For the world’s most beautiful city, Venice had an inauspicious start. The site was once merely a collection of mudbanks, and the first settlers came as refugees fleeing invading enemies of the Roman Empire. But by the opening of the 15th century, Venice had become the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean and possibly the wealthiest city in Europe. Venice’s holdings on the Italian mainland began to turn a profit and in turn, public patronage of the arts was on the rise. In a society as conscious of tradition as Venice, the success of artists depended on their ability to evoke and blend with the glorious past. The golden period of the Serenissima Republic is reflected in the art generated for its churches, confraternities, and palaces. Elaine Ruffolo is an art historian who has been teaching art history in Florence since 1990; her special interests include the history of patronage and the economy of Italian Renaissance city-states, and she has been a key Tauck partner in Italy for over 20 years.
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