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How to (and how not to) get married in sixteenth-century Venice (selections from the diaries of Marin Sanudo).

In a Venetian governmental debate at the end of the fifteenth century, it was reported that a highly placed official hurled at a contentious colleague this disparaging description: "'You eat alone at the table,' as if to say, stingy and miserable man."(1) For no condition seemed more abnormal than such isolation in a patrician society whose essential form was the family and familial life. And in preserving the family, nothing was more carefully structured than its marriages.

This serves to explain why patrician marriage in sixteenth-century Venice was such a complex event, a many-staged procedure which took place over time, required several months, and involved, beyond the particular families, the entire community. Of the informal agreement we have no traces. But the formal procedure began with a contract of engagement which in Venetian terms seems to have been called le nozze.(2) This not only established the relationship but, and most importantly, included dowry arrangements, that is, the total sum and what parts would be paid in cash, in goods, in jewelry, in real estate, in shares of the state's funded debt, etc. Then it progressed through several stages: the announcement of the engagement in the presence of the two families and officials (fare or fermare il parentado), the ritual showing forth of the bride led round by a dancing master, visits to the houses of bride and groom, and the publicly declared consent of bride and groom through the declaration of matrimonial vows (fattesi parole ceremoniali dello sponsalitio). After this ceremony, there was a feast during which gifts of candy and comestibles were made to the couple by the sponsor or sponsors (compari). The final acts were the groom's taking his bride to live with him in his family's house (menare a casa) and the consummation.

At various points in this process, other rituals occurred. There was the ringing of the bride (l'anellamento). There was the mutual giving of the hand (dar la man), usually in the later stages of the wedding procedure. There were the visits by the bride in an open gondola to relatives in convents which a later sixteenth-century writer, Francesco Sansovino, was to pair with the showing forth of the bride in the house: "For since she must increase through childbirth the generation of this family onto which she is grafted, she shows herself in the household and throughout the city almost as if to so many witnesses to the contracted marriage."(3). At the same time, this author remarks, those who shared in this ceremony rejoice in it as if it were their own: "For by order of the government they are united together forever, as if they were all of a single family."(4) So public was the event that up to the sixteenth century, the bride (if an important dowry went with her) was also presented to the doge "as a public testimonial."(5)

The interweaving here between the particular relationship of the conjoined patrician families and the public interest of the city is the underlying theme of the essay that follows. Venetian patrician marriages in this period exemplified the blending of familial and civic concerns, the case and the terra as the family clans and the city-state were called. "Public" and "private" did not find their way into Venetian contemporary vocabulary except that the first qualified the res of the state as a "public thing," a respublica. The second signified an absence and deprivation of the civic sphere, rather than a tangible property or intangible negotiation outside it. Venetian patrician marriages took place within, not without, the community.

The bonding of two patrician families strengthened political and economic alliances through their matrimonial arrangements. A politically ambitious patrician could count on increased votes in the Great Council, which was the main elective body. His banking and commercial investments might be enlarged. The marriage itself involved a commercial transaction with the exchange of a significant sum of money in the form of a dowry. The amount of a large dowry was generally known throughout the community and reckoned as indicative of the city's economic strength. In spite of legal efforts to restrict the amounts, dowries escalated during this period just as they had during the preceding century, arriving at sums representing considerable fortunes and demonstrating at the same time the economic power of this merchant republic.(6)

For the young patrician woman, marriage was entered into normally between the ages of fourteen and twenty and initiated her into adulthood. Yet the fact that the bride's personal name is rarely mentioned but only her patronymic emphasizes the societal aspect of this event. For the groom, usually at least a decade older than the bride, marriage represented the conclusion of a long maturing process and his assumption of a fully responsible role in the continuity of the joined families and the perpetuation of the patrician society.(7)

If the family was of sufficient stature and economic importance, the final ceremonies and festivities might be spread over a good week and include several banquets, large numbers of guests, processions on land and water, and performances by one of the Compagnie della Calza. These were societies mostly of young patricians who were identified by their colorful stockings (as may be seen in some of Carpaccio's paintings) whose primary purpose was to entertain themselves and whose official purpose was la festa.(8) They were frequently invited by the government to add brilliance and festivity to diplomatic and ceremonial occasions but also participated in private gatherings such as these weddings, especially when the groom was a member of one of such Companies. There had been about thirty-four such societies by the end of the period Sanudo describes (1533), but they were ephemeral groups having incorporation for limited periods, and they seem to have come and gone as their membership fluctuated.(9)

The splendor of extravagant weddings also had a diplomatic value: the great dowries, the quantity of beautiful and beautifully dressed women, the quality of the wedding feasts contributed to Venice's reputation, and foreign ambassadors were sometimes invited to witness the pomp at what often became a public event. Even during the difficult years of the War of the League of Cambrai (1509-1517), a long and costly struggle which Venice fought against a combination of Italian and foreign powers, elaborate wedding feasts might be held, in spite of the rules forbidding excessive expenditure. In Venetian law, exceptions were the rule - "una parte Veneziana dura una septimana" (a Venetian law lasts but a week).(10)

In such a ritualized and significant process in which the private lives of the Venetian patricians and the public reputation of the city-state were so inextricably combined, there were expectations to be fulfilled and patterns to be followed. For nearly four decades, from 1496 to 1533, these patterns were chronicled by a Venetian diarist as part of the daily life of a city whose every aspect he saw fit to record. Marin Sanudo came from a patrician family too internally divided to command a voting block, while his personal situation was too limited economically to allow him the purchasing of influence and high office. He never realized the successful political career he craved. But his noble birth and abilities afforded him entry into a number of governmental circles from which he observed and recorded, with remarkable stamina and curiosity, the quotidian civic scene, including patrician marriages. A few of these weddings have been selected here to illustrate what was expected and enacted on these occasions in which public and private interests were intricately interwoven. It was not by chance that, having begun his Diaries in 1496 to chronicle what he perceived as the great events engendered by the French invasion of Italy in 1494, Sanudo ended his long first volume, really two volumes in one, with this proud statement:

I would like to conclude the writing of this volume on a happy note; it has covered the news of two years, to wit 1496 and 1497 to the last day of February, and I have completed it only with a good deal of labor and the help of God. Thus I do not wish to omit the many marriages celebrated of late and the many large dowries bestowed in this glorious city of Venice. Although they were very costly for us, they nevertheless took place because of the great wealth found here. The dowries bestowed during these years were very large, nearly all of them more than 3000 ducats, and some amounted to 10,000 ducats and more.

Sanudo goes on to talk about the carnival season which was also so splendid in Venice that year, comparable to those held in Germany by the emperor elect (Maximilian), in France by Charles VIII, King of France, and in Naples. Wealth, and the ability to exchange it and spend it, was power.(11)

So dowries were more than private exchanges of wealth. They were meant for public display and were actually publicly displayed in a demonstration of wealth which served the self-satisfaction of the city and its propaganda. Indeed, so important was the dowry in a proper marriage that its material presentation often formed part of the entertainment, as happened on 14 October 1507.

On this day the Compagnia degli Eterni [Eternals] gave a party on a raised platform in Campo San Polo to celebrate the wedding of ser Luca da Leze to the daughter of the late set Zuan Batista Foscarini. It lasted until four hours after sunset [about 10:00 p.m.]. There was a splendid momaria about Jason's quest for the golden fleece. It should be noted that at the dinner hour, when I was present, about 4000 ducats, part of the bride's dowry, was brought in six basins. The first one contained gold [coins], the rest [silver] coins. Well done, for those who can afford it!(12)

In addition to the display of wealth, the display of elegantly dressed women was part of the show. On one October evening in 1506 in the San Trovaso home of the Nani family, a simple feast was held to celebrate a Nani-Badoer betrothal, and the Turkish ambassador was "invited to see the women, of whom there were 50, dining there. And he brought with him ten of his Moorish retinue."(13) So important were weddings as a barometer of the public mood that in 1511, two years into the War of the League of Cambrai and two years after Venice's disastrous defeat at Agnadello at the hands of a French army, Sanudo reported on two weddings with "enough women and momarie at one and the other . . . so that although the city has expenses and is in mourning it still rejoices a little" (3 March 1511; 12:16).

