The Art of Venice
1 November 2020 - 30 November 2021
Recorded sessions - 60 minutes each
£35 – £180
RECORDED sessions online (full details on acceptance of booking)
The mosaics of San Marco, the paintings of Giovanni Bellini and Titian, the palaces on the Grand Canal, and likewise the Carnival and the glass works of Murano, have mesmerised travellers for many centuries.
This course is a journey through eight centuries of Venetian art and culture. It explores how Venetian civic identity, religious beliefs and the interests of powerful patrons are manifest in its art and architecture, as well as the love of pleasure for which the ‘Most Serene Republic of Venice’ was internationally renowned.
We will discover how paintings, buildings and objects seen in their historical contexts reveal much about a society that adapted itself in order to survive, but in many ways changed little in centuries.
Lecture 1 – The Making of Venice
In this lecture, we will consider the myths and the histories relating to the foundation of Venice, and the political and cultural relationship with Constantinople. The artistic influence of Byzantium is attested to by the Basilica of San Marco and its mosaics, the Assunta at Torcello, and by many lesser-known monuments and works of art. However, as Venetians affirmed their power in the Mediterranean, they embraced other cultural influences and fashioned their own artistic identity.
Lecture 2 – From Byzantine Splendour to Renaissance Grandeur
Here, we will look at Venetian religious painting and architecture in the period 1300-1500. Venetian painters produced lavish polyptychs, increasingly amalgamating Byzantine aesthetics with influences from north of the Alps. By the late-fifteenth century, painters like Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione had fused Venetian traditions with the innovations of the Renaissance to produce a new monumental type of altarpiece.
Lecture 3 – Colour & Poetry
This lecture looks at the golden age of Venetian painting. In the 16th century, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese mastered the recently-adopted oil-painting technique to create pictures in which colour and light blended in a manner never seen before. In addition to religious subjects and portraiture, they produced much-admired mythological paintings which brought to life the poetry of classical antiquity.
Lecture 4 – The Vision of the Scuole
Today, we will look at paintings commissioned in the 15th and 16th centuries by Venetian lay confraternities (known as scuole). The narrative cycles created for these institutions by painters such as Vittore Carpaccio, Gentile Bellini and Tintoretto offer us a vision of Venetian society through the representation of civic rituals and religious stories which were central to Venetian civic identity.
Lecture 5 – From Case-Fondaco to Palladian Villa
In this lecture, we will consider Venetian domestic architecture. The typical merchant house of medieval Venice was the casa-fondaco, which included warehouses and offices and was directly accessible from the Grand Canal. In the 16th century, as maritime commerce dwindled, Venice affirmed its control over neighbouring territories in northeast Italy (terra firma), a development that resulted in the proliferation of sumptuous rural villas.
Lecture 6 – The Last Glow of Venice
Finally, we will explore the art and the culture of Venice in the last century of its existence as an independent republic. The 18th century was the golden age of the Venetian Carnival, as attested to by numerous textual and visual sources, and the most important period in the history of Venetian theatre. It was also the century of Gianbattista Tiepolo and Canaletto, two of Venice’s most successful painters.