back. Well, that’s my story. If you or your friends are in Venice, ask for Arturo. I’ll be there with a welcome.

Illustrated, October 7, 1950, pp. 33-36, (2012.48.48)

Chim (David Seymour), [Pigeons and a boy, Venice], 1950 (BS0817)

Chim (David Seymour), [Pigeons, Piazza San Marco, Venice], 1950 (BS0846)

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