Europe 1300 - 1800
- Venetian art, an introduction
- Oil paint in Venice
- Devotional confraternities (scuole) in Renaissance Venice
- Palazzo Ducale
- Ca' d'Oro
- Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius): inventor of the modern book
- Saving Venice
- Gentile Bellini, Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II
- Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis
- Giovanni Bellini, Brera Pietà
- Giovanni Bellini, San Giobbe Altarpiece
- Giovanni Bellini, San Zaccaria Altarpiece
- Giovanni Bellini, San Zaccaria Altarpiece
- Giovanni Bellini and Titian, The Feast of the Gods
- Andrea Mantegna, San Zeno Altarpiece
- Mantegna, Saint Sebastian
- Mantegna, Dormition of the Virgin
- Mantegna, Camera degli Sposi
- Mantegna, Dead Christ
- Pisanello, Leonello d’Este
- Sala dei Mesi at Palazzo Schifanoia
- Vittore Carpaccio, Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Rialto Bridge
- Persian carpets, a peacock, and a cucumber, understanding Crivelli's Annunciation
- Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with Saint Emidius
- Do you speak Renaissance? Carlo Crivelli, Madonna and Child
- Cosmè Tura, Roverella Altarpiece
- Guido Mazzoni, Lamentation in Ferrara
- Guido Mazzoni and Renaissance Emotions
- Guido Mazzoni, Head of a Man
- Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara
- Renaissance Venice in the 1400s
Venetian art, an introduction
Saint Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace seen from the water, Venice, photo: Steven Zucker
Venice - Another World
Petrarch, the fourteenth-century Tuscan poet, called Venice a "mundus alter" or "another world," and the city of canals really is different from other Renaissance centers like Florence or Rome.
Venice is a cluster of islands, connected by bridges and canals, and until the mid-19th century the only way to reach the city was by boat. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Venice suffered numerous outbreaks of the plague and engaged in major wars, such as the War of the League of Cambrai. But it also boasted a stable republican government led by a Doge (meaning "Duke" in the local dialect), wealth from trade, and a unique location as a gateway between Europe and Byzantium.
The Venetian Style
Giovanni Bellini, San Zaccaria Altarpiece, 1505, oil on wood transferred to canvas, 16 feet 5-1/2 inches x 7 feet 9 inches (San Zaccaria, Venice), photo: Steven Zucker(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Painting in Early and High Renaissance Venice is largely grouped around the Bellini family: Jacopo, the father, Giovanni and Gentile, his sons, and Andrea Mantegna, a brother-in-law. Giorgione may have trained in the Bellini workshop and Titian was apprenticed there as a boy.
The Bellinis and their peers developed a particularly Venetian style of painting characterized by deep, rich colors, an emphasis on patterns and surfaces, and a strong interest in the effects of light.
Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice, begun 1063, Middle Byzantine
While Venetian painters knew about linear perspective and used the technique in their paintings, depth is just as often suggested by gradually shifting colors and the play of light and shadow. Maybe Venetian painters were inspired by the glittering gold mosaics and atmospheric light in the grand Cathedral of San Marco, founded in the 11th century? Or maybe they looked to the watery cityscape and the shifting reflections on the surfaces of the canals?
The Venetian trade networks helped to shape local painting practices. Ships from the East brought luxurious, exotic pigments, while traders from Northern Europe imported the new technique of oil painting. Giovanni Bellini combined the two by the 1460’s-70’s. In the next few decades, oil paint largely supplanted tempera, a quick-drying paint bound by egg yolk that produced a flat, opaque surface. (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is one example of tempera paint, which you can learn more about here).
