Though Coco Chanel may be synonymous with Parisian style, Parisian glamour, and just about every other facet of French fashion, the iconic fashion designer also has a strong connection to a different (albeit arguably just as romantic) city—Venice. Thank heartache: After the death of Chanel’s great love, Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel in 1919, she was convinced by her friends, pianist Misia Sert and her husband José-Maria to escape her grief by joining them on an annual trip to Venice. As so many do, Chanel fell in love with the city and its architecture, in particular the Lion of St. Mark, a statue of a gilded, winged lion on the Basilica of St. Mark’s façade.
Lions were one of Chanel’s favorite animals—she filled her Parisian apartment with leonine objets d’art—and the Lion of St. Mark was more than just a statue of note to Chanel: it inspired the designer for her entire life, and can even be spotted in Chanel’s Sous Le Signe du Lion collection. And though Chanel herself died in 1971, when the statue was due for a renovation, the brand stepped in without hesitation. In partnership with the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice, two teams were commissioned to restore not only the lion, but also the star-studded cerulean mosaic it stands in front of. After several months of painstaking work, which included cleaning, repairs, and three applications of a new gilded coat, the Lion of St. Mark has been returned to his lofty position overlooking the Piazza San Marco, and the mosaic has been completely preserved. So for those visiting Venice, don’t forget to look up—and be thankful that Coco was a Leo.