Clearly, part of the proper way to get married was to include the kind of momarie and festivities mentioned earlier. Sometimes mythological tales were presented, sometimes mere buffoonery. On 2 May 1513 (16:206-07), in the very midst of that same war, an elaborate recreation of Venetian diplomatic receptions was staged, as if the reenactment of a public ceremony were being domesticated for this private alliance of two families. But one of these families was related to the reigning doge, which may explain why this type of entertainment was chosen. Among the audience were three real ambassadors, so there was a theatrical imitation of diplomatic ceremony in the presence of real diplomats, at a time when it was important to show Venice's political position in a favorable light.

After dinner not much happened, just a meeting of the Collegio de' Savi.(14) The reason was that the engagement of ser Ferigo Foscari to the daughter of set Zuan Venier, Head of the Ten, was held at Ca' Foscari. She is the granddaughter of our most serene Prince.(15) Upon her arrival, a superb dinner was given, first of all to the ambassadors of the Pope, Spain, and Hungary, and other high-ranking senior patricians. Three of the doge's sons attended. . . . Also present were the prior of San Zuane dil Tempio and a knight of Rhodes; they dined in a room apart on a silver service. Permission [to use silver] was given because of the ambassadors whom I mentioned. About 96 women were seated at table in the portico and between these and others in the rooms, there were 420 people seated at the head tables. Everything was carried out in splendid order, and it was a fine meal.(16)

After the feast came the entertainment, an elaborate series of scenes, generically called commedie, separated by dances in which the women usually participated, and sometimes by musical interludes.

Then preparations were made for presenting a commedia or some other performance. A platform was set up for the women to sit on; a second one was constructed in the middle of the room for the recitation. The three ambassadors and other high-ranking men were to sit there, although the Spanish ambassador left early to write, he said, to the viceroy.(17) One of the 'kings' of the Compagnia degli Eterni [Eternals], ser Francesco Zeno, came onto the platform dressed in a silver robe with a gold, Greek-style tunic over it and a hat on his head, [together with] his 'councillors' ser Francesco Barbaro and ser Luca da Leze and his 'interpreter' or 'chancellor' set Stefano Tiepolo, all of whom were well-costumed.(18) After the members of the company had danced for a while on the platform with the women, the first performance was put on. This was [presented by] ser Marco Antonio Memo dressed in rose-colored vestments as a bishop and legate of Pope Calixtus.(19) He presented the king [of the Eterni] with a brief from the pope declaring that he had sent this bishop de nulla tenentis [without a see] to congratulate him. He also presented him with a letter of credentials and, after delivering his oration, gave him a kingly crown, placing it on his head and blessing him. The king thanked him and invited him to watch a dance, which was performed on the platform by two women and two members of the company. When it was finished, the legate invited the king to listen to a member of his retinue, Galeazzo da Valle from Vicenza, who improvised a song, accompanying himself on the lyre. After he left, ser Zuan di Cavalli arrived, dressed in the German manner as the ambassador of the emperor. He carried a letter of credentials from the emperor Otto.(20) He delivered his oration in German and presented a scepter to this King Pancrazio of the Compagnia degli Eterni.(21) Then the women performed a dance and the ambassador asked his musicians to play a piece on flute and bagpipe.

After he had left, ser Santo Contarini came on stage dressed as a Mamluk.(22) Taking the role of the Sultans ambassador, he presented a letter and a lynx.(23) After the women had danced, the ambassador's retinue performed a moorish dance. Next to arrive was the French ambassador, ser Zuan Contarini, very fashionably dressed in the French style. He brought a letter from King Louis; having read it in French, he presented the king with a dog.(24)

Once the women had performed their dance, he had cornets and trumpets play. The Spanish ambassador then appeared, played by Zuan Falier, who spoke in Spanish. He presented the letter of credentials written in Spanish, made a gift of two men from Africa who engaged in swordplay, after which the women performed their dance.(25) Lastly, the bridegroom, ser Ferigo Foscari, came as the Hungarian ambassador with a letter from King Ladislaus. He presented the king with a gilded cup and, after the dance, he had some of his Hungarian retinue play the viola and other instruments.(26)

It should be noted also that the interpreter, ser Stefano Tiepolo, cleverly translated into our tongue the speeches of the ambassadors and the replies of the king. A little hobby-horse ridden by a pygmy courier came on next, [along with] the ambassador of the pygmies, ser Jacomo Dandolo. . . . Once he had read and presented the letter from his king, he gave our king a crane.(27) When the women's dance was over, he instructed his four pygmies to perform their dance, which they did well, waving hatchets and dancing to a four-meter beat.(28) Then came three Venetian ambassadors: ser Beneto Zorzi dressed in gold brocade, and ser Daniel Barbarigo and ser Baptista Contarini wearing silk mantles. The letter of credentials from Doge Michele Steno was presented and the ambassadors were introduced: the first as a member of the Storlado family, a doctor [university graduate] and knight; the second as a Partecipazo, and the third as a Bonzi, all families that are now extinct.(29) Zorzi delivered his oration, made a gift of a silver ship, and presented a buffoon, Zuan Polo.(30) After the women's dance was over, two servants cut capers and four peasants from the countryside sang songs. Then, to complete the party, Zuan Polo told a few jokes and played sleight-of-hand games on top of a stand. It was three hours after sunset and very warm because of the crush of the crowd.(31)

What is remarkable about the momarie and commedie of these years is that they took place in spite of stringent decrees against such representations, first formulated in December, 1508, and reaffirmed in May, 1512, only a year prior to the diplomatic reenactments of the Foscari-Venier celebrations. But those strictures were against "bad language" and "lascivious action," and the marital festivities of those who were wellborn and well-connected went on uninterrupted.(32)

These elaborate entertainments involved the sponsoring companies in considerable costs, as did another wedding party in 1514, when two competing companies each rented a large barge decorated as a Bucintoro, the doge's ceremonial barge, and then competed in their revelries up and down the Grand Canal "so that day and night there was feasting on the Grand Canal" for the whole city to appreciate. Such extravagance drew some criticism which Sanudo reported only to contradict: "I will not hesitate to write that this feast which took place publicly today led many to say that it would have been better to spend the money on the war; nevertheless it was to the city's honor, given that the enemy was camped 30 miles away, and yet no one paid any heed, and here there was rejoicing, as if we were not at war, and more money spent than ever."(33) Three years later, as the war came to an end, two weddings were reported whose large dowries signalled the return of normalcy and legitimate rejoicing: "the city begins to recover; with a little period of peace, it will be quite content."(34)

The proper wedding was a reassurance to the diarist that economic activity and style were restored to the city, along with its reputation. So his satisfaction abounded in his lengthy description of another ducal-sponsored wedding in 1525, where every detail of costume, custom, and comestible was reported. For the bride on this occasion was the granddaughter of doge Andrea Gritti, who lost no opportunity to promote his grandeur and that of his city, funding these nuptial ceremonies himself. Sanudo begins his account with the actual engagement (the nozze) on Saturday, 14 January 1525, and the announcement of the engagement in the presence of the families (parenta) on the following Monday.(35)

After dinner, the betrothal of the granddaughter of the Most Serene Prince with ser Polo Contarini was announced. His Serenity was seated in the new Audience Chamber of the Ducal Palace with the Signoria around him and ser Francesco Contarini, brother of the groom, standing, dressed in deep purple with ducal sleeves; the Prince was dressed in crimson-violet velvet. The groom [stood] at the door of the palace dressed in black, and his [other] brothers were also in black.(36) There was a large number of patricians, and all took the doge's hand so that he became very weary. And the bride was led around by the dancing master who is instructing her, but she did not dance. Nothing more was done today.(37)

Affairs of state were suspended on the following day as well for the next phase of the series of entertainments, some of which took place in the governmental chambers of the ducal palace, and which Sanudo describes along with a meteorological omen for the city as for the ceremony.

No meetings were held after dinner because the Ducal Palace was the site of a party for the betrothal celebrations. In the room where the Senate usually meets, women were being received and people were dancing. A very large number of women attended; in the evening the supper tables were prepared and the dividing partitions were removed to create more space. . . . It was a most elegant dinner with pine-nut cakes, partridges, pheasants, baby pigeons, and other dishes. And although more guests appeared than were expected, each one had enough to eat. The company responsible was that of the Ortolani [Farmers]; ser Dolfin Dolfin was in charge, nor was there any activity beside the dancing. The party concluded at eight hours past sunset [about 1:00 a.m.], and not without a rain that ended days and months of drought: a good sign that this ceremony is taking place in a time of abundance.

