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The Golden Age of Venetian Painting 1475–1576 / ​Narrative Paintings for The Scuole

The century between the advent of Antonello da Messina in 1475 and the death of Titian in 1576 is considered the Golden Age of Venetian painting. What had been a minor regional school achieved international prominence and influenced the future of European art in general for centuries. Central to this achievement was the genius of a succession of painters from Giovanni Bellini and his brother Gentile, Carpaccio, Giorgione, to the great Titian and his younger contemporaries Tintoretto and Veronese. These painters worked in a city undergoing crisis and change: the decline of its maritime empire, the reduction of its monopoly of trade with the East, its near destruction as a state in the early sixteenth century, and the religious turmoil engendered by the Reformation and the reaction of the Roman Church to it. Governed by an oligarchy of merchant nobles who elected a Doge, Venice remained politically stable throughout this turbulent period and continued to flourish economically. The state, the lay confraternities (called scuole) and private individuals provided sufficient patronage and support for a brilliant school of painting to develop in both secular and religious art. The cultural context and history of this school will be studied in eight lectures, followed by a full-day visit to the National Gallery to consider first-hand its outstanding collection of Venetian renaissance paintings.

Our image of renaissance Venice is largely shaped by the picture of it to be found in the paintings commissioned by the lay confraternities or 'Scuole'. These bodies, particularly the largest of them called 'Scuole Grandi' were composed of non-nobles and could be immensely wealthy. They spent a lot on their grand meeting houses and the narrative canvasses inside them depicting the lives and deeds of their patron saints or the miracles of their principal relics. Gentile Bellini and others painted the 'Miracle of the Cross' cycle for the Scuola Grande of San Giovanni Evangelista while Tintoretto was later to make the Scuola Grande of San Rocco his pictorial monument. Some smaller scuole also commissioned masterpieces like Carpaccio's exquisite and witty cycle for the Dalmatian confraternity of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.


Dr Michael Douglas-Scott | talks


Date and Time:

16 October 2014 at 10:45 am


Half Day



The University Women's Club
2 Audley Square

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