Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State

Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State

Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State

Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State


Over the course of several centuries, Venice fashioned and refined a portrait of itself that responded to and exploited historical circumstance. Never conquered and taking its enduring independence as a sign of divine favor, free of civil strife and proud of its internal stability, Venice broadcast the image of itself as the Most Serene Republic, an ideal state whose ruling patriciate were selflessly devoted to the commonweal. All this has come to be known as the "myth of Venice."

Exploring the imagery developed in Venice to represent the legends of its origins and legitimacy, David Rosand reveals how artists such as Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian, Jacopo Sansovino, Tintoretto, and Veronese gave enduring visual form to the myths of Venice. He argues that Venice, more than any other political entity of the early modern period, shaped the visual imagination of political thought. This visualization of political ideals, and its reciprocal effect on the civic imagination, is the larger theme of the book.


The Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art History were conceived as a means of making accessible to a broader public scholarship that more often restricts itself to a collegially professional audience. It was, therefore, with enthusiasm that I accepted the invitation to deliver these lectures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999, for the Rand Lectures seemed to offer an opportunity to share with that larger audience the particular, passionate interests that a teacher allows himself to exhibit and explore in the relative intimacy of the classroom, the hypotheses and intuitions that may yet be beyond absolute documentation, not yet ready for the validation of the bibliographically certifying footnote. in that spirit of sharing my own enthusiasm for the art and history of Venice, I came to Chapel Hill.

For the opportunity to indulge my Venetian passion, as well as for his welcoming southern hospitality, I am especially grateful to William Rand, who established these lectures in honor and memory of his wife. For encouraging that indulgence I thank Mary D. Sheriff, then acting chair of the art department. Two admired colleagues, themselves passionate venezianisti, made my visit to Chapel Hill a particular pleasure, intellectually and socially: Mary Pardo and Stanley Chojnacki, whose intelligent probing, at once critical and sympathetic, helped me to clarify my own vision of our shared world.

My thoughts on Venice and its self-imaging have developed over many years and in continuing dialogue with my students at Columbia and with colleagues in the field, whose names appear frequently in the following . . .

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