March 9th, 2014
NEW EXHIBITION INTHE DOGE’S ROOMS
A special exhibition (until June 30th, 2014) is going on at the Doge’s apartment, enriching with paintings, drawings, maps, coins and other items the ‘traditional’ visit to the Doges’ Palace, former seat of Venice’s long lived government.
What immediately strikes the attention is the outstandingly long list of State heads: 120 doges, from the almost mythical figure of Paoluccio Anafesto who ruled at the end of the 7th century up to Ludovico Manin, who was deposed by Napoleon in 1797.
For more than a millennium Venice was the unconquered and proud Serenissima Republic.
The ruler of Venice, called Doge (from Latin Dux = the leader), was elected by the Great Council of noblemen (approximately it corresponded to the 4% of the entire population) and remained in office for life.
The Doge’s powers, however, were consistently restricted through the course of time. Being the Most Serene Prince of Venice was, no doubt, a hard, uncomfortable, and very costly task, that gave, however, enormous prestige to his family .and his descendants.
The Doge (or Dose, in Venetian dialect) was due to reside inside the Government’s Palace itself, had to bring his own furnishings (that explains the almost total lack of furniture: when he died the family moved things back to the family home), and was kept almost as ‘ a prisoner’ inside his rooms.
The idea that the symbolical ruler of Venice could accept personal gifts, or reveal state secrets to some of his visitors always suggested enormous prudence: when elected he had to solemnly sign a long and detailed series of ‘promises’, and was always subjected to the strict control of his ‘advisors’.
When he died his family patrimony had to be inspected by a special committee…if he had taken even a single coin for himself the family had to give it back !
As the Doge was in general elected in his mature – if not late – years, the number of ‘Dogaressas’, as to say doges’ wifes, is not huge, as many of these noble ladies had already passed away in childbirth complications or out of physical consumption for having carried on too many pregnancies.
The NEW EXHIBITION INTHE DOGE’S ROOMS shows some famous portraits: the medal-like profile of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo by Gentile Bellini (with a funny nose), the powerful, Roman style marble head of Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon. Morosina Morosini Grimani, wife of Doge Marino Grimani, who contributed with her personal fortune to her husband’s election, was one of the last doge’s wifes to be ‘crowned ’in 1597 with a memorable ceremony depicted by many painters.
The government then prohibited such kind of events, accused to be uselessly expensive !
In the NEW EXHIBITION INTHE DOGE’S ROOMS, also of the greatest interest the maps, in particular Jacopo de Barbari’s famous xylography representing with incredible accuracy a bird’s eye view of the entire city in the year 1500, Vettore Carpaccio’s powerful Lion of St Mark (1516), a rich collection of silver and golden ducats with the doge’s profile.
A word must be said about the rooms themselves: less majestic that those of the official governmental halls but endowed with a more intimate charm, the Doge’s apartment rooms – mostly renovated after a fire at the end of the 15th century – star a magnificent variety of sumptuously carved and gilt many colored ceilings and a profusion of exquisitely carved marble fireplaces designed by the Lombardos, recently restored with the help of private Venetian contributors.
As a final touch, the giant globes and the world’s maps in the collection help visitors to locate Venice’s dominions in the Mediterranean area and in continental Italy, and document the great Venetian navigators and explorers’ adventures all over the planet.