During the Roman era, Venice was a military outpost inhabited mainly by fishermen. It was also the place where salt and clay for brick production could be extracted. The barbarian invasions caused the inhabitants of nearby cities to seek refuge in Venice as its marshy islets along the Adriatic sea provided natural protection. In the fifth century, Venice was ruled by the Byzantine Emperor Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, who carried out a major building campaign in nearby Ravenna that was to influence the art and architecture of the region for several centuries. At the end of the seventh century, the various settlements of Venice pulled together and, in 697, they elected Doge Paoluccio Anafesto as their leader. By the ninth century, trade with Byzantium, the Levant, and the Holy Roman Empire established Venice's economic preeminence. The need to find secure access to the markets north of the Alps led to the acquisition of Treviso, Belluno, and Feltre in the 14th century. At the turn of the 15th century, the Venetians took Padua, Vincenza, Verona, Friuli, Brescia, and Bergamo and, by 1500, their territory was extended farther to include Cremona. In 1508, the League of Cambrai was formed between Pope Julius II, King Louis XII of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I to curtail Venice's territorial expansion. The league collapsed in 1510 due to disagreements between Louis and the pope, who now allied himself with Venice. Together they drove the French out of Italy in 1512, but disagreements caused Venice to change sides. In 1515, the French, now led by Francis I, regained their territories in Italy and, in 1517 the lands taken from the Venetian Republic were returned. Palpable in the art of Venice is the Eastern influence that came with trade and Byzantine rule early in its history. The Doge's Palace (1340-1438) blends French Gothic arcades and traceries with Eastern flamelike spires, and the Basilica of San Marco (beg. 1063) relies completely on the Byzantine style, especially for its Greek cross plan, the shape of its domes, its monumental scale, and mosaic decorations. A school of painting did not develop in Venice until the 14th century when Paolo Veneziano began rendering scenes in the Maniera Greca, brought to Italy from Byzantium in the 13th century. This style remained the preferred mode of painting in the region until the early 15th century when the Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, influenced by foreign masters such as Donatello, Andrea del Castagno, and Antonello da Messina, finally embraced a more naturalistic mode of representation. The 16th century saw the art of Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, and Titian whose colorism and experiments in perspective laid the ground for the developments of the Baroque era.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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