Amongst the most famed and unique of Renaissance cities, Venice was a city-state built upon a series of islands in a shallow lagoon. At the beginning of the Renaissance, Venice was the most powerful city in all of Europe. It boasted 36,000 sailors operating 3,300 ships and dominated Mediterranean trade. Venice fought a series of wars against their rival, Genoa, as well as in battles at sea against the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. Compared to many of their contemporaries, Venice was fairly religously tolerant due to their continued trade relationship with the Muslim Empires of the East and as such was notable for not having executed a single person for heresy during the Counter-Reformation.


Venice was led by a Doge who served as an elected constitutional monarch, but whose powers were heavily limited by the Great Council of Venice. The Great Council was made up of members of all of the leading noble families of Venice, appointed all public officials and a senate of 200-300 leading citizens. Among these leaders was chosen a Council of Ten, who wielded the majority of power within the city.


Perhaps the most fmous Venetian lived in the century prior to the beginning of the Renaissance, but was a key figure in its beginnings. Marco Polo travelled the world and returned with riches from China, India and Burma and had been to the court of Kublai Khan. Venice brought in massive amounts of wealth through commerce and trade, but did not produce many of their own great artists during the Renaissance. The wealth of the city and its patrons, however, did attract many to move into the city. Venice had a unique artistic style - they emphasized the use of colour ahead of design. Some of the greatest Renaissance artists of Venice included Titian and Tintoretto. Led by Aldus Manutius, Venice was the "printing capital of the world." Manutius' press assisted in the rediscovery of ancient Greek and roman work through reprinting the works of Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus and others. 

Tintoretto's Last Supper. Tintoretto was one of the few artists of great renown during the time who was actually born in Venice. His use of colour for dramatic effect also helped him master the Renaissance art of perspective.

Titian's, The Death of Actaeon. His work, like many of the Venetian School, is often dark, full and foreboding. When compared with other great artists of the day from throughout Italy, the difference in style is remarkable.

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