Eight days later, after a procession through the Piazza San Marco to the music of trumpets and the sound of bells, the actual wedding ceremony took place in the Basilica, an unusual venue and one only for a distinguished bride.(38)

Today [January 25] was the feast of St. Paul, when the stars make a special aspect.(39) This day has been designated for the wedding of the doges granddaughter. About 100 women guests arrived at the ducal palace; some were relatives of the bride and groom and some were guests of the members of the Ortolani. They followed the bride into church, all well dressed, except for one who was the wife of ser Vincenzo Gritti. All told, I counted 95 women. Preceding the bridal procession came the captains and officials, clearing a way as they passed through the Piazza, with four large wax torches and the trumpets and fifes of the doge.(40) Next came the bride wearing the latest fashion, a rose-colored velvet dress; following her was her [future] sister-in-law, the betrothed [cugnada noviza] of ser Filipo Contarini and daughter of ser Antonio Pesaro; then came the other women, all of whom were wearing heavy gold chains and lots of pearls. And the wife of ser Fantin Corner wore a collar with splendid, rich, and large jewels that had belonged to the king of Cyprus.(41) The last woman in the procession was the wife of ser Domenego Zorzi; she is a Tiepolo. The next to enter the church were the six ducal councillors and all the Procurators; they numbered seventeen, but five were missing . . . . They accompanied set Francesco Contarini, the brother of the groom, and ser Michiel Malipiero [representing] the doge on the bride's side. They sat in the choir. A High Mass was celebrated with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. The church was full of people, as was the Piazza. When Mass was over and the councillors and procurators, etc., had exited the church followed by the women, the bells rang None [about 3:00 p.m.]. The bride was married in church; the sponsor was ser Bernardo Capello. The company members as well as the groom wore black, which in my opinion was not the thing to do. On a day like today they should have worn [red] silk, or at least scarlet [cloth]. The lord of today's festivities, chosen from among the Ortolani members, was ser Antonio Zane.

Interrupting his account of the wedding to record a list of grave criminal charges made in the Senate against a captain in Cyprus accused of sodomy, Sanudo then continues with a list of the political officials who left the ceremony early to dine with the doge. Politics clearly went on alongside the wedding observances.

The following groups dined at midday with the doge: Councillors, Procurators, Savi of the Council [Savi grandi], and Savi a terraferma. However, the Heads of the Forty and the Savi ai ordeni were not included.(42)

Before Mass was over, the dinner guests left the church and went to the ducal palace, where they met the doge, who was dressed in gold brocade with a ducal bonnet of the same material. Tables had been set up in the audience room; when everyone had been seated in a courtly fashion, they commenced to enjoy an excellent meal of duck, pheasant, partridge and many other dishes. For dessert there was whipped cream, marzipan, and sweetmeats followed by performances by the buffoon Zuan Polo and other virtuosi.(43)

Meanwhile, back at the church, the marriage procedure continued and the diarist counted the women for the second time, aware of their contribution to the splendor of the occasion.

After Mass was over, the women followed the newly-wed bride out of the church. One by one they processed across the Piazza. According to my count there were 95 of them. I note that among them were six women of the people, whom the doge specially invited, and one foreigner.(44) And there were many people in the Piazza. It was a fine sight to see these women walking by.

The account continues with a description of the participating company to which the groom belonged:

The members of the Ortolani were dressed first in black robes with full sleeves, as were the groom and his brothers. Then they stripped down to short tunics that were also black, except for the lord of the feast, ser Antonio Zane, who wore a . . . [garment] of crimson velvet. When the women and the Ortolani had been seated, they were served the usual nice luncheon with partridges and two servings of roast meats. After the meal, the doge came out of his chambers, as did the others seated around the hall of the ducal palace and the women. A single dance was danced, and since by then it was only an hour and a half before sunset, they decided to board the Bucintoro.

Because the bride was the doge's granddaughter, the actual Bucintoro was available. But before the party boarded, a family scene takes place which interrupts the formal proceedings and adds a human touch not lost on the observant diarist, who uncharacteristically names the bride as she enacts her farewell to her natal family in the midst of the ritual and formal splendors.

Thereupon the bride, whose name is Vienna, threw herself at the feet of His Serenity and the others seated around the hall. Weeping, she took her leave; the doge, too, got a lump in his throat and began to weep. Accompanied by the Ortolani, they processed to the Bucintoro and boarded it. The only other guests allowed aboard were the women guests of the Ortolani, who numbered 113, the majority of whom, as I mentioned, were dressed in black velvet and adorned with pearls, heavy chains, and very long chain belts.(45) Many others were not wearing necklaces, but all were formally dressed. Once everyone was on board, the Bucintoro, carrying the standard and emblem of the doge, was loosed from its moorings. As usual, it was accompanied by the boats from the parish of San Nicolo.(46) The entire expense was borne by the doge himself.

The Bucintoro sailed down the Grand Canal as the members of the Ortolani danced with their women guests to the sound of trumpets and fifes. When they drew even with the groom's house, about halfway down the canal, they were greeted by the booming of artillery as blank shells were fired from the opposite house. This was a gift from the Duke of Milan, in celebration of the marriage. Thus the Bucintoro was brought as far as Ca' Foscari at the bend in the Canal, where it turned around and stopped in front of the groom's home, the dancing continuing all the while. Once the sun had set, 30 wax torches . . . were brought; fifteen were placed on one side of the boat and fifteen on the other. Paper lanterns festooned the top of the house, the balconies, window sills, and roof tiles in great numbers. When lit, they cast a brilliance over the festivities.

After the sunset in late January, the evening grew cold and the party moved indoors.

A chill wind blew up, which the women felt, even though the Bucintoro was covered, as is customary. At four hours after sunset [about 9:00 p.m.] all the women came indoors; the house and courtyard were decorated with tapestries from top to bottom, a lovely sight. Tables had been set up in the hall and the rooms all around it, and everyone sat down to dinner with the company members. It was the usual wedding feast, but in addition there was potted pheasant and baby pigeon. Many of the women and company members were young and married, so that there was a large number of people at the wedding. Once it was over, there was a little dancing, then everyone went home. . . . The bride and groom went to give themselves pleasure; not only had they not yet slept together, the doge had not even allowed them to be without a chaperone. This is contrary to what is done in other cases, in which, as soon as the young people give their hands to each other, they are allowed to sleep together, which is not proper. Early the next morning, the Bucintoro was taken back to the Arsenal.

The diarist concludes his description with some important details he had neglected to mention:

Another newsworthy item: early this morning, ser Bernardo Capello, the ring-sponsor, sent the bride a present.(47) It was a large silver basket. . . . In it was a lovely sable wrap with a beautiful head and a little chain about its neck. . . .(48)

In the Ducal Palace, a Latin oration and a rhymed epithalamium in praise of the marriage were recited to the doge and the rest of the guests. . . . This was done on my advice.(49)

Another newsworthy item: after all of the women had boarded the Bucintoro, the wife of ser Vetor Grimani, procurator, arrived late. Since the gangway had already been raised, she had to be hoisted on deck by her arms: this was how badly she wanted to attend the festivities. On the Bucintoro, the guests were offered a colation of biscuits, doughnut-shaped cookies, focacce, and baskets of sweetmeats.(50)

So much for the weddings that Sanudo described as bellissimi (his choice of words was not wide, but it was emphatic): an impressive dowry, sufficient and appropriate foods, well-served in an orderly fashion, luxurious costumes of celebratory hue, the presence of elegantly clothed and bejewelled women, music, song, and entertainment formed the canon of the proper wedding. The display of wealth and the observance of ritual in the bonding of two patrician families reflected in microcosm the wealth and civic rituals of the city, as well as reciprocal arrangements between potential allies which formed the bedrock of the Venetian political system. For this reason, every aspect of the process was viewed critically for its larger political and propagandistic implications.(51) That is why what might appear a minor change in the process was cause for Sanudo's remarking upon it as he did in 1517 when two ring-sponsors replaced the traditional one: "It was a new thing . . . never before seen in this city" (26 August 1517; 24:608). Or again, there was Sanudo's evident satisfaction in 1526, when the groom and his fellow members of a company followed the tradition of wearing crimson velvet and scarlet robes to the parentado in the ancient fashion, "a l'antica," and the bride made her family visits seated upon the trasto, the cross-bench, of the gondola, "the way it used to happen years ago" (12 April 1526; 41:167). Ritual is best served by repetition; its variation was cause for comment.

