The Representation of Battles and War in Late Quattrocento and Cinquecento Venice

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Scheidt, Luise 

This PhD examines the representation and perception of battle and war in late fifteenth and sixteenth century Venice, exploring the relationship between the historical situation and the artistic representation of the military culture in a variety of visual representations. Tracing different functions and uses of the depiction of battle themes throughout the various contexts and commissions, this dissertation examines how different individuals and agents utilised the representations of Venetian warfare and battles in different ways to benefit their own ambitions and agencies. The scope for this thesis is reflected by crucial changes in the Republic’s political history. The first part focuses on the last quarter of the quattrocento which manifests the beginning of Venice’s military decline, going hand in hand with the Ottomans’ conquest of the eastern Mediterranean as well as instability in Venice’s position within the states of Europe. It is especially in the commissions by individual Venetian patricians and communities that we find scenes of key battles against the Ottomans, such as the tomb monument for Doge Pietro Mocenigo and the Scuola degli Albanesi. The second part examines the aftermath of the wars against the League of Cambrai (1509-1516), representing the most vulnerable situation in Venice’s history. The commissions for the Palazzo Ducale, such as Titian’s Battle ofSpoleto, adhere to traditional narratives in order to maintain Venice’s position among the states of Europe, while the tomb for Doge Leonardo Loredan includes a direct allegory of these wars in unprecedented ways, commissioned decades after his death. The final part of this thesis focuses on the representations of battles in the new decorative cycle for the Great Council chamber in the Palazzo Ducale, commissioned after 1577. Through a detailed analysis of the surviving manuscript of the iconographical scheme for the council chamber, the study outlines how the overarching programme adheres to the military successes of the Republic’s past in the face of the decline after Lepanto. The PhD dissertation draws on primary evidence such as original artwork (paintings, sculptures, preparatory drawings and prints), personal wills and testaments, confraternities’ founding mariegole, contemporary editions of Venetian history, personal diaries and guidebooks, and surviving iconographical programmes to conduct a comparative art historical analysis that anchors the case-studies more firmly in the historical situation in Venice.

Howard, Deborah
Art History, Venice, Renaissance Venice
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
German Academic Scholarship Foundation