Browse Exhibits (25 total)
The Exhibits contain the images for use in class lectures and discussions. The Exhibits relate to topics on the syllabus. Students are responsible for learning the works of art and architecture in the Exhibits. Exhibits are for the use of Boston College students and are not available to the public.
Among many historical events that marked seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice, a few stand out as especially significant to the city's art and architecture, in direct and indirect ways. In 1609, Galileo's perfection of his telescope and its demonstration to Doge Leonardo Donà and the senators underscore developments in investigating the physical world at the start of the seventeenth century. The interest in attaining a better understanding of nature, from both an infinite and minute perspective, characterizes scientific and artistic interests of the period. A more direct example of history influencing art is the great plague of 1630, which killed about 46,000 inhabitants in Venice, and the decision of the Senate, in 1631, to build a votive church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in thanks for her protection of health, Santa Maria della Salute by Baldassare Longhena (to see photos, click on the link above).
This investigation of nature as both infinite and minute, which marked the age of the Enlightenment, is mirrored in the two genres of eighteenth-century Venetian painting. Inspired by the accomplishments of Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese during the Golden Age of Venetian Painting (16th century), painters continued to make grand history paintings that represented great themes from history, mythology and allegory, placing full-scale figures in monumental and illusionistic architectural settings. History painting was the true test of a painter's skills because it required both invention and technical facility. For examles of history paintings, see the sections on Giambattista Tiepolo and Giandomenico Tiepolo. Can you discern the different approaches to large-scale narrative frescoes of this father and son?
To this grand manner was added a new type of painting in Venice, a miniature manner focused on representing presumed realism and truth. One form of the miniature manner is vedute, or view paintings, in which the city of Venice herself becomes the subject. Vedute proliferated, and the genre became entirely associated with eighteenth-century Venetian painting. In creating a new genre, Venetian artists were responding and adapting to changed circumstances. This period is generally understood as a slow political, economic, and social decline, in which Venice's imperial ambitions were curtailed through the gradual losses of Cyprus (1571), Crete (1649), and other possessions leading to the Peace of Passarowitz (1718) with the Ottomans. With the decline of fortunes from maritime and land trade and the consequent loss of power, Venetians found a new source of income and prestige: tourism. This is the time of the Grand Tour when wealthy foreigners traveled to Italy to see the great art, architecture and cities of the Western tradition. Venice was a major attraction. Not only was she beautiful but her very existence was considered miraculous. Moreover, Venetians capitalized on the long-standing attraction of their city by enhancing Carnival season (a time of licentiousness) and festivals. Flocking to the city for these cultural events, visitors described the city as indulgent, extravagant, sexually permissive, and hedonistic. And they wanted to leave with a souvenir. Vedute filled this need for wealthy travelers. In fact, Venetians were not very interested in these paintings--they could look out their windows--but vedute became the rage among foreigner collectors, especially British aristocrats. To learn more, please click on the link for Vedute above.
Sources: The information in this Exhibit primarily comes from D. Bomford and G. Finaldi, Venice through Canaletto's Eyes (London: National Gallery Publications, 1998); and C. Beddington, Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals (London: National Gallery Company, 2010).
Venice was an important importer and producer of luxury goods, also referred to as "decorative arts" that typically combined a utilitarian purpose with an aesthetic appearance. Since at least the 13th century, these objects transmitted culture between Venice and the Islamic lands of the Mamluks, Ottomans, and Safavids.
Such mobile objects can be used to interpret the past and to write history, especially to tell us about the social, political, and economic relationships among people. The early modern period was a global world and its peoples were fascinated by the objects owned by one another. While telling a global history, the objects embody their own stories, or biographies, because meanings changed depending upon who owned the objects, how they were used or displayed, and material changes to the objects.
For further information, see especially Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007); see also, P. Findlen, ed., Early Modern Things (New York: Routlege, 2013).