Conversely, derogation from the established norms, whether through inadequate hospitality, transgression of legal or societal barriers, or uncivil behavior, might result in a wedding process that did not come up to snuff, that was ill-performed, mal fato, challenging the social ritual and public self-image of the Venetian Republic. Such events were described by Sanudo as so many cautionary tales about how not to get married in sixteenth-century Venice.(52)


After dinner there was a meeting of the Collegio de' Savi. It happened that a company of young men named the Eterni, held a dinner at the house of set Lunardo Grimani for the wedding of his daughter to ser Alvise Morosini, one of the members of the company. But he [Morosini] gave the company members a meager dinner, and they sentenced him to appear before the consuls. Today he is in their custody.(53) It was said that they were ill treated; that is why all the company members, at one hour before sunset [about 4:00 p.m.] came to Rialto in ceremonial garb.(54) After they had done great damage to the Grimani house, they took two silver basins, which Father Stefano and [the buffoon] Domenego Taiacalze carried at the head of the procession(55) . . . . The buffoons made a proclamation at the Rialto that since they [the company members] had been ill used today and no women [had been invited to the supper], they had therefore taken the basins to have a fitting supper . . . . And they pawned them, one for wax torches and one at the tavern of the Campana where they had a nice supper at his expense.(56)

That wedding had taken place just before the War of the League of Cambrai (1509-1517) when living was easier and luxurious feasts were to be expected. During the darker days of the war, such expenditures were expressly forbidden, and even years after the war there remained strictures on wedding practices. Whether such prohibitions were effective may be gleaned from the types of controls mentioned in this sumptuary legislation of 1526.(57)


It is stipulated that between the time that the nuptial contract is concluded and the wedding ceremony takes place, the ring-sponsors may not give the groom more than six small suppers, of no more than twenty guests apiece, and two large meals, one of which may not exceed five hundred guests and the other eighty, including men and women and close relatives, with the exception of dinners given by the Companies. The groom may give two meals, one with fifty guests and one with eighty, including men and women and close relatives. At these meals it is prohibited to serve partridge, pheasant, peacock, francolins, baby doves, and no more than three non-gilded dishes may be served. The serving may only be done by the steward of the sideboard and carpets may not be placed on the tables.(58)

Also prohibited are large confections of pine-nut cakes, pistachios, round filled pastries, sweets of sugar and rose-water, confections, and sweet gums, formless confections, moulded meringues, sugared fruit, and every other type of large confection that one may make or imagine. The penalty for the lawbreakers will be fifty ducats and for the pastry cook it will be twenty-five ducats . . . .(59) The stewards and cooks that serve such meals are obligated under penalty of a ten-ducat fine per person and a prison term of four months to come to our office and record when and to whom and where such meals will be held so that employees of this office may be sent to determine if the law has been broken. And the stewards are obligated to take them through the rooms so that they may do their job, and if they are impeded by members of the household or others and not allowed to do their job, the stewards are obligated to leave and no longer serve their employers who must nonetheless give [them their] wages. Similarly, if more than the allowed number of guests attends a dinner or prohibited dishes are served, the servants must come to our office after the dinner is served to report what has taken place, on pain of the above penalties. And truly, those who would act so dishonestly as to throw bread or oranges at our employees, or push them or kick them out, will fall subject to a penalty of fifty ducats.

The value of gifts as well as the quality of entertainment was also to be monitored.

The ring-sponsors may not send the bride or anyone else associated with the wedding a present of anything other than six forks and six spoons, whose value may not exceed one ducat each. Conversely, the bride may not give to the sponsor pine-nut cakes exceeding a total often ducats. The penalty for such transgressions will be forfeiture of the items with which they have broken the law plus sixty ducats. The silversmiths who made the forks or spoons will incur a fine of ten ducats.

These sumptuary laws were obviously hard to enforce, and Sanudo elsewhere refers to the sumptuary magistracy as officio odioso.(60) Venetians evidently considered sumptuous display (la pompa) as an honorable sin, a matter of pride rather than chagrin. The impression remains that these laws were more honored in the breach than in the observance, especially when extravagance served civic reputation as well as family pride.(61)


Far more shameful than excessive expenditure was to marry way down on the social scale as happened on this occasion in 1526.

Today one heard openly about the wedding between ser Andrea Michiel . . . and a certain Cornelia Grifo, a most beautiful and sumptuous widowed prostitute, She is rich and has been publicly kept by ser Ziprian Malipiero, and for a while she belonged to set Piero da Molin of the Banco [branch of the family], and to others, who have given her a dowry of . . . thousand ducats. The wedding was held at the monastery of San Zuan [San Giovanni] on Torcello and has cast great shame on the Venetian patriciate."(62)

Even worse, because illegal, was a misalliance compounded with bigamy.

24 April 1532: Today, after dinner, the Quarantia Criminal (Court of Forty for Criminal Affairs) met.(63) It is an unusual thing to have any council meet when the doge is out of the ducal palace. Ser Filippo Tron, the avogador (state attorney), introduced the case of ser Paulo da Canal, who is accused of having taken two wives. First he married a prostitute named . . . 'balla le oche.' Then he married a sister of ser Bertuzi Valier . . . months ago, and about 400 ducats of the dowry was [still] owed him. The said [ser Paulo] was subpoenaed in Castello by his first wife, who obtained a judgment against the second [wife, affirming] that she [the first wife] was the true one. Therefore the avogador recommended and it was unanimously decided that he be detained. [Ser Paulo] absented himself.

With these words, the case disappears from Sanudo's Diaries but not from the court records.(64) One month later, a sentence of perpetual banishment was pronounced against Paolo da Canal, allowing him to pursue his life only on the island of Cyprus or in service on Venetian merchant or armed ships. It is possible that he may have received a reprieve in later years due to pressure from his family, but the sentence indicates that such flouting of social mores was taken seriously, as do the following reactions to incidents involving women (who were probably young and unmarried), the protection of whose chastity from even symbolic gestures ranked high in the legal codes of the period.


13 May 1500: "I will not omit something that I heard, that the son of Andrea Morosini, the former state attorney, having kissed a woman and taken a jewel from her, was brought before the Senate. And [Andrea Morosini] said publicly [of his son]: 'Hang him! Off with his head!' And so he was condemned."(65)

There is no further mention of this charge or punishment in the Diaries, which Sanudo would certainly have recorded had it taken place. But the paternal reaction was an entirely possible one, given the social injury such actions represented, a form of symbolic rape and infringement on the integrity of the women involved, as demonstrated three decades later by the procedures in a similar case.

29 May 1530: Bartolomeo Comin, the secretary of the Council of Ten, made public two guilty verdicts handed down yesterday in the most excellent Council often against set Zuan Soranzo and ser Marco Garzoni. On the eleventh day of the present month, the feast of St. Job, they hung around the door of his church and took handkerchiefs out of the hands and belts of the women, giving bad example. Since something needs to be done about this, these two will be banished for four years from Venice and the surrounding area, with a reward [to the informer] of 1500 ducats' worth of their goods to be levied if they violate the terms of the banishment. If they are caught, the reward is to be paid, and they are to be sent back into banishment, which is to begin all over again, since the four years are to be continuous. Their goods are to be bound over for the payment of the reward, and if these are not sufficient, the reward is to be paid with money belonging to the Signoria. They cannot be pardoned except by vote of five-sixths of this Council, in its stated number of seventeen. This verdict is to be announced at the next meeting of the Great Council.(66)


