This bird’s eye view by Jacopo de’ Barbari displays Venice, shown from the south west, at the height of its power. One of twelve known impressions of the first state of the woodcut, the Campanile in Piazza San Marco is visible with the temporary flat roof erected after a fire in 1489. In the second state the block was altered to take account of the restoration work done in 1511–14 and the date 1500 (“MD”) was removed.
On 30 October 1500, the Signoria of Venice granted Anton Kolb a privilege for this print for four years. In his petition, Kolb, a merchant from Nuremberg and a friend of Dürer, stated that the preparatory work had taken three years and was intended to benefit ‘this supreme city of Venice’. The name of the artist is not mentioned in the documents, nor is the print signed, but the figure of Mercury at the top carries Jacopo de' Barbari’s personal sign of the caduceus.
The engraving is highly accomplished, despite some inconsistencies in the projection. However, as Martin Kemp writes,
‘the View remains an achievement of astonishing visual and intellectual control, demainding incredible patience and a notable ability to visualize forms from inaccessible viewpoints. Its size and dramatically open horizons also give it a sense of grandeur … in a way provided by no equivalent view in the Renaissance’.
 Martin Kemp, Levenson ed.: 1991, p. 255
- Full title:
- Bird's eye view of Venice. 1500 Woodcut printed from six blocks on six sheets of joined paper
- View / Woodcut
- Jacopo de' Barbari
- © Trustees of the British Museum
- Usage terms
- Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike licence
- Held by
- The British Museum
- Article by:
- P.D.A. Harvey
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