Until March 25th, 2022
VENICE, 1600 YEARS OF BIRTHS AND REBIRTHS
Fragile but resilient, ancient but hoping in a sustainable future, often endangered by floods, fires, wars, pandemics, big ships, and over-tourism, Venice is still surprisingly vital and vibrant, after all these centuries!
Venice’s history is unfolded, full of symbols, images, documents, projects, and iconic objects, along the scenic rooms of the Doge’s Apartment, the area of the Ducal Palace now in use for temporary exhibits.
Born from a bunch of sandbars surrounded by the shallow waters of a coastal lagoon, Venice was first inhabited by people escaping the Lombard invasions of the 5th-7th centuries of our era. No land to cultivate, no fresh water sources, scarce raw materials, such as fish and salt, early Venetians counted on navigation and commerce to survive, and on the isolation of Venice amidst perilous waters to keep the enemies away.
Exploiting the weaknesses of the Byzantine Empire, to which it officially belonged, the city began to play military and commercial roles, and by the 9th century was already electing local leaders, known under the names of ‘doges’, as to say, leaders. In 828 the body of St Mark arrived from Egypt and the city had her most famous symbol: a winged lion, human-faced, as we can admire in the great canvas by V. Carpaccio.
Constantinople was for Venice a constant source of civilization and cultural inspiration, until the day in which Venetians, with a pretext, used a crusaders’ army to conquer it. For 55 years Venetian ships brought home an enormous treasure (or booty…?) of marbles, bronzes, precious objects, some of which you will admire at the exhibit. Venice began to shine as a new metropolis, rich, oriental styled, cosmopolitan.
The exhibition Births and Rebirths dedicates a room to the maritime and military skills of the Venetian Republic, that had to face repeatedly another Italian maritime power, Genoa, and the huge Ottoman Empire. The Arsenal produced galleys, round ships, cannons, gunpowder, sails, and all what was necessary to navigate for commerce and defense. The exhibit shows ships’ models and some early navigation tools.
One of the greatest prides of Venice was the consciousness of having a ‘perfect government’, balancing, and fusing together, monarchy, republic, and democracy. The aristocratic republic had a ‘Doge’, a ‘leader’, at its head, elected by some 2,000 noblemen, and a plethora of state assemblies, regulated by a complex system of norms that prevented the accumulation of excessive power in the hands of few people.
Ballots used during the elections, the severe robes worn by the patricians, some spectacular portraits bring to life the political activities inside the Doge’s Palace, in whose lavishly decorated rooms the exhibit is held.
By the year 1500, when the city was at its apogee, with a population of 150,00 people, a sea empire stretching along the coast of Dalmatia, including Crete and Cyprus, and a land dominion reaching almost as far as Milan, Jacopo de’ Barbari produced his celebrated city map, a large xylography of enormous interest.
Venice’s long fight against the plague, that hit the city causing ten of thousand victims in 1349, 1575, and 1630, is summoned up by documents, an important painting by Domenico Tintoretto, and the wooden model of the Redentore Church, designed by Andrea Palladio to celebrate the end of the pandemic in 1576.
Reminiscences of the last days of political independence in 1797, the years under Napoleonic rule, the passage under the Habsburg, the struggle against foreign dominions and the subsequent annexation to the Italian Kingdom are revived by some spectacular 19th century paintings, of great historical interest.
The struggle of the city against devastating fires is well illustrated by the Fire at San Marcuola by Francesco Guardi (1789), and by the documents about the terrible fire at the Doges’ Palace in 1577.
The role that Venice played in the 20th century, as a capital of modern art and cinematograph, and the architectural projects it inspired to Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and other contemporaries, bring the long history of this unique place to our days, when the same existence of Venice is threatened by recurrent floods and by the damages provoked by the passage of enormous cruise ships and tens of million tourists.
Venice, 1600 Years of Births and Rebirths has been possible thanks to the collaboration of the Venice Civic Museums with Save Venice, that provided to the restoration of 13 works of art present at the exhibition. One of them, never exhibited before, is Giovanni Grevembroch’ s Portrait of Marco Polo in China (18th c.).
The exhibition will continue until March 25th, 2022.
VENICE 1600 – BIRTHS & REBIRTHS will continue until March 25th, 2022.