Attempts on women's honor were not always symbolic. In 1518, an incident took place in the Venetian terraferma, in Brescia, which involved the temporary abduction of a wealthy ten-year old girl by members of an aristocratic Brescian family, and in particular one Camillo Martinengo, who wished to make her the bride of his brother. This Martinengo was a condottiere employed by the Venetian government as had been his father, and therefore entitled to have armed men with him. He went to the child's home and engaged her mother in chit-chat while his followers seized the child, and then Martinengo put her in a convent where he had other relatives. The child's aggrieved mother went to the Venetian governor in Brescia, remonstrating at this insult and the governor immediately had the child brought to his palazzo, then placed in another convent more securely under his authority, and he wrote the Venetian government to have the case prosecuted. After heated debate, probably due to the prominence of the perpetrators, the Council of Ten decided to send a state attorney, to try the case in Brescia. A few weeks later, the Council often voted that Camillo Martinengo, with utmost secrecy, should be taken into custody.(67)

A month later, the case was reviewed in Venice. The reading of the 100-page dossier took two days, and on 23 June, sentences of exile were pronounced against Camillo Martinengo and his henchmen, all but one of whom were relatives. Camillo Martinengo and one other were exiled from "Verona and the Veronese and all the Venetian territory beyond Verona," that is, in effect, from the Venetian terraferma for five years. Three of the others were exiled for three years, and the one who was not a relative but a servant who, in all likelihood, had laid his hands on the child, was exiled for a ten-year period, and should this last miscreant be apprehended in violation of the exile, he should suffer, before the door of the house from which he seized the child, the amputation of his offending hand. The child herself was to be restored to the place from which she had been abducted and reestablished in that "status, being, and legal position" she held before the abduction, an indication that her virginity, lineage, and heritage should be considered intact.(68)

The story has a coda. A fortnight after the sentences were pronounced, the honor of knighthood was bestowed on the child's stepfather who, according to the records, had earlier planned, together with his current wife, that this wealthy child of hers and step-child of his should marry one of his own sons by his previous marriage. The insult therefore, had not been just to the mother and the child. Moreover, the step-father was Giulio Averoldi, a relative of the papal legate to Venice, Altobello Averoldi. Altobello Averoldi was an important figure in the diplomatic and social life of Venice, and he had involved himself in the case, arousing the government against the Martinengo family for the violence committed.(69) The sentences of exile against the malefactors and the palliative gesture towards the injured family therefore served a diplomatic purpose as propriety was restored to the family and the state:

That morning Giulio Averoldi appeared in the Collegio. He is a citizen of Brescia and relative of the papal legate, and he was in the city because of the case prosecuted in Brescia against Count Martinengo who had abducted one of his [step-] daughters. And after the case was tried, he wished to be knighted, and he was made knight, with a gold chain placed around his neck, and spurs put on by set Polo Capello and set Andrea Trevixan, knights, and then, accompanied by trumpets and many companions, he went through the city to the house of the Duke of Ferrara where together with the legate, his relative, he was lodged. He held a ball all that day for some patricians, and [a few] days later [Giulio Averoldi] departed thence and returned to Brescia much satisfied, molto contento.(70)

So the failed forced wedding was converted to the celebration of a knighthood.

This was a colorful incident, but perhaps the most revealing cautionary tale in a collection of how-not-to-get-married tales is the following story of a flagrant interruption of a properly conducted wedding procedure and rejection of the societal system this procedure served. Sanudo, our diarist, was particularly incensed at this story; he tells it twice. The first mention includes the denouement. Then, after more than six weeks, he was to tell the story all over again.


8 March 1519: Since today is Mardi Gras, no meetings were held after dinner. There is one noteworthy item, however: ser Andrea Mocenigo, doctor, former senator, and grandson of the [former] doge, agreed to be married during this past Carnival to the daughter of ser Zuan Alvise Duodo from Sant'Anzolo.(71) The contract and betrothal ceremonies were celebrated together with the family presentations; it was impressive. The woman was not pretty, but he took her and, having taken her, went through with the betrothal, etc. However, some days later, even though he had given his hand, he said he no longer wanted her as his wife, and he would no longer go to her. The bride's father and brother, who were amazed at this, did everything they could to keep the learned man, who had the reputation of being wise, from inflicting such an insult on them. The dowry was reasonable, the woman was not deformed, and such things are just not done. Her family is very large, and they all consider themselves insulted. But he was adamant in stating that he did not want her, and neither the father nor the brother could persuade him to accept her. Announcing that he wished to enter a religious order, he stopped coming to public places. The whole city was talking about this, and he continued with his caprice of not accepting her all through Lent. However, after Easter he was so goaded that he took her in marriage, and brought her to his home.(72)

The diarist's entry over a month later was written the day after Easter and recapitulated the story, adding that at least twice the putative bridegroom gave his hand and then refused to see the putative bride. But finally he was persuaded to return to her.

And so today he was at the house of this bride and he will wed her at the agreed upon time. But the city will not forget what he has done, and that he was ill-advised to do this, and that just as [during this rejection] he was not seen around town, today he came to San Marco and the next day to the meeting of the Great Council.(73)

So this story ends with a wedding and with an affirmation of the close link between the proper private behavior of a Venetian patrician and his public reappearance in the central spaces and political councils of the city. It is an indication of how integrated marital ritual was with the civic ethos of the sixteenth-century Venetian city-state, how indignantly its interruption was treated, and how the city closed in upon the transgressor to assure the desired and satisfactory outcome. Andrea Mocenigo was, in effect, brought back to the family table, bringing his bride and all her family connections with him.

It remains to add a final word about our source. These accounts of proper marriages and those marriages or the marital process gone awry are only a very small part of a vast and variegated record penned by the observant Venetian diarist. Sanudo fully intended someday to condense and arrange the materials into an organized history, focused on the great events he saw unfolding around him.(74) In such a more formal and politically oriented account, the commedia performed before distinguished nuptial guests, the parade of 95 handsomely attired women across the Piazza San Marco, the rowdy revenge of the under-entertained Compagnia della Calza, and the reluctance of a bridegroom to consummate marriage with his less-than-beautiful wife might well have suffered condensation if not eclipse. That the diarist could not forego his love of recounting the human life of the city, its governmental intrigues, its everyday commerce, its despatches from abroad, its theatrical spectacles and diplomatic receptions, its weather, famines, and funerals, and here and there, its notable weddings in all their splendid detail, is our good fortune. Sanudo may have died poor and frustrated, his grand history never written, but the legacy of his Diaries has abundantly "dowered" our appreciation of his times.


This article is extracted from a volume in preparation whose working title is The World of Renaissance Venice: Excerpts from the Diaries of Marin Sanudo, 1496-1533, and it is dedicated to the memory of Felix Gilbert with whom the idea for the volume originated. Early support for the preparation of this volume was provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the sponsorship of the Renaissance Society of America.

1 Sanudo, Diarii, 2 August 1499; 2:1000. In references to the Diarii, the date of his entry (which is not necessarily the date of the events he describes) is cited, along with the volume and column number of the printed edition. This edition, published in fifty-eight volumes over 24 years (1879-1903), represents a work of immense and generally reliable scholarship and is the main source for the materials quoted in this paper. Any doubtful passages from this edition have been checked against the manuscript copy in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Ms. Ital. cl. VII, 228-86 (= 9215-273). Fulin and his collaborators Tuscanized the spelling of Sanudo's name which we have preferred to leave in its Venetian form.

2 In the following outline of the Venetian wedding process, it must be stated that Sanudo's Venetian vocabulary is not always consistent, and it is often unclear. The standard Dizionario del dialetto veneziano by Giuseppe Boerio, based on Venetian dialect of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, is only partially useful for this period. The authors are indebted to Angela Caracciolo Arico, Phyllis Pray Bober, and Doretta Davanzo Poli for their helpful advice on Venetian terminology, and to Patricia Fortini Brown and James S. Grubb, consultants for the entire Sanudo translation project, who have contributed their insights to this essay as well. Stanley Chojnacki's comments and suggestions at several stages of this work have refined our understanding of the vocabulary and widened our Venetian perspectives. Our special thanks go also to Christiane Klapisch-Zuber for her consultation and articles, especially "Zacharias, or the Ousted Father: Nuptial Rites in Tuscany between Giotto and the Council of Trent." The Tuscan marital terminology, however, is at some variance with the Venetian, with the same terms being used for different parts of the wedding process. A contemporary commentary on Roman customs may be found in Marco Antonio Altieri, Li nuptiali (see Narducci's edition of 1873), summarized by Brandileone, 294ff., and discussed by Klapisch-Zuber, "An ethnology of marriage in the age of humanism," 247-60. Anthony Molho provides a valuable survey of contemporary practices and attitudes in Florence.

