The Myth of Venice in the Architecture of Jacopo Sansovino

Sansovino, Biblioteca Marciana, Venice (marjorieoch at
Sansovino, Biblioteca Marciana, Venice (Photograph by Marjorie Och)

        Over Venice’s long history it carefully constructed its image.  This creation paired with other recorded impressions of the city formed the myth of Venice.  Generally, the myth asserted the power, stability, and immortality of the lagoon republic.  Among the many strands of the myth, a strong claim was made that Venice was the successor of the Roman Empire.  Calling itself a ‘New Rome,’ Venice made the claim in many media.  A key figure for this assertion in architecture was Jacopo Sansovino.  Despite attempts by other Venetian architects to incorporate classical elements in their work, the impressions were rarely successful as Roman likenesses.  Few of the architects ever saw the original monuments first hand or knew the complex system of proportion underlying classical facades. As a former resident of both Florence and Rome, Sansovino had a rare knowledge of the emulated architecture.  Consequently, he designed many structures in Venice that adhered more closely to Vitruvian principles and successfully conjured Roman distinction.

        This ability became especially significant after the city’s travails against the League of Cambrai.  Barely escaping an occupation, Venice was eager to renew the claims of its myth and demonstrate its historic prestige as it recovered.  Sansovino did this with his work concentrated around the Piazzetta of San Marco.  In his distinctive style he announced the viability of the city by recasting the city as the true successor of Rome in several buildings: the Zecca, Biblioteca Marciana, and Loggetta.  The full text of the paper may be seen here.

Jacopo Sansovino

La Zecca

Libreria di San Marco


The Renewed Piazzetta



Thanks for posting such an interesting topic. This blog makes me want to visit Venice so badly!

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