Corto Maltese

I saw Hugo Pratt drawing Venice from afar, from Malamocco, from his home that seemed like a ship always ready to leave for distant seas. He looked for reflections, memories, mirages and found magic with its light colored waters.

Hugo Pratt’s drawings invite dreams, and Venice lives because it is too full of them. The dreams of the travels of Marco Polo and Corto Maltese, of the fleets of the Doges, of the hoods of Templars, merchants of spices and fabrics, navigators, travellers and poets who roam the night streets. 

Perhaps Venice is not a city, but a magic that offers protection and, as Hipazia said: “the real great magic is love and harmony, the gifts of the great architect of the universe.”

Getting to know Venice takes the night. The leather soles resonate dry in the dark Calluses, they mark the steps, slow them down and you realise that you do not need to go in a hurry. So, you immerse yourself in the music of the city, and you participate in its harmony of beauty. 

We stop to look at the shadows to return to feel the silence. The moors of the clock are mute, the cats doze, the lights flicker in the puddles and on the static water of the canals; they look like delicate embroidery.

The Dark is not empty. 

Silence leads to secrecy.

If there is one thing I learned from Hugo Pratt it is the curiosity and taste in following a lead.

“I had the chance and the good fortune to meet many people on my path, people similar to me, with whom we did together a piece of what Kipling calls the great road. We were not all going in the same direction, but every meeting on this road is an important meeting,” Hugo Pratt said to me.

Over the course of fifteen years, in the company of the photographer Marco D’anna, I was lucky enough to travel to places from Corto Maltese’s adventures around the world. They were important trips that allowed me to enter the stories of Hugo Pratt’s sailor and his enchanted world in a different way; this meeting was the gift of the trip. 

In Venice, following Hugo Pratt’s “Fable” you enter a game. A game of references and images reflected in the magic of water, a game of visions that expands the meaning of the work of this great narrator, designer and poet. 

His poetry of signs and colours can be heard falling on him like rain that impregnates, regenerates and does not slip away.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, in a theatrical text, announces from the Shadow of Sophocles the words that I lived while wandering among the canals of a nocturnal Venice: “Man only realised reality when he represented it.

Hugo Pratt represented his Venice in a different way, to help us look at it more deeply, to continue dreaming about it.

Venice is hidden in the silence and simple elegance of the Campiello Del Piovan, or in the desolate and romantic popular solitude of the Sottoportego dei Santi, behind the Arsenale, in the courtyards and hidden streets. 

Venice, in its entirety, is seen just from below, from the water. Only from the canal can you see and understand that the Basilica Saint Mary of Health is supported by two angels. Only there you can imagine the forest of trees that uphold this miracle of the city. 

Venice is full of wonders, works of art, and symbols.

There is a bridge without parapets at the bottom of Fondamenta Felice, you have to go there at night, cross it and stop on that kind of tiny suspended terrace, listen to that liquid silence, the rare words that wander along with the heels of passers-by; the water moves and resonates under the stones when a boat passes who knows where, in some distant canal, and that melody continues and involves us. 

Hugo Pratt, by telling the story of Venice in his own way, gave me a talisman to enter the world of dreams.

— Marco Steiner, 27 July 2022

Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese