Jacopo Sansovino is deserving of, “the highest praise, seeing that…he has been the reason that the gentlemen of Venice have introduced modern architecture into their city,” according to Vasari’s Lives.1   An exaggerated claim, it illustrates the degree to which Jacopo Sansovino transformed the face of the maritime republic.  Taking commissions of all natures throughout the city, Sansovino injected a refined Classicism into the unique Veneto-Byzantine creation.  Particularly active in the Piazzetta of San Marco, he had a strong influence on the symbolic heart of the city and empire.  Working in a studied classicism, he beautifully advanced the myth of Venice by recasting the city as a New Rome.2 

While his influence was undeniably dynamic, classically inspired architecture developed in the city under natural circumstances.  Vasari’s typically boastful claim ignores a rich undercurrent of classical style in Venice preceding Sansovino and his masterpieces.  Prior to his arrival in the city in 1527 architects and patrons looked to the antique past.  For Venice there were two Romes.  As it straddled the Eastern and Western Roman empires it had a wider legacy to look to for inspiration.3   However, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Venice associated increasingly with the West and Ancient Rome. This new preference originated in the cultural and political condition of the city and was expressed in its myth.  

Following a harrowing period of humiliating wars and economic decline Venice was left exhausted.  As the city renewed its wealth and dominion in the mid-sixteenth century patrons eagerly sought to assert their city’s restored prestige.  At the collusion of these base forces of war, economics, and politics a strong interest in all’antica art developed.  

With the rediscovered strength to pursue their new artistic interest, the Venetian patriciate extended and rearticulated the myth of Venice.  An inclusive and powerful piece of propaganda, the myth exalted the republic.  The myth was expressed profusely in almost every medium: literature, music, architecture, sculpture, and painting.  Fusing many of these elements, Venetians performed elaborate civic rituals and processions on land and the waters of their lagoon.  Through these many displays they myth articulated an idealized and powerful image of the Venetian republic.  Through architecture and sculpture Sansovino contributed a strong voice of elucidation to the city.  However responsible he was for the introduction of “modern [Renaissance] architecture” into Venice, he and his work’s assertions built on centuries of earlier myth and propaganda. 

The myth of Venice began early in the republic’s history and runs parallel to the situation of the Venetian state.  Both descriptive and narrative, the myth told the city’s history and simultaneously fashioned its character.  Composed of many voices, the myth speaks as one to the preeminence and endurance of the city.  Through the fusion of countless histories, rituals, and artworks, the myth formed organically.

The early myth centered on the city’s mystical connection to Saint Mark the Evangelist.  Originating from a suspicious legend, Venice claimed to hold the Evangelist’s remains and favor.   The tale begins with merchants smuggling the saint’s remains out of Alexandria.  Evading Muslim officials by hiding the Evangelist in pork, the merchants loaded the relic onto their ship and departed for Christian Venice.  In 827 the doge Giustiniano Participazio accepted the remains and set the course for the relic’s emulation.4   Saint Mark replaced Theodore of Amasea as Venice’s patron and the original basilica of San Marco was built to house his remains.   Fitting into a broader glorification of religious relics in the period, the saint imparted legitimacy to the Venetian state.  His body was a viable link to early Christianity and made their success a reflection of divine approval rather than chance.  

With heavy political connotations the city utilized the relic the same as the papacy used Saint Peter’s remains.  Both cities conflated the traits and attributes of the holy with their own.  Emulating Saint Peter’s Basilica, the glorious Basilica of San Marco was constructed to house the holy remains.  Also the ducal chapel, the building demonstrates how the state and religion were fused to bolster one another.  This joining is further evidenced by the actions of the Venetian state in Crete.  With its annexation in 1211 they forcefully the created a cult of Saint Mark with compulsory tribute due on his feast day.5  Although unfortunate for the people of  Crete, the link to Saint Mark lent the city of Venice an air of sanctity.  This belief led Saint Peter Damian to declare Venice an apostolic city in the eleventh century.6  With this designation the city of Venice confidently grew to understand itself as Rome’s equal.  despite not claiming superiority over Rome and the papacy, Venice primed itself to claim Rome’s symbolic title.

Venice continued to embrace Saint Mark and the myth developed to incorporate tranquility and solidity.  As other city states struggled with violent factionalism, Venice seemingly floated by in peace.7   Although there were internal problems, to the outside world Venice was exceptionally stable.  Tokens as small as unprotected glass windows and accessible palaces were marveled at by Venice’s visitors as signs of the city’s serenity.  

Some actions taken by the state helped to create the relatively calm political climate. The closing of the Great Council in 1297 helped to consolidate power and defend it from attempted seizure.  Only allowing a set group of families to rule delegitimized potential insurgents.  Similarly, the position of doge was protected by lifetime appointment.  The doge’s power was further protected by emphasizing the symbolic role over the individual.  With the Venetian government’s elaborate rites and staging attacks on the corporeal doge were synonymous with attacks on the position.8  By insulating the government from internal and external forces, the Venetian lagoon maintained a unique tranquility and stability.  Attributed to the grace of Saint Mark, the ability of the Venetian Republic to calmly persevere remained a distinctive piece of it’s image.  The idea of a steadfast empire not only pleased its subjects but may have also conjured images of the Pax Romana and the safe prosperity enjoyed then.

Looking westward, Venice turned from the its Byzantine heritage.  This new direction focussed on the Italian peninsula.  While Venice was geographically closer to the Italian mainland than its Byzantine parent, it remained culturally distinct from other Italian city states.  Despite this detachment Venice began to imagine itself as a new Rome like the other Italian city states in the Renaissance.  This conflict can be seen in entries from several Renaissance personalities.  Benedetto Bembo praises the Venetians saying, “The Venetians are called new Romans.”  A Florentine diplomat to Pope Pius II quips, “It is their constant boast that they are the successors of the Romans, and that the sovereignty of the world belongs to them.”  Lastly a Frenchman takes a neutral stance to the question answering, “It is not to be expected that they should attain to the perfection and grandeur of the old Romans, but they are a fair way to be a very powerful people hereafter.”9   All using Roman symbols and iconography they tried to conflate their own history with the empire’s.  As a late arrival to this battle of propaganda Venice was unsuccessful in its claim. Although its assertion to be the true heir to Rome failed at first, Venice did very well in the period.  Venice’s economy and might boomed as it gained territories to the East and colonies throughout the Mediterranean.  By controlling much of the region’s trade and access to the East it became a preeminent power.  Although the period did not see the recognition of its claims, the characteristics to make them were present.  Unfortunately its boldest claims to be the New Rome would come after its decline.

