Made in Venice

Charles Hope

  • Andrea Schiavone by Francis Richardson
    Oxford, 225 pp, £30.00, April 1980, ISBN 0 19 817332 6

With the hyperbole typical of the guidebook writer, Francesco Sansovino asserted in 1561: ‘Take it from me, there are more pictures in Venice than in all the rest of Italy.’ This is obviously not true, but it is almost certainly the case that during the 16th century more oil paintings were produced in Venice than in any other city of Europe. Many were undistinguished, but virtually all of them, as contemporaries everywhere recognised, reflected a distinctive local tradition whose best representatives were among the outstanding artists of their day. Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, for example, were all active when Sansovino was writing: at that time nowhere else in Italy could boast of a group of painters of comparable stature. But not only have historians of this period devoted much more attention to the art of Florence and Rome: they have also tended to regard developments in these two cities as the norm, and painting in Venice as a deviant provincial phenomenon.

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