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Art in Renaissance Venice
Art in Renaissance Venice

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Renaissance Art Reconsidered

This course explores the relationship between Venetian art and the art of both Byzantium and other geographical areas to the East. Venice looked eastward as the result of its unique position as a maritime trading centre facing not only inwards, towards the Italian peninsula, but also outwards, towards Asia and the Middle East. All this was in addition to Venice’s trade and cultural exchange with northern Europe. These are two of the ‘axes’ of intersection with other cultures noted in the chapter. The third axis is a chronological rather than a geographical one: that of Venice’s relations with the past of antiquity. As you will learn, this was a very different one from other Italian cities, which had been part of the Roman Empire, and therefore bore architectural and sculptural reminders of the classical past.

A great deal of the course is devoted to the representation of ‘the East’, a term that is problematised both in the chapter Introduction and in the chapter itself. It is very important for you to be aware of the distinctions made in the chapter, because such a broad term cannot be properly understood in a simple generic sense. Whenever you come across this term, make sure you understand in what sense it is being used, especially if you encounter it in older literature, where it may be used quite differently.

At the beginning of the course, Paul Wood presents the concept of ‘the collage, the montage or … the palimpsest’ as a metaphor for Venetian culture during this period, and emphasises the diversity of peoples who co-inhabited the islands of the lagoon.