Threatened and perhaps envious of its vigor, the surrounding powers of Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy, and several Italian city states joined together in opposition to Venice in the League of Cambrai.  The movement was organized by Pope Julius II.  With a zeal to stamp out Venetian insolence he prepared to punish the city, “even,” as he said, “if it costs me the tiara itself.”10  Signing Venice’s “death warrant” on December 10, 1508 the allied powers humiliated and destroyed the Venetian empire.  In a series of crushing defeats Venice was ultimately routed at the Battle of Agnello in 1509.   With its armies scattered Venice anticipated an earlier unthinkable occupation.  Fortunately for the republic the league collapsed as it faced increased factionalism.  Saved by bickering, Venice barely avoided its occupation and total loss of territories.  However, Venice remained in dire straits with both its economic and military power sapped. 

The near occupation of the city led many to rethink the meaning of the city’s myth.  The once assured confidence in Venice’s immortality was shaken by the recent unprecedented defeats.  While some were shaken, the trepidation was a crucible for many citizens’ confidence in Venetian exceptionalism.  As a reaction against the onset despair Venice commissioned histories from humanist scholars.  By crafting elaborate pieces of fiction, Venetian humanists traced their origins to refugee Romans.  Their supposed ancestors were depicted fleeing barbarian Lombards  and led by God to the lagoon.  Although they would face difficulties, they were assured a place of ultimate shelter in the stories.11  While responding to their recent trouble, the tale also directed the Venetians towards a Roman heritage from the West.  Perhaps as a vindication against the most recent “barbarians,” the history was a catalyst for more adamant claims to be the true successor of the Roman empire.

These wants were further fed by the publishing of architectural works during the war years.  Without the means to construct much, one architect turned his expertise to paper.  The Veronese Dominican friar, Fra Giocondo produced an illustrated edition of Vitruvius’ De Architectura, published in 1511.  As he had studied in Rome briefly he was knowledgeable about the monuments and how they should be illustrated.12   Equipped with this tool some Venetians began to imagine ways to bring the Roman style into their city.  Acting as an inspiration, the book kept architectural interest alive during the bleak days of war.  Furthermore, it informed patrons’ aesthetic sensibilities.  With their newly defined tastes, the patrons dictated many of the ensuing design and iconographical schemes.  In turn this created the demand for skilled architects like Sansovino as Venice regained some prosperity.

Quickly following the dissolution of the League of Cambrai, Venice began to reassemble its holdings and economy.  Although the League’s attack marked the end of Venice’s expansion and dominance, Venice persevered for several more centuries.  With colonies and limited trade, money started to flow through the city’s coffers again.  Due to their earlier problems almost all architectural projects were stopped and no new ones were commissioned.  Consequently there were many projects to be completed once peace resumed.  These projects would be constructed mostly in the new Roman style with all of its implications for the city’s myth. 

Although the fully realized Roman Renaissance only came in the beginning oof the sixteenth century, there was already a presence of Renaissance inspired architecture in the city.  The hold of Gothic style in Venice began to crack on 1460.  As the style led in Venice during its peak it was a natural choice for many Venetian patrons who associated it with wealth and better days.  However, their unique mixed Gothic style lost favor as Venetians were forced to look further West for trade and protection.  The early architectural shift cleared the path for Sansovino’s  later work

Without much first hand experience with the monuments of Rome the Venetians’ attempts at Classicism were largely naive approximations.  However, some architects were quite successful in their incorporation of the new Western forms. Mauro Codussi was chief among these.  As he was an immigrant mason he saw the monuments of Rome.  By mixing elements of Roman, Tuscan, and Byzantine, Codussi worked in a unique style.  His style included but did not fully adopt Roman forms.  As seen in his Scuole Grande di San Marco rich surface ornament still remained.  Its similarity to the Basilica San Marco points to the lingering Byzantine influence in Codussi’s work.  This is not to say that he is a lesser architect, but that his work could not have worked the same way as Sansovino’s as Venice tried to cast itself more and more as the New Rome.

Further desire to emulate Rome came with the means to in 1527 with the sack of Rome.  Driven by greed, thirty-four thousand mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire targeted Rome.  Already out of order, the soldiers were devastating once they breached the city’s walls.  Partially fueled by religious differences, they began brutally looting and pillaging of the city.  After several days their commanders ordered for a halt to the destruction but were unable to control their men.  Meanwhile the rescue forces that came for the city and Pope Clement VII were too late and weak to stop the chaos.  The resulting destruction of many of Rome’s monuments and the debasement of its power largely ended the Renaissance in Rome.  With its dramatic end, Rome’s symbolic heading of the Occident was diminished.  Not only hurting the city, the papacy’s prestige was also markedly reduced. Pope Clement spent the rest of his reign avoiding hostilities with Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire.  Both of these travesties aided Venice considerably.  Already contesting Rome’s ecclesiastical and military power, the recent defeat allowed them further autonomy and freedom.  Venice continued to rebuild its holdings with the recapturing of Cervia and Ravenna.  Ideologically, they pushed for the mantle of New Rome as the old Rome smoldered.

Many tools, including Sansovino, for this depiction came out of the siege as well. The inflicted Rome hemorrhaged talent during the siege.  In light of mass executions and general chaos many fled the city.  Among these were scores of artists whose talents were wanted outside of the city.  Having worked extensively on large papal projects around the ruins of Ancient Rome’s grandeur, the artists of Rome were well versed with Classicism.  Their knowledge of all’antica style made them particularly desirable for Venice.  

