Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blind Venetians

click photo to enlarge
"Venetian blinds - they're life savers aren't they. Without them it'd be curtains for everybody!" from 1001 Bad Jokes for Kids

There are some misguided souls who think that Venetian blinds arrived in Venice in the eighteenth century from the east, became popular there, spread through western Europe and thence to the United States, where in 1841 John Hampson of New Orleans patented the device for maintaining the angle of the slats, and thus increased their popularity. Wrong!

The fact is that Venetian blinds were invented for two quite different reasons. The first was to supply a never ending stream of very bad jokes, particularly suitable for schoolboys. One example is shown above, another is, "How do you make a Venetian blind? Poke his eyes out with a pencil". The quality of these jokes scrapes the bottom out of any barrel they are placed in, so it's just as well that the second reason for the invention of these blinds is a little more elevated. It is so that in film noir the heroine can carefully separate the slats with her fingers and see the man she thought to be upright and true, engaged in nefarious trickery, whilst at the same time allowing the director a wonderful shot of only her eyes surrounded by the horizontal shading of the blinds.

The rather grubby blinds in my photograph were closed, and keeping out the late afternoon sun, when I saw them. I probably wouldn't have thought of a shot had it not been for the accompanying pattern of sunlight they were creating on the nearby wall, and the odd, diffused effect where the ends of the slats meet that wall. The attraction of any Venetian blinds is the gently graduated shadows on each slat, and here they lead the eye to the corner where the patterned wall takes over.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen