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Venice 2014

Introduction

First, it is important to consider the unique position of the Venetian Doge and how he is represented in art of the 16th century. Venice and Genoa were the only cities that had this type of rule where the oldest and shrewdest elder of the city was elected by the Republic’s aristocracy. As Doge of the Venetian Republic, or the Serenissima, the Doge was no monarch, yet he is depicted throughout Venetian portraiture in rich, majestic clothing that would rival that of a king. Called by his peers as “My Lord the Doge” (Monsignor il Doxe) and the Most Serene Prince (Serenissimo principe), the Doge was a man who before his ascent to the title of Doge of Venice, had gained considerable respect in the city by serving the public. Whether as a lawyer, politician, or in the case of many of the Doges of the 16th century, men who had served in the military, the Doge used his experiences to govern the city of Venice. As a result, Venice asserted itself as one of the most powerful and influential cities in Italy. Based in a strong foundation of maritime trade, Venice was the force to be reckoned with in the 16th century. The Doge ruled his city with power and prestige, always attuned to public perception and out of this, came forth new concepts of Venetian portraiture. The most desired Venetian painters of the 16th century including Titian, Giovanni Bellini, Tintoretto and Carpaccio all were commissioned to depict the Doge in portraiture. Whether commemorated in images of propaganda depicting military accomplishments, or in portraits intended to evoke the wisdom and judicious role of the Doge, these portraits introduce a new Venetian ideal which contrasts with contemporary portraiture in Florence. The prevailing naturalism in these portraits of the Doges make a genuine connection to the viewer and depict the Doge as an integral part of Venice’s power and prestige.