Among the other refugees that came to Venice from the sacked Rome was Jacopo Sansovino.  Vasari describes an aspiring career transplanted by the attack: “…already Rome was in his hands, when God, in order to chastise that city…permitted…that the whole city should be sacked and put to fire and sword.  In that ruin, besides many other beautiful intellects that came to an evil end, Sansovino was forced to his great loss to depart from Rome and fly to Venice.”13 Guided to stay by the Doge Andrea Gritti, Sansovino was quickly hired to repair the domes of the Basilica San Marco.  Successful, Sansovino stayed and continued his architectural career.  With oncoming larger projects around San Marco, he announced Venice’s new wealth in a classical guise.  Through this process he transformed the seat of Venetian power into a poignant display of its reasserted claim to be a New Rome.  This transformation occurred in the Zecca, Libreria San Marco, and Loggetta.  More broadly these structures functioned together to transform the entire square into a forum and theater for Venetian pomp.

Sansovino’s first major commission in Venice was the new mint or Zecca.  In 1535 the Council of Ten agreed that a new mint was needed and initiated a competition  for the commission.  Sansovino was selected as the winner in 1536 and the project began, “without delay,” as the Council wished.14 

Facing the Guidecca Canal just across the Piazzetta from the Ducal Palace, the site was close to the seat of power and highly visible from the most traveled portions of the canal.  Despite being less seen in modernity due to a new emphasis on walking, the siting was much more visually powerful in its time.  Mimicking the Ducal Palace, the low horizontal structure looked onto the lagoon and new arrivals to Venice.  Formerly a collection of meat and cheese stalls, the location was severely underutilized.  As Sansovino progressed through the Piazzetta he continually needed to gingerly rearrange the displaced merchants. Additionally in the dense area he needed to adapt to a long and narrow lot.  Despite these constraints on his use of the site, Sansovino’s plan joined the necessary functions of the building with its desired image skillfully.  

As the minting of coins was integral to the working and prosperity of the city it was an important and highly used building.  With the economic boom of the early 1530s the previous mint could not handle the newly necessary volume of production.  Not only used for the production of coinage, it was a favored site for much of its storage.  Venetians traded around the Rialto but did much of their banking around the Piazza San Marco.15  Standing close to the city’s banking center and producing the city’s currency,  the Zecca came to symbolize the prosperity of Venice.16  Although the myth would have been perpetuated by the building of new mint regardless, the details of Sansovino’s plan lend more meanings than wealth.  By displaying the new economic fortitude of Venice in a classical guise he presented the idea of the New Rome and the city’s unshakable wealth.

  In his Vitruvian classicism, Sansovino used the orders poignantly.  Like the contemporary Fortezza di Sant’ Andrea (1535-1543) by Sanmicheli he used a rusticated Doric style.  The similarity between the two buildings stylistically can be traced to the common messages the two architects were trying to convey.  Both needed to design dense, fireproof buildings that appeared formidable.  To do this they shunned wood and used the rusticated Doric style.   Associated with virile strength, it portrayed military formidability and the Venetians’ restored might on the fortress. When adapted to the mint, the style showed the vigor and stability of the Venetian economy.  Some of the more unique elements of the composition show that Sansovino sought to emphasize that image of strength.  Although he was forced to use large windows to maximize the efficiency of the cramped interiors, he mitigated their lightening effect on the facade with heavy lintels and ringed half columns.  Not only adding mass to the facade’s skeleton, they are also imposing when viewed from below.  In light of his original plan which only called for two stories, the lintels paired with the entablature would have made an intimidating roof line.  

The original plan of two stories only included the Doric order.  Without the enfeebling Ionic third story we can imagine the building as more of a fortress.  More than guarding the precious metals of the mint, the fortress image makes the Piazzetta look more formidable from the sea.  Along with this imagining of the original there would have also been a stronger emphasis on the piano nobile where the actual mint was housed.  The lack of emphasis on the ground floor reflects its original role as stalls for cheese and salami shops.  Thus the structure leads the audience to see its function, strength, and grandeur from both the shore and sea.17   

The building must have been impressive to the Venetians of the time.  The precise Vitruvian architecture was exactly what they read of in the treatises preceding the construction.  Not only astonishing stylistically, the Zecca would have been stirring as one of the first large public projects the Venetians had seen in a generation.  The new fortress of the Venetian economy promised hope to the city as it looked to reclaim its prestige and supposed Roman legacy.  When viewed by foreigners it may have made the Venetian claim more palatable.  While Venice’s attempts at classicism had been mediocre, this Roman claim expertly articulated by Sansovino would have been more legible to the Western audience.  Unlike their earlier motifs borrowed from Byzantium and the Orient, this architecture used their symbols.  Looking out from the main entrance to the city, it showed that aspiration and claim immediately and prominently to those entering the city.

Further articulation of these points would come in Sansovino’s other projects in the vicinity of the Piazza San Marco.  The second and most remarked upon is the Library of Saint Mark facing the Ducal Palace on the Piazzetta.  With a cryptic beginning, an original plan for new houses for the Procurators of San Marco beginning at the southern end of the piazza transformed into a plan for the Marciana Library beginning construction at the campanile.18  Although the reasoning for the sudden shift in plans is unknown, the date of the ground breaking is well recorded as March 6, 1537.  With the library’s completion Venice argued for its scholastic strength through prominent architecture much as it asserted the stability of its economy in the Zecca.

Scholarship, particularly that of ancient texts in Latin and Greek, was essential to the reemergence of Classical philosophy and literature during the Renaissance.  With a limited supply of texts, several libraries were the centers for Renaissance scholarship.  Venice was fortunate enough to have a significant collection bequeathed to them by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion in 1468.  The donor was a leading humanist and translated many seminal works from Greek.19  A major proponent of Plato, he helped usher in the philosophical Renaissance and its shift away from Aristotelian logic.  Consequently, owning his large manuscript collection was in itself a mark of distinction.

Therefore it was quite scandalous that the tomes were never given a home as the agreement required.20  Already embarrassing for the lapse of time since 1468, the shame was compacted by Venice’s role as the leading center of Greek studies.  In creating a grand building in a notable place Venice portrayed itself as a center of learning and Classical knowledge and ended the embarrassment brought on by their mistreatment of the texts.

In this instance both the Senate and Bessarion are recorded sharing their hopes for the library to rekindle a spirit of antiquity.  Bessarion hoped to create a public library like that of Trajan.  With the books bequeathed by Bessarion, the Venetian Senate in turn decreed that the complex was to, “emulate the Ancients,” in 1515.21   With open reading rooms the library was successful in practice.  This great interior function was embellished by Sansovino’s astute design.

