A Monumental Piece of Mythmaking: Jacopo de’ Barbari aerial view of Venice -Part I

In The Venice Variations (link to the pdf of the book) I discuss the properties of Venice’s urban form through which it came into being over a large period of time. These operations gave the city its physical form, social and economic life. Alongside these operations, a parallel project of mythmaking was taking place, by the Venetians themselves, celebrating both the mythical origins and factual achievements of the city through an inchoate series of beliefs about its physical landscape and their customs. As Henry Lefebvre explains, cities consist of collective imaginaries which are often ceremonially enacted in rituals, festivals and processions. The designed, written and pictured city influences the lived city and vice versa. In Venice these ideas were powerfully expressed not simply through myths, rituals, calendrical rites and local traditions, but also in works of art such as Jacopo de’ Barbari’s woodcut, showing an aerial view of Venice from a point previously unimaginable. The woodcut is one of the earliest demonstrations of the Myth of Venice – the idea of the city as a perfect combination of place and political institutions – synthesising political ideology with the urban fabric. Originally consisting of a loose collection of pseudo-histories and myths, the Myth became official historiography in the 16th century. Jacopo’s woodcut is one of the early expressions of the Myth in visual form synthesising ideology with physical conditions. In the next series of blog entries I will discuss the representation of Venice in the print and compare it to the physical properties of the city.

Jacopo de’ Barbari. View of Venice (1500), image sourced from:    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Jacopo_de%27_Barbari_-_View_of_Venice_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg


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