By 1500 Venice was the foremost maritime power in Europe as well as an international cultural destination. The city's empire included a dense web of fortified harbors in the eastern Mediterranean stretching along the Dalmatian coast to Crete and Cyprus, which protected its trading interests. In order to cater to the needs of its merchants and naval commanders, Venice became an important center of cartography.
The city's wealth and stability fostered artistic creativity and attracted a host of influential foreign artists, such as Albrecht Dürer, Andrea Schiavone, and El Greco. Not only did these visiting artists invigorate the city's artistic life, they also spread Venetian innovations far beyond the territorial confines of the empire.