The fully realized structure that remains is viewed as Sansovino’s masterpiece.  Although it is beautiful, the fact that it was the most beloved of his projects by the Venetians points to their pro Roman bias.  This favorable bias for all things Classical is evidenced by a comparison of the library to other contemporaneous buildings in Venice.  Through comparison we can see that the library is very similar to others in the city such as the Scuole Grande di San Rocco.  The large piano nobile, arcade, and windows were ubiquitous in the city.  Removing those common elements as potential sources of its adoration, one is left with the Roman symbols that adorn it and its close adherence to Vitruvian proportion.22     

The complete correct use of the Doric and Ionic orders would have satisfied the educated Venetians and their recent eager consumption of architectural texts.  Taught to look for certain proportions by Fra Giocondo and Serlio, the audience developed more codified taste.  More importantly to the general populace, the Vitruvian components drip with Roman iconography.  At the corners of the balustrade large obelisks stand capped with spheres reminiscent of the embellished obelisks of Roman piazzas.  Also along the roof, the all’antica acroteria consisted of naturalistic statues reminiscent of antiquity.  As antique sculptures were enthusiastically collected by the Venetian patriciate at the time they were especially potent symbols in the city.  Other symbols include keystone heads, spandrel figures and the frieze of putti and garlands.  Further recognition of a Roman identity can be traced to joining of engaged columns to the arcade along both stories as seen in the Colosseum or Theater of Marcellus.23  Although it not a total transplant of Roman imagery, the library displays enough iconography to clearly reveal its intentions.24  By again adding all’antica style to the heart of the city Sansovino was dressing Venice for the role the humanists were prescribing in their histories.  Writing from the time shows that Sansovino’s evocation of the Classical past was a success.  Vasari describes world travelers judging it to be without parallel.  The ensuing great architect Palladio described it as the, “richest and most ornate [building] since Antiquity.”25 Sansovino’s designs were more than symbols, they were consistently seen as beautiful additions to the Venetian cityscape.

While Sansovino undertook these large projects around the Piazzetta he created a need for improvements in the surrounding structures.  By adjusting the angle of the stalls around the campanile to construct the library he freed the campanile from the wall and joined the piazza and Piazzetta together.  By making the tower stand on individually, Sansovino placed considerably more emphasis on the bell tower and its small loggia.  While drawing attention to it he also made the surrounding architecture considerably nicer drawing unkind comparisons.  The painting View of the Piazzetta by Lazzaro Bastiani shows the original structure was simple with a triple arcade, four columns, and a lean to form.26  With new grandeur surrounding it, the Procuratia de Supra commissioned a replacement sometime before 1537.  Already the chief architect Sansovino naturally took responsibility for the project and led its construction from 1538 to its staggered completion in the mid 1540s.27 

A relatively tiny structure, the Loggetta did not house many formal functions.  Opened in the morning and afternoon, the space served as a casual meeting place for the Venetian patriciate.  Whether for the general leaders before meetings of the Great Council or the Procurators themselves, the space had almost no functional role.  Although the Loggetta’s interior was unimportant, the building’s placement made its exterior a powerful and noted symbol of the state.  As a vehicle for display rather than use, the facing of the Loggetta could speak of the myth of venice directly.  The Loggetta materializes the myth in several ways.  Its rich decoration boasts the confidence of the Venetian state and is articulated in the ambitious sculptural pieces that cover much of its front.  Like Sansovino’s other buildings in the piazzetta, the Loggetta makes these claims in a Roman form.  

Fitting its visual role, the small Loggetta is covered in richly colored marbles and sculpture.  Echoing the richness of its surrounding structures it includes oriental marbles in the columns and a collection of re Verona marble, deep green verde antica, and white Carrara marble and Istrian stone.28  These exotic stones were to be recognized as costly and sumptuous materials.  The simple shelter cost the Procuracy a sum of 4,258 ducats.  While its was considerably less than Sansovino’s other projects, it was a huge sum of wealth focussed into one tiny structure.  With no material reason for its construction the Loggetta exuded wealth.

Framed by the showy stone, equally rich relief sculptures conveyed the myth eloquently.  Four bronze statues by Sansovino stood in niches between the arcades.  His son Francesco describes the identity and meaning of each: Pallas, showed the wisdom of the government; Apollo stood for the singular nature and harmony of the republic; Mercury embodied careful thoughts and action; and Peace spoke of Venice’s pacifist nature.  While the ground floor’s sculpture showed virtue, the attic’s reliefs conveyed power.  The central panel shows Justice presiding over the immediate Venetian empire while the sides stand for more distant Mediterranean holdings.  Jupiter symbolized his kingdom of Crete and Venus similarly was the queen of Cyprus in some accounts from the times.29 

By using Roman deities the Venetians expressed their claims to Mediterranean dominance in the guise of Classical precedents.  Furthermore, the supposed tombs of both these figures were in the Venetians’ control as they held these island nations.  Consequently they advertised the Venetians’ possession of potent Roman culture while demonstrating the breadth of their empire.

Additional conflation with the Romans is readily visible in the form of the Loggetta itself.  With its three arch scheme the Loggetta was conceived as a triumphal arch.  Mimicking the monuments Sansovino was so familiar with in Rome, details such as the detached columns and their individual bases completed the illusion.  Although the equal height of the three arches contrasts with Roman precedents, the facade’s intent remains clear.30

Triumphal arches and the Loggetta also shared a processional function.  It was situated on an axis with the Scala dei Giganti and consequently became a visual terminus for many people’s movements through the Arco Foscari.  Hardly meant to be entered, the Loggetta was an exquisite backdrop which acted as scenery within the Piazzetta.31  As the Piazzetta lay across several axes of sight and movement the overall scheme made each view fairly symmetrical.  This arrangement is particularly visible when one looks at the Piazzetta towards the Orlogium or away from it to the lagoon.  By placing the library in relation to the Ducal Palace as he did, Sansovino created a long view unified by single point perspective.  As the Piazzetta was host to countless entertainers and state and religious ceremonies the theatrical quality was fitting.  

