Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




A City Rich in Gold

Venice and the sea



He saw it once more, that landing-place that takes the breath away, that amazing group of incredible structures the Republic set up to meet the awe-struck eye of the approaching seafarer: the airy splendour of the palace and the Bridge of Sighs, the columns with a lion and saint on the shore, the glory of the projecting flank of the fairy temple, the vista of gateway and clock.

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice, 1912



Venice and gondolas: An inseparable duo



No other city in the world has been so extravagantly praised as Venice. In 1495 the French ambassador Philippe de Commines praised it as being "the most joyously radiant city" he had ever seen. He mentioned white marble facades, apartments with gilt antechambers and sumptuously ornate fireplaces. When Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797, he thought St Mark's was "the best drawing-room in Europe and only Heaven is worthy of serving as its ceiling", Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who stayed in the island-dotted lagoon in September 1786 while on his Italian journey, spoke with reverence of the "wonderful island city", which he "was privileged to visit" and in which he wished to reside "until I have satiated my desire to gaze on the image of this city". After endless warring with Genoa, Venice finally conquered her rival in 1380. From that date, the city was the unchallenged leader in world trade. In 1423 the Venetian Republic commanded a war fleet of 45 galleys specially built for combat and a merchant fleet of 300 galleys. With a population of over 200,000, Venice was one of the biggest, and certainly the richest, Western cities. Prosperity, optimism and cheerfulness reigned: "People sing in the squares, tn the streets and on the canals. Merchants sing when they are prizing then-wares; labourers sing when they leave their places of work; gondolien sing when they are waiting for customers", remarked the Italian dramatist Carlo Goldoni in the eighteenth century. One wonders whether the Doge, the ruler of the Republic, sang when conducting the affairs of state.

At any rate, he had to utter the same invocation each year on Ascension Day, which was the most important event in the city calendar: "O sea, we wed thee in the sign of our true and everlasting dominion". With this incantation, a vow renewed each year, the Venetians hoped to propitiate the primal forces of the sea to ensure their benevolence and willingness to do their share in securing the supremacy of the Republic in the Adriatic. In the days of the veduta painter Canaletto, the "nuptials with the sea" were staged as an opulent and colourful cavalcade. The Doge boarded his ceremonial ship, the bucintoro, and sailed to the Porto di Lido, the principal gateway to Venice, where the "nuptials with the sea" took place. There he poured holy water into the sea and cast a gold ring overboard. The ritual has been revived in recent years. Now, of course, something very different is at stake. No longer are the power, influence and wealth of Venice to be enhanced. The decaying city once called the Serenissima ("Most Serene Republic") must be prevented from subsiding into the sea should a raging storm unleash the forces of nature.


Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day
Royal Collection. Windsor


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