Few, if any, early modern European cities boasted a population as racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse as Renaissance Venice, from German merchants living in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto. This fascinating book focuses on the wealthy elite of that immigrant population. From monumental palaces to pictorial cycles, Blake de Maria examines the artistic patronage commissioned by and associated with rich immigrant merchants who relocated to Venice with the aim of becoming Venetian cittadini, or citizens. As newcomers to the city, immigrant merchant families had to acquire the material commodities necessary for everyday life, and the need to establish an appropriate spiritual identity proved equally pressing. De Maria investigates important aspects of the artistic, commercial, and familial activities of naturalized citizen families, and considers the communal functions of this merchant clan, their social identity as naturalized citizens, their contributions to the fabric of early modern Venice, and their complex relationship with Venice's native population.
Rich in new material and full of human interest, the book sheds light on a significant, hitherto little-known sector in Venetian artistic patronage.
Blake de Maria is assistant professor of art history and director of the Medieval/Renaissance Studies Program at Santa Clara University.