When I was thirteen my parents and I first visited Venice and there I saw the masterpieces of art belonging to titans of the Venetian Renaissance. I was so impressed that I kept asking questions about the epoch, the time and circumstances that made creation of such wonderful works of art possible. On returning home my interest to the Venetian art hasn’t stopped. I started buying books and art albums on Venetian paintings. Since then I have been interested in this period and that is why I devoted my examination paper in the World Art Culture to it and then to translate it into English. Now I’m going to do my best in getting you interested in the works of art I adore.
“The great epoch of Venice art began from the first and finished by the last years of Chinquechento” (2, p. 780)
“Only in Venice the flowering of art lasted to the middle of XVI century” (6, p.440)
Whatever of these two views is true, indisputable is the fact: Venetian art school saved the high Renaissance traditions even after they were “wound out” from other districts of Italy. No historians or art critics dispute that view.
Venice and Genoa survived as great commercial centres through the sixteenth century. In the case of Genoa this was the result of its association with Spane and its South American empire. But the Genoese did not produce a great of thought and art. Venice, however, flourished as an artistic centre. The Mediterranean Sea with its seaborne exchange of commodities between Europe and Asia was ceasing to be the centre of world trade only at the very end of the century. Venetian painting became even more grand in this period than before, as can be seen in the huge canvases of Veronese with their groups of figures placed in front of classical columns.
Broad cultural development rivaling those of Florence took place in northeast Italy in the late fifteenth century. The centre of the region was Venice, which in 1500 and for some time before and after was the richest city in the world. The wealth was based on seaborne trade, acting as the link between the industries of northern Europe and the luxury-suppliers of the near East. Contacts with Europe were either by road across the Alps or by galleys sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar to Bruges; in the eastern Mediterranean the galleys sailed to Constantinople and Alexandria. Until the discoveries in the Atlantic carried trade away from the Mediterranean, which did not happen to a significant extent until the late sixteenth century, Venice’ s geographical position brought untold wealth. A collection of houses built on a small island, the city of Venice was the medieval equivalent of a space station, unattached to the land, serving a purely commercial purpose.
Around 1500 the political tide was beginning to turn against to Venice. The growth of powerful states on the edges of the city’s dominions, the Ottoman Empire in the east and the Habsburg Empire to the north and west, meant that Venice was outclassed as she has no been earlier. Both the political decline, and the ultimately more important economic decline following from the change of trades routes were, however, very slow. Venice was still a great power after the successful naval battle fought by her against the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571. It is an interesting point, however, that the greatest age in Venetian art begins with Giorgione about the time that political decline sets in.