Venice

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Venice was a very special example within Renaissance art, partly because its situation was somewhat different to that of the rest of peninsula as a result of its economic power and its wide relations with distant cultures. Marco Polo was Venetian, and already by the 16th century the republic had established commercial relations with Yuan China, which lasted through the rule of the Ming dynasty, with the consequent cultural enrichment through exotic objects, paintings, designs, inventions and scientific advances. Via the Oriental routes the Venetians also had occasional contact with India and, of course, with the rest of the Byzantine Empire, which was about to fall into Saracen hands. When this actually happened, Venice managed to remain on good terms with the Turks, and in this way could keep the silk routes open to its boats. Towards the middle of the 15th century, the winds of intellectual change produced by the [Quattrocento#ESCUELAS#4] started to be felt and Venice joined the train of change in its own way. At the end of the 15th century a plan to renovate the city was designed by the powerful families who took turns to govern Venice. The renovation was centred around St. Mark's and the façades of many buildings were lavished with a remodelling that had a theatrical spirit: they were illuminated with a heterodox, picturesque Gothic, that was full of colour thanks to polychrome materials such as bricks, ceramics and marble. At the same time, the Quattrocentists' innovations were assimilated superficially, with the adaptation of decorative models of grotesques and geometric mouldings for the upper part of the façades. In painting the effect was similar to begin with, but in the end the renovation went much deeper than in architecture. Contact with Constantinople led to the introduction of very elaborate, decorative forms, with crowded scenes from everyday life that tended towards the anecdotal. In these scenes it was common to see figures dressed in Muslim attire and portraits of the Sultans next to those of the Venetian governors, depicted with extremely lavish clothing and personal ornaments. Giovanni Bellini played an important role in the renovation of these iconographies of power representation. The Venetian artists came to be characterised by their light and colouring. For them space had to made up precisely of light and colour, which they associated with sensuality, as opposed to other schools that preferred drawing and intellectuality. However, both concepts were occasionally combined, such as by Antonello da Messina in his painting Saint Jerome in his Study. Landscapes were also typical in the Venetian school. They were the first to treat them in a naturalistic way, although they still did not paint directly from life, but instead recreated an ideal Arcadia. These points represented the contrast, which was tinged with rivalry, between the Venetian and Roman schools. In religious painting the forms they used were more archaic, and were still dedicated to painting altarpieces, huge canvases that were placed behind the altar with an image or edifying scene. Their profane painting is unquestionably the most interesting. Apart from the magnificent portraits the school also produced fresco cycles sponsored by the "Scuolas". These were charitable organisations supported by members' contributions. The members were often the city's most prestigious citizens and the scuolas were a symbol of prestige. Each one tried to stand out from the rest and so their members, in their attempt to make their scuola the best, commissioned their decoration to the most coveted of painters. Carpaccio and Tintoretto's painted famous frescos for the scuolas, as did Veronese , Giorgione and [Titian#PINTOR#3451]. Tintoretto's Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples accompanies these lines and constitutes a clearly representative example of the tendencies of the Venetian school.


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