May 18 through December 23, 2012

The astonishing creative efflorescence of sixteenth-century Venice would not have been possible without a rich network of civic, religious, and governmental support. The republic was governed by a hereditary ruling class under the leadership of a doge—generally a member of the inner circle of powerful local families whom the aristocracy appointed for life. Venice celebrated itself and proclaimed its civic ideals in large paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Federico Zuccaro that lined the walls of the Doge's Palace. Wealthy lay confraternities, called scuole, provided another essential layer of support and promoted a distinctively Venetian style of large narrative composition. Finally, a powerful and enlightened aristocracy commissioned works for their private dwellings in town and on the mainland. Whereas Giovanni Bellini and his followers had primarily produced altarpieces and religious images for personal devotion, this new generation of Venetian artists also met the demands of their expanding clientele for secular subject matter.