SMITHSONIAN ASSOCIATES | “The Most Serene Republic: The Splendors of Venice” by Rocky Ruggiero, Ph.D.
Venice was the longest-lasting republic in history. The city’s privileged position as a cultural and economic bridge between the eastern and western Christian world contributes to its uniqueness. The art and architecture of Venice clearly display this combination of Islamic, Byzantine, and classical influences. Artists such as Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto made Venetian painting perhaps the only school to rival that of the Central Italian Renaissance.
10:00 –11:00 a.m. The Basilica of St. Mark and the Doge’s Palace
The Basilica of San Mark was originally constructed in the 9th century to house the mortal remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, which had been “saved” from the Muslim city of Alexandria in 829. The style of the church is the perfect marriage of eastern and western Christian architecture, showcasing the world’s most extensive and beautiful program of mosaic decoration. The Doge’s Palace was the seat of the great republic’s political power and the residence of the rulers of Venice.
11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Carpaccio, Bellini, and the Great Confraternities of Venice
Venetian scuole, or schools, were confraternities whose members performed charitable acts in order to help redeem their own souls. In addition, the schools became a kind of para-political institution that allowed its members to express social rank and wealth at a time when obtaining positions in Venetian government was restrictive. The organizations often invested extraordinary amounts of money to decorate their private buildings, for which they commissioned the greatest artists of the time.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. Titian, Giorgione, and the Treasures of the Accademia Gallery
The Galleria dell’Accademia houses the largest and most impressive collection of Venetian paintings in the world. Founded in 1750, the gallery occupies three buildings that were originally a church, monastery and scuola. Among the museum’s most treasured works are the Tempest by Giorgione, the Miracle of the Slave by Tintoretto, the Feast in the House of Levi by Veronese, and a Pietà that was Titian’s last work.
2:45–4:00 p.m. Tintoretto and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The Scuola di San Rocco is often described as the Sistine Chapel of Venice because of its magnificent ceiling paintings produced by the great Venetian painter Tintoretto. It is the only still active scuola in the city and continues to represent one of Venice’s most important religious and social traditions.
Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Early Renaissance, examines the architecture and art of Venice, as well as its history as perhaps the most singular city in the world.
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