Black and white print showing map of Venice with chreub-like heads in clouds and boats in the water surrounding Venice.

Past exhibition

23 January – 4 June 2023

Room 90a

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Focusing on Jacopo de' Barbari and his celebrated 'View of Venice', this display showcased the innovation and variety of printmaking on the lagoon during the High Renaissance.

In 1500, a huge woodcut View of Venice was printed in the city. Undertaken by the mysterious Jacopo de' Barbari, the project was unprecedented in its ambition. It required extensive research to reproduce the lagoon in painstaking detail, and, at nearly three metres wide, considerable skill to make such a big print.

The View celebrated one of Europe's wealthiest and most powerful cities, which in 1500 commanded an empire stretching from the Alps to Cyprus. But it was no less a statement of Venice's growing prowess as a centre of printmaking. Though the press was still a new technology, by the time the View appeared, around 200 print shops were to be found in the city, which was attracting some of Europe's most skilled printmakers.

Collaborating and competing with one another, these artisans pioneered numerous technical innovations that expanded the frontiers of what artists could achieve in print. There was no shortage of inspiration: Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer both visited Venice in the years around 1500, heavily influencing the work of the city's printmakers, as did homegrown talents like Giorgione and the young Titian, who used prints to help establish his reputation.

Focusing on Barbari and his colleagues, this display celebrated this melting pot of technical and artistic innovation, showing that the View was but one expression of Venice's pre-eminence in printmaking.