Myths of Venice

The Figuration of a State

By David Rosand

216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 color and 109 b&w illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5663-5
    Published: August 2005
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7279-6
    Published: September 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7322-4
    Published: September 2012

Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art History

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Over the course of several centuries, Venice fashioned and refined a portrait of itself that responded to and exploited historical circumstance. Never conquered and taking its enduring independence as a sign of divine favor, free of civil strife and proud of its internal stability, Venice broadcast the image of itself as the Most Serene Republic, an ideal state whose ruling patriciate were selflessly devoted to the commonweal. All this has come to be known as the "myth of Venice."

Exploring the imagery developed in Venice to represent the legends of its origins and legitimacy, David Rosand reveals how artists such as Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian, Jacopo Sansovino, Tintoretto, and Veronese gave enduring visual form to the myths of Venice. He argues that Venice, more than any other political entity of the early modern period, shaped the visual imagination of political thought. This visualization of political ideals, and its reciprocal effect on the civic imagination, is the larger theme of the book.

About the Author

David Rosand, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University, is well known for his studies of Venetian art. His books in that field include Titian; Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto; and The Meaning of the Mark: Leonardo and Titian.

For more information about David Rosand, visit the Author Page.


"Sophisticated, yet easily read."--Choice

"Prodigiously learned in iconography, David Rosand has provided an impressive account, with copious illustrations, of the 'visualization of political ideal' in late medieval and early modern Venice. . . . Rosand's exposition of the decorative schemes and their allusions is thorough and convincing, and will appeal to all but the most iconoclastic historians of Venice."--Times Literary Supplement

"Rosand's Myths of Venice provide[s] expert guidance through the intricacies of this more private Venetian artistic symbolism, revealing its underlying sense much as a good map will reveal the basic rationality behind the city's complex web of islands, paths, and waterways. Designed for the curious general reader, physically compact, fluidly written. . . . [An] ideal . . . traveling companion."--New York Review of Books

"[An] impressively learned volume. . . . The book also provides numerous illustrations, some in color, extensive endnotes and a wide-ranging bibliography. . . . [This book] helps us better understand just why this beguiling city has, for so many centuries, fascinated the world."--Washington Post Book World

"Venice has inspired . . . Rosand to write [a] remarkably laudatory [book] on the artistic legacy generated by the Renaissance mythmakers and propagandists of that city. . . . Rosand stresses the importance of English writers in propagating the myth of Venice as a unique state possessing an exemplary political constitution. . . . Highly recommended for public and academic libraries."--Library Journal

"Scholars across the disciplines, as well as the wider reading public, can be grateful to David Rosand for so elegantly laying out how the Venetian elites expressed in visual form their highest ideals and aspirations."--Renaissance and Reformation