While the space may have functioned as a theater, it seems that Sansovino wished for the Piazzetta to be viewed as something else, a forum.  The regular arcades wrapping around the space are reminiscent of earlier precedents.  Terminating in significant buildings, the forum idea is  punctuated by exedra. With the Loggetta or Orlogium.  This holistic view of the space was also helped significantly by the removal of undignified businesses and structures in the Piazzetta itself.  As the space took on a Roman character it framed the numerous proceedings that happened inside it in a Classical light.  To people watching the affairs of state or religious rituals they would have seen the ceremonies in a Roman context.  By inhabiting a new Roman framework the Venetian state made a bold claim to its succession of the title.  With symbols clear to both citizens and outsiders, the built environment of the myth would have made the myth a continuous experience. One would knowingly live in the New Rome and perhaps understand their circumstances differently.   Although this study focussed on the Piazzetta, Sansovino also left numerous buildings throughout the city of different natures. Designing them in his iconic style, other important locales like the Rialto were also imparted a classical feel. By materializing the myth, Sansovino has left a legacy that we can still grasp today.

Sansovino-draft

By on November 13, 2008  Tagged Comments Off on Sansovino-draft

Here is the rough draft/fleshed outline for the final paper

Jacopo Sansovino was responsible for, “quote about bringing style/renaissance to Venice,” according to Vasari’s XXXXXXX.1 An exaggerate claim, it illustrates the degree to which Jacopo Sansovino transfigured the face of the maritime republic. Taking commissions of all natures throughout the city, Sansovino injected a refined Classicism into the unique Veneto-Byzantine creation. Particularly active in the Piazzetta of San Marco, he had a strong influence on the symbolic heart of the city and empire. Working in a studied classicism, he beautifully articulated the aspirations and assertions of the Venetian state.

While his influence was undeniably dynamic, it developed in the city due to very natural circumstances. Vasrai’s typically boastful claim ignores a rich narrative of classical style leading into Sansovino and his masterpieces. The context of his success was not confined to a shallow aestheticism. The base forces of war, economics, and politics created a fertile realm for the arts in Venice. Following a harrowing period of humiliating wars, Venice renewed much of its wealth and dominion in the latter sixteenth century. Patrons eagerly sought to assert their city’s restored prestige by extending and rearticulating the myth of Venice. An inclusive and powerful piece of propaganda, the myth was the main conduit for the exaltation of the republic. The myth was expressed profusely in almost every media: literature, music, architecture, sculpture, painting, and elaborate ceremonies were all used. Often fusing media, Venice manufactured an exceptional self image. As diffuse as the arts used were the virtues and narratives they illustrated. For Sansovino the medium would be architecture and the claims numerous. Using high Classical architecture, he elaborated on the already existing myth and rearticulated it primarily to Venice as the new Rome.

The myth of Venice began early in the republic’s history and has a long diverse historiography. Although composed of many voices the myth speaks as one to the eminence and endurance of the city. The myth was both a description and story of the city’s history and character.

The early myth centered on the city’s mystical connection to Saint Mark the Evangelist. It begins with a dubious story of merchants smuggling his body out of Alexandria. In 827 the doge Giustiniano Particiaco accepted the remains set the course for his emulation.2 Theodor of Amasea was replaced as patron saint and the impressive basilica was built to house his remains. Fitting into a broader glorification of religious remains in the period, they imparted legitimacy to the Venetian state. His body was a viable link to early Christianity and made their success a reflection of divine approval. With heavy political connotations the city utilized them as the papacy used Saint Peter. The city was bound together with the holy man’s identity as they shared attributes. The whole city adopted an air of sanctity. This belief led Saint Peter Damiam to declare Venice an apostolic city in the eleventh century, a statement that put Venice on par with Rome.3 This claim will be of great importance to Sansovino’s later classicism. At the same time as Damiam, the glorious Basilica of San Marco was under construction. The state and religion were fusing to glorify and strengthen one another. This joining is evidenced by the actions of the Venetian state in Crete. With its annexation in 1211 they forced the creation of a cult Saint Mark with compulsory tribute due on his feast day.4 The myth of Venice legitimized their actions through an esoteric authority.

The myth continued to develop beyond Saint Mark eventually emphasizing stability. As other city states struggled with violent factionalism, Venice seemingly floated by.5 Although there were surely some internal problems, to the outside world Venice was exceptionally stable. Some actions taken by the state such as the closing of the Great Council in 1297 helped to consolidate power and prevent dangerous grabs for power. Similarly the position of doge was held for life and de-emphasized the man holding the position. In Venetian government elaborate rites celebrated positions and symbols rather than the men that filled the roles.6 Like Saint Mark’s patronage, this attribute would linger and remain in the evolving myth.

The next course of the myth began to look westward, turning away from the city’s Byzantine heritage. This new direction focussed mostly on Italy. While Venice was geographically closer to the Italian mainland, they were rather distinct culturally. However, Venice began to imagine and propagate itself as a new Rome like the other Italian city states in the fourteenth century. While its claims to being the true heir to Rome were not holding, Venice did very well in the period. Gaining territories in XXXXXXX and colonies throughout the XXXXXX, it was booming. Fears of its power set the stage for its most adamant myth formation which would include the work of Sansovino.

Threatened and perhaps envious of its vigor, the surrounding powers of Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy, and several Italian city states joined together in opposition to Venice in the League of Cambrai. The movement was organized by Pope Juius II. With a zeal to stamp out Venetian insolence he prepared to punish the city, “even,” as he said, “if it costs me the tiara itself.” Signing Venice’s, “death warrant” on December 10, 1508 the allied powers would humiliate and destroy the Venetian empire.7 In a series of crushing defeats Venice ultimately was routed at the Battle of Agnello in 1509. By grace, the League collapsed on itself as the members bickered. Venice only just missed an occupation and the loss of its main territories. With its military and economic strength sapped, Venice was in dire straights. Further terror came with plague and famine in the 1520s. XXsaved by the disintegration of the league, peace of bologna

The near occupation of the city led many to rethink the meaning of the city’s myth. The assured confidence of Venice’s immortality was shaken but also partially confirmed. Begun during the city’s dark days, official histories were commissioned from humanist scholars. Crafting elaborate pieces of fiction, Venetian humanists traced their origins to refugee Romans. Portraying them fleeing barbarians and led by God, they affirmed the providential and imperial place of the city. While draping themselves in Roman attributes through writing they also began to look at physical depiction of Romaness as well.