3 "Percioche dovendo ella accrescer con la generatione quella famiglia nella quale s'innesta, ella si mostra in casa, et fuori alia citta, quasi come a tanti testimoni del matrimonio contratto." Sansovino, 401 (accents conformed to modern usage).

4 "Et le persone all'incontro vanno alla ceremonia, quasi che si allegrino di cosa propria, poiche per l'ordine del governo, sono incorporati insieme perpetuamente, come se tutti fossero d'una stessa famiglia" (401), italics added. The use of the term "family" in this essay indicates the extended family, including its immediate marital associations.

5 Sansovino, 402. After 1501, this custom gave way to the registration with the Avogador (or State Attorney) of any dowry over 1000 ducats. Here the physical public testimonial cedes to bureaucratic (but more certifiable) records, and the doge's personal role was, as in so many Venetian laws, downgraded. Brandileone, 118, attributes the contraction of the doge's role in patrician weddings to the increased press of governmental business, while Ambrosini views it as removing an opportunity for patricians seeking special favors from the doge (518, n. 93). The previous doge, Agostino Barbarigo (14861501), was charged after his death with having abused his ducal powers (Diarii, 4:181-83).

6 For the background and development of the state's concern for dowry limitation, see Chojnacki 1998, 132ff., especially 144-45.

7 See the many articles by Stanley Chojnacki on gender relations and patrician marriages in Venice. A recent survey of the literature about marriage in the Veneto, including references to marital customs in Venice, may be found in Grubb, 1-33. Particularly relevant for this essay are also Ambrosini 498-500, Finlay, 81-96, King, 33, 47-50, and Muir 1981, 124-25, 140ff., 174.

8 Povoledo, 623.

9 Sanudo wrote in the last volume of his Diaries that he had known of 34 Companies (58:184-85). On the Companies, see Venturi, Muir 1981, 167ff., and Muraro. Muraro (320-22) found in various sources a total 43 different companies which existed from 1441 to 1564. Sixteen was the maximum number of years recorded for a company, and many lasted only from one to eight years.

10 The saying may be found in Priuli, 4:115.

11 26 February 1498; 1:885-86. It should be noted that Sanudo's volumes usually ended on the last day of February, the end of the Venetian year. All dates have been normalized to our calendar. The size of the dowries which Sanudo cites can be appreciated by comparison with the doge's annual salary, estimated by one historian as 3000 ducats. See Sardella, 52-53.

12 14 October 1507; 7:161. Momarie such as this one about Jason and the golden fleece were masked allegorical performances, for the most part in pantomime, which may have originated with wedding celebrations and were frequently presented by one of the Compagnie della Calza. See Muraro, 328ff. Sanudo always notes the hour with reference to the hour of sunset, at this season about 6:00 p.m. That he could do so was due to an elaborate system of different bells rung from the campanile of San Marco. See the note, signed B[artolomeo] C[ecchetti], 379-80.

13 4 October 1506; 6:437, where the feast is described as "meza festa."

14 The Collegio had three branches of savi (or wise men): five for the terra or terraferma, five for matters da mar or al ordini, generally concerning the overseas dominion and its control, and six savi grandi who had the most prestige and power. The Collegio prepared business for the Senate and that is probably why its convening on this otherwise festive day was necessary. For a concise summary of Venetian governmental bodies, see Grendler, 37ff. Sanudo himself provides a description of the Collegio in his De origine, 93-95.

15 The most serene prince was the doge. The use of this title, Serenissimo Principe, set the doge above other dukes such as those of Milan or Ferrara. The bride is described as neza which can be either a niece (the meaning chosen by some historians in this case) or granddaughter. For the identification of this young woman as the daughter of Doge Loredan's daughter who married Zuan Venier, and therefore the doge's granddaughter, see Finlay, 82, and Sanudo, Diarii, 4:143. Patronymics, which Sanudo always gives, have generally been omitted in these translations, and Sanudo's somewhat variable spelling of patrician family names is normalized to the spelling used in the indices of the published edition.

16 The permission to use silver refers to sumptuary laws which, among other strictures, sought to control the expense of wedding celebrations. See below for specific examples.

17 The Spanish ambassador may have been displeased with the Venetian government for their diverting France from forming an alliance with Spain and the Empire by making its own treaty with France at Blois on 23 March, less than six weeks earlier (see below, note 24). Thirteen days later, this same Spanish ambassador would excuse himself from the ceremonial investiture of Venice's Captain General, Bartolomeo d'Alviano, although he had previously - as on the earlier occasion - accepted the invitation to attend (15 May 1513; 16:251). See Romanin, 282-83.

18 Honorific titles and offices such as "king" and "councillor" were bestowed by the companies upon their members, often just for specific occasions. The tunic, caxacha, was a long garment which, unlike the Venetian official robe, was open in front. For this and other Venetian costumes in this period, see Newton and Vitali.

19 The color of the vestments was described as "ruosa secha," a newly fashionable old-rose color which, a decade later, Andrea Gritti would adopt for some of his ducal vestments (Newton, 30). It was also used by his granddaughter for her wedding gown in 1525 (see below). Pope Calixtus II had, in 1122, given the Venetians a papal banner, vexillum beati Petri, to carry in a crusade, so this was a well-chosen reference to convey Venice's desire for an optimal relationship with the new pope, Leo X, who had only two months earlier, on 19 March, been elected to the papal throne.

20 It is worth commenting on this portion of the commedia. Otto was the son of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and, according to the Venetian legend, had persuaded his father to accept the doges offer to make his peace with Pope Alexander III, a Venetian ally, in 1177. This was the famous pax veneta and the reference to Otto here would remind the Venetian audience of that most glorious occasion and the acquisition, from a grateful pope, of their most prized regalia: an umbrella to be carried over the doge as a sign of regal authority; a lit candle to carry in processions as a sign of devotion and nobility; the use of a lead seal with images of St. Mark and the doge (as the papal seal carries the image of St. Peter); a sword for the doges faithful defense of the Church against the Emperor; and most importantly for the ritual life of the city, the privilege of wedding the Adriatic Sea in the annual ceremony of the Sensa, the "sposalizio del mare." See Padoan Urban, 291-353. That symbolic wedding now joins the associations provoked by this sixteenth-century nuptial feast.

21 The presentation of a scepter (which implies imperium) to the Venetian "king" by the German "ambassador' must have been understood by the audience as guaranteeing Venetian jurisdiction over the imperial lands which, in 1513, included imperial territories in northern Italy which had been conquered by Venice in the fifteenth century, then lost in the earlier years of the War of the League of Cambrai, and which now, by 1513, were being regained. Venice had recently been negotiating with Maximilian for the investiture of these lands. See Romanin, 280.

22 Mamluk here refers to a member of a politically powerful military class in Egypt.

23 This was a lynx fur piece, much prized as an accessory. See Bistort, 386, and Boerio, s.v.. Newton (167) describes sable fur pieces with jewelled collars which could be hung from the waist and were like toys (cf. n. 49). The lynx was traditionally considered a sharp-sighted animal, far-seeing and percipient, an apt metaphor for Venetian diplomatic acumen in dealing with their Turkish neighbor to the east, sometimes as an enemy and sometimes as an ally.

24 The dog was a symbol of fidelity, a reference to the renewed alliance of Venice and France represented by the Treaty of Blois, signed on 23 March 1513, only 40 days before this occasion. Allegiance to France was dominant in much of Venetian diplomacy during this period, as were French modes of fashion.

25 For the "two men from Africa" the text reads "do di Ginea", and in an entry of 14 August this same year (16:622), Sanudo records a letter from Pope Leo X to Manuel of Portugal which addresses him as "rex Portugalliae et Algarbiorum citra et ultraque mare in Africa, dominus Guineae et conquistae navigationis ac commertii Ethiopiae, Arabiae, Persiae atque Indiae." The vocabulary of these exotic lands was well known to the Venetians.

26 The Spanish ambassador had left early, but the papal envoy and Hungarian ambassador were still there to witness their counterparts enacting these ceremonial courtesies to a Venetian "king" for the evening. Venice's alliance with Hungary formed a key part of her defensive policy toward the Turks.