Giorgione, The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1505/1510, oil on panel, 35 3/4 x 43 1/2 inches / 90.8 x 110.5 cm (National Gallery of Art)
To achieve deep tones, Venetian painters would prepare a panel with a smooth white ground and then slowly build up layer-upon-layer of oil paint. Since oil dries slowly, the colors could be blended together to achieve subtle gradations. (See this effect in the rosy flush of the Venus of Urbino’s cheeks by Titian or in the blue-orange clouds in Giorgione’s Adoration of the Shepherds— above). Plus, when oil paint dries it stays somewhat translucent. As a result, all of those thin layers reflect light and the surface shines. Painting conservators have even found that Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian added ground-up glass to their pigments to better reflect light.
Venetian Painting in the 16th Century
Over the next century Venetian painters pursued innovative compositional approaches, like asymmetry, and they introduced new subjects, such as landscapes and female nudes. The increasing use of pliable canvas over solid wood panels encouraged looser brushstrokes. Painters also experimented more with the textural differences produced by thick versus thin application of paint.
Paolo Veronese, The Dream of Saint Helena, c. 1570, oil on canvas, 197.5 x 115.6 cm (The National Gallery, London)
In the Late Renaissance Titian’s mastery was rivaled by Tintoretto and Veronese. Each attempted to out-paint the other with increasingly dynamic and sensual subjects for local churches and international patrons. (Phillip II of Spain was particularly enamored with Titian’s mythological nudes.) The trio transformed saintly stories into relatable human drama (Veronese’s The Dream of St. Helena), captured the wit and wealth of portrait subjects (Titian’s Portrait of a Man), and interpreted nature through mythological tales (Tintoretto’s The Origin of the Milky Way).
Essay by Dr. Heather A. Horton
Want to join the conversation?
- Was oil paint adopted due to its natural resistance to moisture?(5 votes)
- While that was one reason, primarily oil allows blending, transparency, and a wider range of pigments. Some of these pigmentswere much less costly than their predecessors. For example, to obtain a rich blue it was no longer needed to acquire the very expensive gem, lapis lazuli, and grind it into a paint.
There are effects you can achieve in oil simply impossible with other paints.(4 votes)
- why did they leave him on the ground in that painting?(2 votes)
- maybe the artist didn't want to draw hay and straw, maybe the artist wanted to emphasize the earthiness of Jesus' incarnation, maybe to emphasize the humility of God..... there are reasons that the artist himself may have had, relating to the materials at hand, the skills he may have lacked, and even the theological ideas he may have been trying to articulate in paint. This is not an illustration or an attempt to show "what the event looked like when it happened." This is one story teller's attempt to make something of a story that is told in all too few words in the source documents.(3 votes)
- The Renaissance started on Venice?(2 votes)
- What do you mean with "Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian added ground-up glass to their pigments"? I am sorry, English is not my native language so I sometimes do not understand many things.(2 votes)
- Who was their leader during that time of era?(2 votes)
- Venice was a Republic till the come of Napoleon in 1797
The "Serenissima Repubblica" was run from an elected leader (Doge) and a parliament ( Senato - Maggior Consiglio )
where the members were come from the aristocratic families with merot toward the state(1 vote)
- Why is there so much info about art from the tiny state of Venice, but very, very little about eastern European art from these eras? I don't mean just on Khan Academy, I mean in art history classes/textbooks in general.(1 vote)
- again this is the renaissance era. don't think the eastern European art was heaily influenced by the renaissance era at that time.(2 votes)
- So most of the events in the late Renaissance was in Venice?(0 votes)
- That's not what was being said here. The renaissance happened in Venice as much as it did in Florence, Rome or elsewhere. This unit introduces us to what was going on there, which has its own "flavour" because of the peculiar physical, economic, political and social contexts of that place at that time.(3 votes)
- how did the venetian school of art influence the renaissance artists and architecture?(1 vote)
- "Over the next century Venetian painters pursued innovative compositional approaches, like asymmetry, and they introduced new subjects, such as landscapes and female nudes. "
Would the painters of this era have used nude female (or male) models? I can imagine that that would have been fairly faux pas for the time, but then again painting the nude form at all would have been fairly revolutionary as well (at least since the ancient Greeks and Romans...).(0 votes)