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Venice 2014

Pageantry and Propaganda: The Doge and Dogaressa Grimani

Tintoretto, Portrait of Doge Marino Grimani

Tintoretto, Portrait of Doge Marnino Grimani (1576), Cincinatti Art Museum, Oil on canvas. 

When discussing images of propaganda, it is imperative to consider Tintoretto’s 1576 Portrait of Doge Marino Grimani. Most known for his extravagant election as the 89th Doge of Venice and for the lavish coronation ceremony for his wife, the Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani, Doge Marino Grimani was a controversial yet popular public figure. Reigning as Doge of Venice from 1595 until his death in 1605, Marino Grimani was the last Doge of the 16th century. Doge Grimani was a wealthy man, coming from an affluent Venetian family, and he was made podestà at a young age. Using his wealth to gain support from the people, Marino Grimani was an important figure in Venetian politics. Later, he was appointed as Venice’s ambassador to the Vatican, however his reign was marked by increased war with the Papacy that resulted in Pope Paul V placing the Venetian Republic under papal interdict. In his portrait by Tintoretto, Doge Grimani is seated in a chair by an open window, a reoccurring characteristic in Tintoretto’s portraits of the Doges. His wealth is enhanced by his robes of gold brocade lined with ermine. His body language is relaxed; he is facing the viewer and the viewer seems to be included in the space. Doge Grimani makes eye contact with the viewer and has a stern, calculated expression. Tintoretto accurately incorporates the viewer into the space, as if sitting across from the Doge and engaging in conversation with him.  

Tintoretto, Portrait of Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani

Tintoretto, Portrait of the Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani (1590's). Oil on canvas. 

Tintoretto’s Portrait of Doge Marino Grimani (1576) may be paired with his Portrait of the Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani (1590's). Though painted at two different times, both portraits of the Doge and the Dogaressa of Venice contain a similar style, pose, color palette as well as the incorporation of a window and an interior setting. Both subjects have a certain approachability to them; and the viewer feels aware of their presence. Since the Doge was elected at an old age, his wife, the Dogaressa, was also an elderly woman, as shown in Tintoretto’s portrait of Dogaressa Grimani. There is no idealization of her features, as she is depicted candidly. Though the Dogaressa was only the wife of the Doge, Dogaressa Grimani has an imperial stateliness to her. She is dressed as a noble woman and resides within the domestic setting, as Venetian women were rarely seen in public. The only time that the Dogaressa would be in the public atmosphere of Venice would have been at her coronation ceremony. Following a Doge’s inauguration, the wife of the Doge would have her “coronation” ceremony. In his article, “The Coronation of Female Death: The Dogaressa of Venice,” Asa Boholm describes the lavish ceremony for the Dogaressas of Venice and how it was more of a celebration than an actual coronation. He states: 

Although this inauguration was referred to as a ‘coronation’, no act of crowning took place. Perhaps this verbal usage reflects a Byzantine heritage, according to which the Empress, was before her marriage, crowned by the Emperor, or by the patriarch, who placed a golden tiara on her head.[1]   

The Venetians, borrowing this tradition from the Byzantines, installed the new Dogaressa with an extravagant celebration which also reflected the city’s wealth. The Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani is most known for her elaborate coronation. According to Art historian, Bronwen Wilson, the coronation of Dogaressa Grimani functioned to reassert the female patrician status. In her article, “Il bel sesso, e l’austero Senato: The Coronation of Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani,” Wilson includes a primary source account of the coronation in her article, “the bucintoro, filled with women for this rare pageant, was accompanied by a plethora of allegorical machine in a procession along the Grand Canal toward Piazza S. Marco where a canvas and stucco triumphal arch was erected at the end of a temporary wooden bridge.”[1] Like Piero della Francesca’s Portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Tintoretto’s portraits of the Doge and Dogaressa both convey a similar theme of the paired portraits. 

[1] Wilson, Bronwen, “Il bel sesso, e l’austero Senato: The Coronation of Dogaressa Morosina Morosini Grimani,” Renaissance Quarterly 52, no. 1 (1999): 74. 

[1] Boholm, Asa, “The Coronation of Female Death: The Dogaressa of Venice,” Man 27, no. 1 (1992): 94. 

Pageantry and Propaganda: The Doge and Dogaressa Grimani