VI

Renewed Wealth-how they bounced back

V They want that classicism

Venice had a sizable amount of classically inspired architecture prior to Sansovino. However, much of it was ill informed. Primarily using indigenous architects, the Venetians did not have any

VI Sack of Rome

Further desire to emulate Rome came with the means to in 1527. In a strange twist, thirty-four thousand mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire targeted Rome. Already out of order, the soldiers were devastating once they breached the city’s walls. Partially fueled by religious differences, they began brutal looting and pillaging of the city. After several days their commanders ordered for its halt but were unable to control them. Meanwhile, the forces that came to rescue the city and Pope Clement VII were too late and weak to effect much change. The destruction of many of Rome’s monuments and the debasement of its power largely ended the Renaissance in Rome. With its dramatic end, the symbolic role of Rome was done. Like Byzantium’s fall to the Ottomans, the title of Rome for the Western world could again be contested. Not only hurting the city, the papacy’s prestige was also markedly reduced. Clement would spend the rest of his reign avoiding hostilities with Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire. Both of these were good for Venice. They could revel in their renewed fortune and religious autonomy. They even managed to retake the cities of Cervia and Ravenna. With boosted self confidence they pushed harder to become the New Rome, as the old Rome smoldered.

The inflicted Rome hemorrhaged talent during the siege. In light of mass executions and general trouble many fled the city. Among these were scores of artists whose talents were wanted outside of the city. Having worked extensively on large papal projects around the ruins of Ancient Rome’s grandeur, the artists of Rome were well versed with Classicism. Their inclination for all’ antica style made them particularly desirable for Venice.

VII Sansovino

Among the other refugees that came to Venice from the sacked Rome was Jacopo Sansovino.

The first major commission of Sansovino in Venice was the new mint or Zecca. In 1535 the Council of Ten agreed that a new mint was needed and initiated a competition among three architects. Sansovino was selected in 1536 as the winner and the project began, “without delay,” as the Council wished.8

Facing onto to Guidecca just across the piazzeta from the Ducal Palace, the site was close to the seat of power and highly visible from the most traveled portions of the canal. Although less seen in modernity due to a new emphasis on walking, the site would have been much more visually powerful in its time. Despite many constraints on his use of the site, Sansovino’s plan joined the necessary functions of the building with its desired image skillfully. As the minting of coins was integral to the working and prosperity of the city it was an important and highly used building. With the economic boom of the early 1530s the previous mint could not handle the necessary volume of production. Not only used for the production of coinage, it was the favored site for much of its storage. Venetians traded around the Rialto but did much of their banking around the Piazza San Marco.9 Through these functions the Zecca came to symbolize the prosperity of Venice.10 While the myth would have been perpetuated by the building of new mint regardless, the details of Sansovino’s plan are significant. Both the site and style propagandize Venice and attribute to its myth.

In his Vitruvian classicism, Sansovino used the orders poignantly. Like the contemporary fortress of Sant’ Andrea by Sanmicheli, he used a severely rusticated Doric style. The style arising from the shared concerns of fire prevention and perceived security also conveyed similar messages. Doric, especially rusticated, is the order associated with virile strength. On the fortress it portrayed military formidability and the Venetians’ restored might. Cladding the mint, the style showed the vigor and stability of the Venetian economy. Some of the more unique elements of the composition show that Sansovino sought to emphasize that image of power. Although he was forced to use large windows to maximize the efficiency of the cramped interiors, he mitigated their lightening effect with heavy lintels. Not only adding mass to the facade’s skeleton, they are also imposing from viewed from below. In light of his original plan which only called for two stories, the lintels paired with the entablature would have made an intimidating roof line.

The original plan of two stories would have also only included the Doric order. Without the feebling Ionic order we can imagine the building as more of a fortress. Along with this revised picture there would have also been a stronger emphasis on the piano nobile where the actual mint was housed. The lack of interest on the ground floor reflects its original role as stalls for cheese and salami shops. Thus the structure leads the audience to see its function, strength, and grandeur from both the shore and sea.11

The building must have been impressive to the Venetians of the time. The precise Vitruvian architecture would have been exactly what they read of in the treatises preceding the construction. Not only astonishing stylistically, the Zecca would have been stirring as one of the first large public projects the Venetians had seen in a generation. The mental fortress of the Venetian economy must have promised hope to the city looking to reclaim its prestige and the Roman legacy. Speaking to peoples outside the lagoon it must have also conjured reactions. While Venice’s attempts at classicism had been mediocre, this Roman claim expertly articulated by Sansovino would have been more legible to the Western audience. Looking out from the main entrance to the city, it showed that aspiration and claim immediately and prominently to those entering the city.

Further articulation of these points would come in Sansovino’s other projects in the vicinity of the Piazza San Marco. The second and most remarked upon is the Library of Saint Mark facing the Ducal Palace on the piazzetta. With a cryptic beginning, an original plan for new houses for the Procurators of San Marco beginning at the southern end of the piazza transformed into a plan for the Marciana Library beginning construction at the campanile.12 Although the origins of the project are unknown, the date of breaking ground is well recorded as March 6, 1537. With its completion Venice would mark its intellect as it did its prosperity in the Zecca.

Scholarship, particularly that of ancient texts in Latin and Greek was essential to the reemergence of Classical philosophy and literature during the Renaissance. With a limited supply of texts, several libraries were the centers for Renaissance scholarship. Venice was fortunate enough to have a significant collection bequeathed to them by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion in 1468. The donor was a leading humanist and translated many seminal works from Greek. A major proponent of Plato, he helped usher in the philosophical renaissance and its shift away from Aristotelian logic. Consequently his large manuscript collect itself was a badge of the successor of Rome’s role in the Western world.

Therefore it was quite scandalous that the tomes were never given a home as the agreement required.13 Already embarrassing for the lapse of time since 1468, the shame was compacted by Venice’s role as the leading center of Greek studies. In creating a grand building in a notable place in the mold of Vitruvius, Venice portrayed themselves as a center of learning and Classical knowledge and ended their embarrassment.

