History in Marble at the Palace of the Doge

History in Marble at the Palace of the Doge
26 October 2016 0 Comment

In Venice for centuries the seat of power and the administration of that power was firmly installed at the Palace of the Doge.

The Magnificence of the Doge’s Palace

Power needs a house to reside in and the Doge’s Palace is a magnificent house that was a symbol of Venetian pride and respect for centuries. The very fabric of this structure is encased in history and great works of art. We often walk past the columns of this palace but to do so without considering the meaning of the carvings on their heads is to deprive you of much of the visual narrative and symbols of good government and of the strength of the Venetian Republic.

Art and History in Marble

These capitals are adorned with 600 carved images, founding a narrative that weaves together the created world and divine majesty; mixing allegory and moral precepts, history and myth, the sacred and the secular. The carvings draw upon many sources, from the Bible to Claudius Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblio (Astrological Predictions) and comprises scenes that celebrate justice, wisdom and prayer. These works were sculptured in the years 1340-1355 by the craftsmen of the local Stone-Carvers Guild under the direction of two protomagister (master craftsmen); Pietro Baseggio and Henricus tajapiera (stone-cutter).

The Peoples of Various Latitudes

Whenever I visit Venice I eventually make my way to the Doge’s Palace, usually very late in the day when the light is fading and the crowds have dispersed, and stop under my favourite column; one of thirteen in the arcades facing Piazza San Marco. Titled, “The Peoples of Various Latitudes” you will pick it out easily enough because of the stupendous carving that is as perfect today as it was in the 13th century. It portrays the peoples of the earth with sublime realism, representing a theme linked with astrology. It’s easy to make out a Moor in a turban, and what can only be described as a pug-nose Tartar and an old man wearing a cap decorated with two small lions of St. Mark shown in moeca (literally in “crab form” due to the similarity of the enveloping wings to crab claws). This latter figure may represent such peoples as the Cretans, who were under Venetian rule when these columns were sculptured.

History is truly wrought in stone in Venice.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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