27 The pygmy courier rode "uno cavalo marian picolo" which was a prop horse probably made of wood and moved by the actor (Muraro, 331, n. 64). The gift of a crane could have symbolized the vigilance and loyalty. of the Venetians. See Ferguson, s.v.

28 "A tempo in 4." Our thanks to Ellen Rosand for her suggested translation of this phrase.

29 Sanudo was keenly aware, as were his contemporaries, of the casade morte, the "dead houses" of certain patrician families. See his De origine, pp. 68-70, 178-79, 206, and Diarii, 6:117-18. The "Libro d'Oro" which contained the names of the current patricians old enough to take their place in the Maggior Consiglio and occupy governmental positions had come into existence in August of 1506, only seven years before this wedding celebration and after a century of gradually increasing awareness of those families that were extant and those that had become extinct. See Chojnacki 1996, 341-58. The "reincarnation" of three extinct families here from a century earlier is suggestive, as is the fact that these "ambassadors" came from Doge Michele Steno whose reign from 1400-1413 occurred just at the beginning of the increasing focus on family lineage.

30 The "silver ship" could have been a little silver model such as a sixteenth-century thurible of hammered and engraved silver, partially gilded, which may be seen in the Treasury of the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. Pendant earrings in the form of a ship were also popular in fifteenth-century Venice, according to Pazzi, 104. We owe both these references to Doretta Davanzo Poli. Phyllis Pray Bober has suggested the silver ship might be a "nef," a container (usually of silver or gold) in the form of a ship for salt or spices. See, for example, the January miniature in the Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry. Zuan Polo Liompardi was a well-known actor-producer who appears in many of the performances of this period. See Ambrosini, 494.

31 2 May 1513: 16:206-07. Povoledo (628) entitles this "commedia" the Demonstration del Re Pancrazio and describes it as a long, fragmentary itinerant action during which the earthly powers send, through their ambassadors, gifts not to the young couple but to the Eterni and every gift corresponded to a symbolic act concerning the accoutrements, or the vestizione, of the "king." Ambrosini (493) suggests that this momaria was a subtle form of self-praise by the Compagnia della Calza for their role in consolidating the good relations between the Venetian government and foreign dignitaries visiting the city.

32 Muraro, 328.

33 26 June 1514; 18:299-300: "Tamen fu di honor al Stado." Italics added.

34 20 January 1517; 23:499, and 29 January 1517; 23:540. The requirements of a proper wedding were surely good for a number of Venetian trades, from cobblers to cooks, from drapers to costume designers. It was entirely logical that Sanudo should identify a splendid wedding with a recovering economy.

35 The descriptions of this wedding run from entries made from 14 January through 25 January 1525; 37:440, 445, 447, 470-75. Doge Andrea Gritti's program to renew the city through an intensification of its rituals of self-glorification, part of his "renovatio urbis," included the pomp of this family wedding.

36 The Signoria consisted of the doge plus his six ducal councillors plus the sixteen members of the three branches of the Savi. It represented the government of Venice. The details of costume are significant here. The purple, crimson, and violet colors (paonazo, cremexin, violato) were all varieties of the aristocratic porpora worn by particular magistrates on special occasions, and their mention here is an acknowledgment of the importance of the occasion and the status of the participants. The bridegroom and his brother wore black because they were still in mourning for their relative, Antonio Contarini, Patriarch of Venice from 1508 to 1524, who had died a few months earlier (7 October 1524; 37:17). The "ducal sleeves" of the bridegroom's brother were wide and open, and his wearing them indicated social privilege. This young man had become engaged shortly before to a young woman of the Pesaro family, but the engagement was kept secret so as not to upstage the ducal event (37:441). See below where the fiancee is included in the bridal procession.

37 See Bistort, 100, where the role of the dancing master as master of the nuptial ceremonies is cited, and Molmenti, 2:332.

38 Weddings did not require the clergy's participation until after the Council of Trent in the middle of the sixteenth century. But the Church did assert its influence on the time of the year in which weddings were allowed through its penitential calendar. That is why so many weddings occurred during the long Carnival season (St. Stephen's day through Mardi Gras) when the feasts and sexual unions were permitted. See Grubb, 13-15.

39 The day is described as punto di stella. According to Veneto tradition, St. Paul's Day (celebrating his conversion) closes the calends of the new year, and the weather that prevails on that day will prevail for the rest of the year (Coltro, 65). It is significant that this same day began a festival which had been celebrated between the mid-twelfth century and 1379, the "Festival of the Twelve Marys," and was still alluded to in contemporary rituals. A large part of this festival had involved charitable donations to the dowries of worthy but poor young girls, and the feast as a whole in its Marian focus celebrated the purity of Venetian women (Muir 1981, 149).

40 The term torzi is used to indicate either several candles bundled together or a single large candle torch.

41 Fantin Corner belonged to the Piscopia branch of the family, which had extensive business dealings in Cyprus and to which the last king of Cyprus had been heavily indebted (Campolieti, 47).

42 These latter officials, while important, were not at the level of the others. See Grendler, 39.

43 The translations for these Venetian foods are not always easily found. Cai di late here translated as a whipped cream dessert is elsewhere in Sanudo called capi di late (6:173) and in Veneroni translated as or creme epaisse, thick cream. The sweetmeats, confeti, were all sorts of preserved goodies to complete digestion and sweeten the breath, spices to nibble such as anise seeds, cardamon, candied ginger, thin slices of fennel moistened with bitter-orange juice. This definition was kindly supplied by Phyllis Pray Bober.

44 This forestier or foreigner was probably a pilgrim en route to or from the Holy Land, for which Venice was the major port, invited, as were the six "popular" guests, for symbolic reasons of including the larger community of Venice in the festa.

45 The colari in sbara are described in Vitali, s.v., and Bistort, 186, n.1. These were ornate chains starting at a diagonal waistline and reaching nearly to the floor. The rich attire and jewels of the women attending this quasi-public ceremony were, as in all officially public ceremonies, identified with the republic's prosperity. See Brown 1990, 145.

46 The parish of S. Nicolo dei Mendicoli had a particular relationship with the doge. Populated by fishermen, the parish annually elected a doge of the Nicolotti who was honored by the patrician doge in a formal ceremony. See Muir 1981, 99-101.

47 Compari are sometimes referred to as compari dell'anello or ring-sponsors, the term used here. Sansovino (402) describes the role of the compari: "Et nella festa si toglie uno o piu compari chiamati dell'anello. I quali in questo caso, rappresentano quasi un Maestro delle cerimonie, perche a lui tocca la cura de i Musici, e di molte altre cose appartenenti alla festa. Et la mattina susseguente al banchetto, presenta a gli sposi, donativi di zuccheri, di confettioni, e d'altri simili restorativi, et esso all'incontro e presentato da loro."

48 These fur pieces usually had an embalmed head with a jewelled collar or the head was reproduced in gold and gems to complement ornaments hung from the belt. See, for examples, Titian's Portrait of Isabella d'Este (Vienna, Kunsthistorischer Museum) and his Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga (Florence, Palazzo Pitti).

49 This was a tradition in which the orator did not so much praise the newlyweds as the virtues and illustrious actions of their ancestors, as a further reminder to his audience of exemplary dedication to their patria, situating the marriage in historical space as a complement to its situation in civic space. See Morelli, 15. The use of a classical rhetorical genre here should be seen in the general context of Venetian classicizing themes.

50 25 January 1525; 37:470-75. The foods are listed as "storti, buzolai, fugacine, cestelle de confetti."

51 It has recently been suggested that dowry figures were set as much by conventions of honor and status as by a competitive market for eligible grooms (Queller and Madden, 704; cf. Davis, 106).

52 The following "cautionary tale" tides have been supplied by Labalme and White.

53 The companies had their own statues and fines for their infringement. Some of their rules concerned the obligation to entertain in style. Morelli, 30-31, cites this rule from the 1541 statutes of the Sempiterni: "che ogni Compagno maritandosi sia obbligato fare due pasti a trombe e piffari, una in casa della sposa, l'altro nella di lui casa: e dopo il secondo lo sposo deva fare una Festa, Commedia, ovver Momaria, nella quale spenda da ducati trenta in su, oltre al pasto; sotto pena di ducati cinquanta per ciascuna volta ch'ei contraffacesse."