In this instance both the Senate and Bessarion are recorded sharing their hopes for the library to rekindle a facet of Antiquity. For Bessarion he hoped to create a public library like that of Trajan. For the Venetian Senate they decreed in 1515 that the complex was to, “emulate the Ancients.” With open reading rooms the library was successful in practice. This great interior function was embellished by Sansovino’s astute design.

The fully realized structure that remains is viewed as Sansovino’s masterpiece. Although it is beautiful, the fact that it was the most beloved of his projects by the Venetians points to their Roman interest. The building is very similar to others in the city such as the Scuole Grande di San Rocco. The large piano nobile, arcade, and windows are ubiquitous. Removing those common elements as potential sources of its adoration, one is left with the Roman symbols that adorn it and its close reading of Vitruvian proportion.14

The complete correct use of the Doric and Ionic orders would have satisfied the educated Venetians and their recent binge on architectural texts. More importantly to the general populace the properly proportioned components drip with iconography they would have attributed to Roman times. At the corners of the balustrade large obelisks stand capped with spheres reminiscent of the embellished obelisks of Roman piazzas. Also along the roof, the all’ antica acroteria were strong symbols of the Classical. Made especially potent by the tradition of their collection by Venetian nobility, they stand starkly against the sky. Other symbols include keystone heads, spandrel figures and a frieze of putti and garlands. Further recognition of a Roman identity can be traced to fusion of arcade and engaged columns along both stories as seen in the Colosseum or Theater of Marcellus.15 Although not a total transplant of Roman imagery, the building displays enough iconography to clearly assert its intentions.16 By again adding all’ antica style to the heart of the city Sansovino was dressing Venice for the role the humanists were prescribing.

Writing from the time shows that Sansovino’s evocation of the Classical past was a success. Vasari describes world travelers judging it to be without parallel. The ensuing great architect Palladio described it as the,”richest and most ornate [building] since Antiquity.”17

Stuff to check out for tomorrow’s presentation

By on November 10, 2008  Tagged Comments Off on Stuff to check out for tomorrow’s presentation

Tomorrow I will present on the architecture of Jacopo Sansovino and its role in articulating the myth of Venice.  So I don’t bore anyone tomorrow I pulled together a few articles you can access online that relate but aren’t quite my topic. Dabble as you wish.

 

This article discusses how Sansovino’s buildings on the piazzetta were both seating and a stage for Venetian life.  If the link does not work, it’s on jstor, titled “Jacopo Sansovino, Giacomo Torelli, and the Theatricality of the Piazzetta in Venice”

http://www.jstor.org/stable/991620?&Search=yes&term=sansovino&term=jacopo&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Djacopo%2Bsansovino%26wc%3Don%26dc%3DAll%2BDisciplines&item=4&ttl=850&returnArticleService=showArticle

 

This article is a bit long, you may want to start on page 33 at the bottom. “Images of Power: Art and Pageantry in Renaissance Venice”

 

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1855658?&Search=yes&term=andre&term=gritti&term=doge&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Ddoge%2Bandre%2Bgritti%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3Djacopo%2Bsansovino%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=4&ttl=20&returnArticleService=showArticle

 

wikipedia?

Beginning of the Paper

By on November 4, 2008  Tagged 2 Comments

Here are the first few pages of the paper.  As the paper grows, and eventually addresses the substance of my topic, these will probably get cut down a lot.  Anyways, they have a short historiography of the myth of venice stopping just before most of the Renaissance content.  Please excuse the empty quotes etc.. Here goes.

 

 

Jacopo Sansovino was responsible for, “quote about bringing style/renaissance to Venice,” according to Vasari’s XXXXXXX.1   An exaggerant claim, it illustrates the degree to which Jacopo Sansovino transfigured the face of the maritime republic.  Taking commissions of all natures throughout the city, Sansovino injected a refined Classicism into the unique Veneto-Byzantine creation.  Particulary active in the Piazzetta of San Marco, he had a strong influnce on the symbolic heart of the city and empire.  

While his influence was undeniably dynamic, it developed in the city due to very natural circumstances.  Vasrai’s typically boastful claim ignores a rich narrative of classical style leading into Sansovino and his masterpieces.  The context of his success was not confined to a shallow aestheticism.  The base forces of war, economics, and politics created a fertile realm for the arts in Venice.  Following a harrowing period of humiliating wars, Venice renewed much of its wealth and dominion in the latter sixteenth century.  Patrons eagerly sought to assert their city’s restored prestige by extending and rearticulating the myth of Venice.  An inclusive and powerful piece of propaganda, the myth was the main conduit for the exaltation of the republic.  The enthusiastic feeding of the myth created many oppurtunities for artists.  Lured by this possibility, many artists chose Venice as a place of refuge after the sack of rome in 1527.  Sansovino among them, he ultimately lived out the rest of his long life in Venice.  In this period he became one of the most powerful articulators of the myth of Venice, most notably by modelling Venice as a, “New Rome.” 

The myth of Venice began early in the republic’s history and has a long diverse historiography.  Although composed of many voices the myth speaks as one to the eminence and  endurance of the city.  Loosley organized into the five themes of beauty, religiousity, liberty, peacefulness ,and republicanism, the myth can speak to most aspects of Venetian culture and life.2  The myth was both a description and story of the city’s history and character.  With this bredth the myth can be overwhelming.  Not formed as one narrative, the myth is a streamlined impression of the city manufactured by those in and outside its domain.  Although heavily formed by the deliberate choices of the Venetian elite, it is also formed by its naysayers.  Often seeing a byzantine brand of treachery in its diplomacy, several contemporaries still posed their weaselly actions as evidence of immortality.3  With time the myth evolved to respond to the city’s and contemporaries’ circumstances.  

