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Of all the cities of the world, Venice stands apart. The city boasts a remarkable physical setting: clusters of islands and canals in a tidal lagoon off the Adriatic Sea. As visitors well know, the constant presence of moving water creates spectacular reflections of bridges and buildings as well as shimmering effects of light. Inhabitants and visitors today still move about the city by dual systems of navigation, by boat and on foot. One of the great maritime and economic powers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Venice enjoyed enormous wealth for centuries. Moreover, Venice was a famous center for trade, banking, and the creation of luxury textiles, glass, and paintings. It is not by chance that Shakespeare titled his play The Merchant of Venice. Although the Venetian Empire was extinguished by Napoleon’s conquest in 1797, the city has remained a magnet for travelers and artists. Many of the best-known painters of the 19th and 20th century, including Boudin, Whistler, and Monet, were captivated by Venice, and recorded its luminous and transient presence in their canvases and prints.
This exhibition will explore the singular history and rich artistic legacy of Venice through four main themes: “A City Apart,” “Painted Piety,” “Venetian Style,” and “A Magnet for Artists: Venice and the Impressionists.” A group of important paintings will form the core of the exhibition, and these themes will be fleshed out with significant works on paper (prints, watercolors, photographs), costumes and textiles, and contemporary glass to provide a splendid evocation of Venetian visual culture.