54 The Eterni are described as wearing "vesta da contor." Bistort, 355, cites the use of this phrase in a sumptuary law of 17 November 1476 and Molmenti (2:478-79) lists among an "Estratto dall'inventario di Francesco Bon (15 ottobre 1520) . . . una vesta de contor de pano negro fodra volpe grossa trista." A variant spelling appears in Sanudo's Diarii, 12:15, in a reference to an important Friulan noble: "Vidi, in chiesia di San Marco, domino Jacomo da Castello, dotor, uno di primi di la Patria, solito venir qui per orator di Udene, in vesta di cantor . . . fuzito de li." On Giacomo da Castello, see Muir 1993, 177-78. The form "cantor" here appears to be a linguistic slip for "contor." Colussi's Glossario, 3.3 s.v. "conte," lists "contor" as a medieval variant of "conte," influenced by the French. See also the meaning of "governatore veneziano delle citta dalmate" given by Alberto Limentani for "conte" in the "Glossario" of Martino da Canal, s.v. 'cuens' (382).

55 Domenico Taiacalze was another well-known buffoon, whom Molmenti (2:384) pairs with Stefano Taiacalze. But the manuscript has "pre' Stefano" and is possibly a reference to Frate Giovanni Armonio Marso from the monastery of the Crosechieri which was at that time a venue for a number of commedie. Armonio was the author of a Latin commedia called Stephanium which had been recited, probably in 1502, at the convent of the Eremiti at San Stefano. See Mancini, 34, and Padoan Urban, 387-88.

56 January 1508; 7:256. The Campana was an inn in which Sanudo held shares and from which he derived a tidy income (Sanudo, De origine, 29). Although the silver bowls were taken from the bride's father's house, the dinner had been the groom's responsibility, so the cost of redeeming the bowls would have been his. Klapisch-Zuber has pointed out some similarities to a variety of the Italian mattinata (itself a version of the charivari), where friends of a widower at his remarriage exacted a "ransom" from him and then celebrated his marriage with joyful music if he had been generous or rambunctious noise if he had not. See her essay on "The Medieval Italian Mattinata," especially 265-66.

57 31 January 1526; 40:751-52. Venetian sumptuary laws went back to the fourteenth century and their enforcement was entrusted to various magistracies until 8 February 1514, when the Magistrato alle Pompe was established. See Killerby, 109.

58 40:752. Francolins were a mountain bird similar to a partridge; in Venezia e le sue lagune, 2:215, they are described as "galo salvadego rarissimo . . . . Sono uccelli riservati per le tavole signorili." Gilded foods, that is, actually decorated with gold, were not uncommon at very important feasts. Molmenti reports that they were considered not only ornamental but beneficial to the heart (2:390). See also Bistort (209) where the description of a wedding banquet in Ferrara included 27,629 pieces of gold used to gild various confections. The term dorade might also be applied to those foods (usually fowl as above) with a "golden" battered crust, made from a mixture of egg yolk, flour, and fat or liquid such as wine. According to Phyllis Pray Bober, the credenzieri or stewards of the sideboard served courses which were cold from imposing credenzas which might display the rich table-ware of the household, alternating these courses with hot (and perhaps "gilded") courses served from the kitchen. The use of luxurious Turkish carpets as table coverings is documented in contemporary paintings such as Lorenzo Lotto's Family Group and The Protonotary Apostolic Giovanni Giulino, both in the National Gallery in London, and his Portrait of a Married Couple in The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Turkish rugs appear in somewhat later canvases such as Veronese's Wedding at Cana (Paris, Louvre) and the Last Supper, now Feast in the House of Levi (Venice, Accademia). We are grateful to Patricia Fortini Brown and David Rosand for these references.

59 These prohibited food stuffs are listed as "grosse pignocade, pistachi, calisoni, fongi de Savonia, trazie, oldani et confecti senza corpo, spongade figure, fructe de zucaro, et ogni altra sorte confection grossa che far et imaginar si possa" (40:752). Pignocade were a popular pre-prandial snack, made of sugar and egg whites beaten up with a little bit of flour and a generous portion of pine-nuts, then dropped by spoonfuls to bake in a not very hot oven, sometimes with cut-up orange or lemon flowers added as well; calisoni are filled pastries either fried or baked (the filling usually marzipan in a dough that included sugar and rose-water); "confecti senza corpo" are sweetmeats in some soft or jellied form (these definitions were supplied by Phyllis Pray Bober). Fongi de Savonia were sweetmeats of sugar, starch and rose water and spongade were sweets molded into various shapes: castles, ships, nymphs, animals, coats of arms. See Ambrosini, 496.

60 Sanudo, De origine, 250.

61 It is interesting that there were laws attempting to control the dowry, the number of guests invited, the types of food served, the decor, and the gifts, but very little was said about the bride's dress. Cloth-of-gold might be prohibited, but other luxurious fabrics seem to have been permitted and might raise the cost of the dress to as much as 300-500 ducats. Mueller (650) gives this figure for elegant dresses in the fifteenth century, and they would undoubtedly have cost more later.

62 11 April 1526; 41:166. San Zuan on Torcello was a special monastery for the convertite, that is, those women who had turned away from a life of prostitution. As such, it was an appropriate place for this wedding. The amount of the dowry was left blank in the diarist's text. Sanudo often omitted figures which he intended to supply later. This was clearly a respectable dowry for a bride considered less than respectable, although as a "vedoa meretrice somptuosa et bellissima," Grifo had a certain standing within her profession. The "shame" cast on the patriciate to which Sanudo refers may have led to the debates and legislation, within the following fortnight, concerning the preservation of the nobility's "purity and status" through marital registration with the State Attorneys (Diarii, 41: 201, 203). See Chojnacki 1998, 142.

63 This Court of Forty for Criminal Affairs was the highest criminal court in Venice.

64 Diarii, 56:95-96. For the sequel, see in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Avogadori di Comun, Raspe 3667, fol. 20 v (numero antico), 28 May 1532.

65 13 May 1500; 3:314-15. The exclamation points, lacking in the original, were added by the more rhetorically-minded nineteenth-century editors. The original flat statements argue for the veracity of the reporting.

66 29 May 1530; 53:234. The case is also mentioned in 53:214, 217, 223. The judicial group in charge was the Consiglio semplice (the Council of Ten) meeting with the doge and his six councillors, but without its additional "Zonta" of fifteen. It was this more restricted group which had First taken cognizance of the case on 17 May 1530 (53:214), and it was hoped that the narrower body ("congregato col prefato numero di 17") would be less exposed to pressure from relatives eager to have the exiled culprits pardoned than would be an enlarged Council. See Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Council of Ten, Criminali, Filza 6, 17 and 28 May 1530, for the proposed penalties and the votes taken to punish a crime described as "heedless," "arrogant," and "offensive."

67 23 April, 28 April, 18 May, 21 May, 1518; 25:363, 368, 417, 420. Vettor Martinengo, the father of Camillo, is described as "zentilhomo nostro," indicating that he had received honorary patrician status in Venice and was probably well-connected there (25:368). On the Venetian concern to control the rivalries of Brescian elite families, often at odds over the patrimony of aristocratic heiresses, see Ferraro, 134ff.

68 21 and 25 June, 1518; 25:493 and 495-96. The child's fate is described in this way: "La puta veramente sia restituita et reposta nel luogo proprio dove la fu rapita, et remagni in quel stato, easer et rason nel qual la era avanti la fusse rapita."

69 25:420. On Altobello Averoldi, see the article by Gaeta, 399-400. The papal legate was well-known to Sanudo.

70 5 July 1518; 25:522.

71 Andrea was the grandson of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo, 1478-1485.

72 8 March 1519; 27:30-31. Note that the last part of this entry was written after Easter, which was on 24 April that year, a good deal later than the Mardi Gras and Lenten events described. But there is no indication in the manuscript that only the last sentence as added later, a due to Sanudo's actual composition of the Diaries from notes kept and records transcribed, sometimes daily, sometimes over a few days, sometimes over a period of weeks before being entered into the serial pages of the Diaries.

73 25 April 1519; 27:209.

74 See his expression of this intention on 1 March 1523; 34:5.


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