The early myth centered on the city’s mystical connection to Saint Mark the Evangelist.  It begins with a dubious story of merchants smuggling his body out of Alexandria.  In 827 the doge Giustiniano Particiaco accepted the remains set the course for his emulation.4   Theodor of Amasea was replaced as patron saint and the impressive basilica was built to house his remains.   Fitting into a broader glorification of religious remians in the period, they imparted legitimacy to the Venetian state.  His body was a viable link to early Christianity and made their success a reflection of divine approval.  With heavy political connotations the city utilized them as the papacy used Saint Peter.  The city was bound together with the holy man’s identity as they shared attributes.  The whole city adopted an air of sanctity.  This belief led Saint Peter Damiam to declare Venice an apostolic city in the eleventh century, a statement that put Venice on par with Rome.5   This claim will be of great importance to Sansovino’s later classicism.  At the same time as Damiam, the glorious Basilica of San Marco was under consturction.  The state and religion werre fusing to glorify and strengthen one another.  This joining is evidenced by the actions of the Venetian state in Crete.  With its annexation in 1211 they forced the creation of a cult Saint Mark with compulsory tribute due on his feast day.6  The myth of Venice legitimized their actions through an esoteric authority.  

The myth continued to develop beyond  Saint Mark eventually emphasizing stability.  As other city states struggled with violent factionalism, Venice seemingly floated by.7   Although there were surely some internal problems, to the outside world Venice was exceptionally stable.  Some actions taken by the state such as the closing of the Great Council in 1297 helped to consolidate power and prevent dangerous grabs for power.  Similarly the position of doge was held for life and deemphasized the man holding the position.  In Venetian government elaborate rites celebrated positions and symbols rather than the men that filled the roles.8   Like Saint Mark’s patronage, this attribute would linger and remain in the evolving myth.

The next course of the myth began to look westward, turning away from the city’s Byzantine heritage.  This new direction focussed mostly on Italy.  While Venice was geographically closer to the Italian mainland, they were rather distinct culturally.  However,  Venice began to imagine and propagate itself as a new Rome like the other Italian city states in the fourteenth century.  While its claims to being the true heir to Rome were not holding, Venice did very well in the period.  Gaining territories in XXXXXXX and colonies throughout the XXXXXX, it was booming.  Fears of its power set the stage for its most adament myth formation which would include the work of Sansovino.

Threatened and perhaps envious of its vigor, the surrounding powers of Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy, and several Italian city states joined together in opposition of Venice in the League of Cambrai.   The move was led by Pope Juius II.  With a zeal to stamp out Venetian insolence he prepared to punish the city, “even,” as he said, “if it costs me the tiara itself.” Signing Venice’s, “death warrant” on December 10, 1508 the allied powers would humiliate and destroy the Venetian empire.9  

The near occupation of the city led many to rethink the meaning of the city’s myth.  The assured confidence of Venice’s inconquerability was shaken but also partially confirmed.

Paper Proposal

By on September 30, 2008  Tagged , 1 Comment

 

A key piece of Venice’s identity is its myth.  Not solely a discrete tale of creation, the myth of Venice stretches broadly to assert the city’s greatness.  Components include the religious protection of the Virgin Mary and Saint Mark, the magical relationship to the sea,  and Roman heritage.  These blocks stack together with others to form the main thrust of the myth, the timelessness, almost invincibility, of the city.  While the claim is clearly false today, people could have easily subscribed to it in the past.  With its unique democratic government, headed by a fairly anonymous doge, the city lacked the radical political shifts of other Italian city-states and was known as “The Most Serene Republic.”  More pleasant to imagine today is the magic of the city seemingly floating on the lagoon.  The unchanged city remains alluring.  These images of peace vary wildly from the warring of the Italian mainland. Venice’s myth was not only the supernatural protection of the oceans and Virgin, it was founded largely in the tangible world. Keeping the physicality of the myth in mind I plan to study how architecture in Venice was both shaped by and a shaper of the city’s myth.

As the myth is so expansive that it includes most of the city’s public persona, it would be too general of a topic.  To narrow the subject I will focus on one component of the myth and place it into the greater context.  Architecture will be the dominant genre, making it sensible to focus on the Roman legacy conjured at the beginning of the sixteenth century.  The truest Roman legacy was something that all the main city-states tried to claim during the Renaissance.  In order to do this they often conflated Roman symbols with their own city’s.  As art and architecture are a system of symbols we can easily find these forced fusions within them.  Pieces like the tomb of Leonardo Bruni show the extremes patrons and artists could pull the idea of the Roman legacy.  Further East, Venice begins its claim with its creation story of Roman refugees fleeing into the marshes and lidi.  Later in its history it became more artistic.

The architecture commissioned in Venice towards the beginning oof the sixteenth century shows clear Roman influences.  Furthermore, much of it was commissioned for the the most potent places of power in the city.  Commissions like La Zecca on Piazza S. Marco were prominently visible from both land and sea.  Jacopo Sansovino, the architect of La Zecca, and Andrea Palladio both worked with a Classical architectural vocabulary and sense of proportion.  These traits came in a dynamic rather than natural change.  The swiftness of the transition along with their prominent locations show thought behind the commissions.  Focussing on these most grandiose projects the paper should best address the most brooded on buildings.  The thought poured into the large commissions should pull out the strongest strands of the built myth of Venice.

 

This all leads to the revised version.  It should address some questions of why.  Particularly why did Venice switch from its unique domestic style to a highly classical one to express its power and grandeur?  An easy conclusion seems to be the leading architects of the period were not Venetian.  Beyond tying Palladio and Sansovino to their early works and studies in classical centers I can’t figure out the patronage.  The best I can see is a forced shift away from Byzantine heritage with 1453 and increased interest to their West due to the Italian Wars.  It has been hypothesized that the mixing of styles at prominent locations was an effort to impress anyone from any culture.  Thus Piazza S. Marco has the Islamic, Byzantine, and Gothic influence already.  As Venice was drawn more into an Italian world it would make sense for it try and intimidate the Italians through their own style.  It is also possible that Venice was simply late or stubborn in adopting the Renaissance style.  It wasn’t a surprise.  They knew what Sansovino and Palladio had done prior.  In the library they built a connection between the books and structure.  It housed an enormous collection of Classical texts bequeathed to the city.  Perhaps it was their understanding of humanism. As the myth was self propagated I would like to be able to plot a general trend towards the classical.  Its unlikely that its very possible.  Through centuries of conflation and legacies changes probably weren’t incredibly perceptible.  

test 2

By on September 14, 2008 Comments Off on test 2

 

success?

Hello world!

By on September 14, 2008 Comments Off on Hello world!

A test for arth470z

Test 1)

From fotofacade's flickr

From fotofacade