Venetians and Greeks - The 16th Century previous 4/5 next

Baldissera Drachio: a technician in the
service of the Republic

Baldissera Drachio was active at the Arsenale  from at least 1545, when he was a student of the 'proto'  Leonardo Bressan, working as a 'gastaldo' ('steward') in carpentry . He was sacked from the Arsenale following accusations levelled against him by several masters, an indication of the deep-rooted resentments within this group of technicians. He returned to his profession, however, in 1595. Towards the end of his life he wrote three unpublished manuscripts which provide us with an astonishingly vivid portrait of the author, the pulsing life of the Arsenale, and the passions and interests of the men who worked there. His 'Pensieri' ('Thoughts') were dedicated to Giacomo Foscarini, to whom he confides that 'my intention was... not to write anything more about the Arsenale'1 because of the past hostility of his colleagues. He begs him to keep the manuscript secret 'out of fear and misgivings that I must have regarding my health because of past misfortunes and persecution'2.

Another work was even more telling. Entitled 'La visione di Drachio' ('Drachio's Vision'), it contains a scene in which the 'proto' Bressan appears in a dream, revealing to him the 'constructive principles of a perfect galley '3. Alluding to Archimedes and the history and traditions of the 'ancient learned Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans'4, he sets these cultures against that of the moderns. It is no coincidence that Galileo Galilei and Giacomo Contarini were conducting a correspondence regarding the movement of oars at just this time (1593).

1 'l'animo mio non era... di scriver più cosa alcuna in materia dell'Arsenale'
2 'per il timore ed il sospetto ch'io debbo havere della mia salute per causa delli passati infortuni e persecutioni'
3 'ragioni fabbricatorie di una perfetta galera'
4 'antichi sapientissimi Greci, Cartaginesi et Romani'

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Viaggio virtuale tra le fonti storiche veneziane
Rotta: Venezia e il Levante (sec XV - sec XVIII)
© 1996 by the VENIVA consortium