Venice adopting the Renaissance

Venice’s adoption of these Renaissance styles was itself a remarkable break with the past, for the Venetians had always favored the sophisticated East when it came to artistic expression.  But times were changing.  The flame of Byzantium was flickering and even Venice turned its attention to the Western terra firma.  Among the earliest Renaissance artists in Venice was Jacopo Bellini.  The son of a Venetian tinsmith, Bellini worked under Gentile da Fabriano, who produced various now-lost works for the Great Council in 1408.  Bellini accompanied his master to Florence, where he remained for some years learning the new artistic techniques pioneered there.  Later, Bellini traveled to Bruges, where he was introduced to the use of oil paints on canvas — a medium that would forever change Venice.

The seat of high culture in fifteenth-century Venice was not at the governmental center, but in its outskirts at Padua.  There, since 1222, a university had flourished that drew the best minds in Europe and provided an excellent education for Venice’s elite.  After returning to Venice, Bellini set up shop in Padua with his two sons, Gentile and Giovanni.  They were likely influenced by the arrival in 1443 of Donatello, who lived in Padua for about a decade.  His masterwork during those years was the equestrian statue of the condottiere Erasmo da Narni…This magnificent life-size bronze was the first such statue produced since the days of ancient Rome.

That is from Thomas F. Madden, Venice: A New History.


Detroit (a couple of blog posts ago) and Venice. Why have the ancient cities of Europe not only survived devastating wars and pestilence but thrived, while the cities of America seem barely to hang on, from Detroit to Buffalo to Cleveland to Oakland (and St. Louis to New Orleans to Hartford, you get the idea). This blog post emphasizes the emergence of Venice as a center of arts and culture. Cities in America emerge first as centers of industry, and when industry languishes so do the cities. The blog post about Detroit's "renaissance" emphasizes the emergence of the arts as leading it. Gertrude Stein once quipped about her childhood home of Oakland, there's no there there. No, there isn't. If there's no there there, is there even worth saving? Venice was worth saving, and was saved. Many times. There's a there there.

Venice is hardly thriving. It is mostly an open-air museum and theme park for tourists. It is not a good place to live, and hardly anyone actually lives there anymore (in the city proper, as opposed to the much-larger surrounding "metropolitan city"). Its very physical existence is increasingly threatened.

It was once a powerful and influential city, center of a trading empire. Today it is a secondary city even within Italy, far behind Rome and Milan, and it cannot even begin to compare to the major cities of Europe and the world. It has little to offer the world except fossilized glory.

Detroit at least has a theoretical chance at a renaissance. Venice's time is forever over.

Venice was founded in 421 CE. Detroit was founded in 1701 CE. Captain Slime doesn't understand time. But that's okay. Some view time as linear, others as cyclical. How does Slime view time?

Hey, Oakland is the Brooklyn of the Bay Area. The others are all on obsolete lakes.

Oakland is quickly becoming Brooklyn, has many beautiful areas, and is very much worth saving. The northwest side of Chicago is the Brooklyn of the Great Lakes, the north side being the Manhattan.

Venice is nothing now. This is how loser Fredos run countries into the ground.

I have read that Brazil's president, Captain Bolsonaro, has officially announced a radical decrease of the crime rate. It the tendency persists, Brazil may become the first country in the world to have abolished violent crime. What a time to be alive.

I have always been partial to the Northern Renaissance as far as the 15th Century goes. The Ghent Altarpiece seems to me a miracle of an achievement when you compare it to contemporary art in Italy (IMO). But Donatello has no peer in the north. And I think is unfairly eclipsed by Michelangelo in common regard. But I did not know how novel it was for him to have made an equestrian statue. Thanks.

Van Der Weyden is one of the greatest of all time. And his "Descent from the Cross" in the Prado is one of the most beautiful works of art in the history of humanity. I would stand transfixed in front of that painting for an hour.

But the Italian Renaissance produced so much more variety for my taste. Bellini and Georgione in Venice, Fra Angelico and Masaccio in Tuscany. I think a lot of it is your temperament. The northern painters as a whole seemed cold and calculating to me, while the southern painters were warmer and more expressive. I prefer the latter, but I get why some people don't.

Still, Venetian Renaissance painting is such a treasure. And it is interesting how different it is from the Byzantine influenced art in Venice that preceded it.

Thanks. First trip to Prado is scheduled for November. A lot to see.

Certainly there is greater richness to the Italian 15th century. Although it is strange that few literary West European secular literary classics come from that century (Malory, Villon, Boiardo?), although it was a great age for devotional works (including the English play cycles). I also think 15th century Franco-Flemish music is amazing. After about 1550, Italy took the lead for 175 years. I guess I just feel that everyone associates "Renaissance Art" with Italy and it really was a wider phenomenon.

I wasn't aware that the Europe of the Middle Ages was so cosmopolitan as well as having an established system to find and recruit the "best minds of Europe". I'm so ignorant, I find this claim unlikely. To the point that I'd suspect Madden uses faulty reasoning to reach desired conclusions.

Speaking of Padua, it's worth a visit if you can sneak it in. At least when I was there in 1999 it was still a real Italian town with not much tourism. Of course the Giotto frescoes are a must see.

Padua is also notable for it's Jewish population: Padua Synagogue was a "Baroque Synagogue", built during Renaissance.

Best article I've read on the Renaissance...

"Four Or Five Guys Pretty Much Carry Whole Renaissance

Following 1,000 years of cultural decline and societal collapse known as the Dark Ages, the 15th century brought forth the Renaissance, an unprecedented resurgence in learning and the arts, which four or five guys pretty much just strapped onto their backs and carried the whole way.

"Our research indicates that da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and Galileo basically hoisted the entire intellectual transformation of mankind onto their shoulders while everyone else just sat around being superstitious nimrods," said Sue Viero of the Correr Museum of Art in Venice, Italy. "Here's da Vinci busting his ass to paint such masterpieces as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, while some loser like Albrecht Dürer is doing these dinky little woodcuts that are basically worthless."

Please do read the whole thing...

I always thought that Shakespeare and the English Renaissance came along a little late to be part of the overall Renaissance. Same for Galileo, who was born 21 years after Copernicus died. But I guess the Onion disagrees, and they know all :-)

There was no "1000 years of cultural decline". There were a couple of very bad centuries beginning with the demographic collapse of the 6th century, and then a bit of a rough patch in the 10th and 14th centuries. But the European recovery began with the Carolinian era in the West and the Isaurid era in the East.

"The flame of Byzantium was flickering": my old English teacher would have underlined that in red. I'll grant the merit of the alliteration, but Lordy it's a cliché. And one that invites the repost "yeah, and Venice did so much to bring that about".

'one that invites the repost'

Well, Brexit strikes early, a riposte in favor of true English spelling, likely aided by Chinese manufactured electronics and American written software.

"Following 1,000 years of cultural decline and societal collapse known as the Dark Ages": the "Dark Ages" a thousand years? Is that what they teach in American schools?

"The Dark Ages is a categorization commonly used to describe the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Italian Renaissance and the Age of Exploration. Roughly speaking, the Dark Ages corresponds to the Middle Ages, or from 500 to 1500 AD."

Mind you, it was the Golden Age of Nimrods.

Now usually used, if at all, in a more limited way to mean the period from the fall of Rome to the Carolingian Renaissance or, at the latest, to the High Middle Ages renaissance of the 12th century.

For military history check out Osprey:

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