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Venezianische Dogenportrats des 16. Jahrhunderts.

Annette Weber. Schriftenreihe des deutschen studienzentrums in venedig, 10. Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1993. 154 pp. DM68. ISBN: 3-7995-2710-9.

Anyone who has given a modicum of attention to the study of Renaissance Venice will recognize the critical role which the doge, the titular head of the Venetian Republic, played in public life, standing as the foremost representative of the state and Venetian ideals, a symbol of the splendor and stability of the city. Annette Weber's study constitutes an important contribution to the literature on the Venetian state and its imagery, filling a previously existing gap by presenting the first systematic, chronological treatment of the development of Venetian dogal portraiture. In comparison to volumes such as Gino Benzoni's I Dogi (Milan, 1982) and Wolfgang Wolter's Storia e politica nei dipinti di Palazzo Ducale (Venice, 1987), which are two of the more comprehensive treatments of the Venetian dogate and its manifestation in the arts and public life, this book concentrates on the development of dogal portraiture alone. The dogal imagery generated by the artistic foment in Venice amidst the political turmoil of the sixteenth century established conventions for the representation of the doge that remained the standard until the collapse of the Venetian Republic at the end of the eighteenth century.

Following a very brief history of the office, a consideration of the vicissitudes of the position of the doge in the sixteenth century, and a description of the dogal vestments that are so central to the dogal image, Weber traces the development of the dogal portrait from the twelfth century, beginning with the Byzantine-inspired images on the Pala d'Oro and the mosaics of San Marco recounting the legendary founding of Venice by Saint Mark. The dogal portraits produced by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Jacopo Tintoretto, each of whom was appointed Official Painter of the Serenissima, are discussed in turn. The last chapter considers the devastating fires of the 1570s in the Ducal Palace which resulted in extensive losses of paintings installed in the Council Halls and the "restoration" which followed, largely under the direction of Tintoretto and his son, Domenico. The dominant function of dogal images was the assertion of the continuity of the Republic, seen in the succession frieze depicting each doge who held office since the ninth century holding a scroll listing the res gestae of his dogate, as well as in many of the historical paintings and dogal votive portraits still extant in the Ducal Palace, most of which postdate the fires.

The portraits produced by the Bellini brothers mark an important shift in the portrayal of the doge, where the particular character and distinctive features of the individual man are given previously unseen prominence. This interest in the individual and his personality follows developments in Renaissance and Venetian portraiture of the time. Weber identifies Giovanni Bellini's portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan in London and Titian's portrait of Doge Andrea Gritti in Washington, arguably the two most-famous images of the Venetian doge, as key to the establishment of this new type of representation. Bellini's portrait presents Loredan as the ideal doge, temperate and wise, while Titian's portrait presents Gritti as a formidable monarch, a characterization fully in keeping with Gritti's incendiary personality. While Weber acknowledges that these portraits were probably private commissions instead of official portraits, the implications of this distinction stand further consideration because the Venetians are infamous for the way in which they attempted to restrict the authority of the doge, at times reducing him to a mere figure-head. Weber's consideration of dogal portraiture includes too little historical and biographical information, more of which would help to contextualize the images and assist in their interpretation. Despite this possible weakness, the strength of this book is its focused consideration of the portraits themselves.

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Author:Smith, Rachel Hostetter
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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