NCMA Recommends: The Triumph of Venice
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, The Triumph of Venice, 1737, oil on canvas, 68 5/8 × 112 5/8 in., Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
Batoni’s grandiose Triumph of Venice is a favorite among NCMA visitors of all ages and backgrounds, and yet its complex subject matter and copious literary allusions require close looking and informed analysis. The task of interpretation can be challenging, even for a trained historian of Venice (the present curator included).
The painting was commissioned in Rome by Marco Foscarini while serving as Venetian ambassador to the papal court. It commemorates one of the great moments in the history of Venetian culture, the first two decades of the 16th century, when the fine arts flourished during a time of peace under the leadership of Doge Leonardo Loredan. The patron himself, Foscarini, went on to become doge in the 1760s.
Doge Loredan appears at the center of the composition standing next to a woman driving a triumphal carriage pulled by two winged lions—a personification of Venice. Other Roman gods and goddesses represented include Ceres, Minerva, Neptune, Mars, and Mercury. In the background is a view of Venice’s celebrated “Molo,” the waterfront area at the entrance to the Grand Canal near Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, two of the most recognizable urban architectural monuments in Europe.
I would be curious to hear what attracts visitors today to this painting. Is it the bombastic depictions of mythological and historical figures, warm palette dominated by blues and golds, representational realism, magnificence of the Venetian waterfront and palaces in the background, or something else?
Learn more about this monumental painting here. —Lyle Humphrey, Associate Curator of European Art and Collections History
The recording below is an audio description of The Triumph Of Venice. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.
Glory of Venice Exhibition
Look back to 2017, when visitors to the NCMA were introduced to Glory of Venice: Renaissance Paintings 1470–1520, the South’s first exhibition surveying the development of Renaissance painting in Venice from the second half of the 1400s to the early 1500s.
Return to this classic recipe, made of pureed peaches and prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. The cocktail was invented in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, who may have been inspired by the sunset tones in Batoni’s paintings.
Another glory of Venice is its unique lagoon ecosystem. Discover the movement to revive its health, under threat from human activity.
If you hear music when you look at The Triumph of Venice, you might be thinking of Antonio Vivaldi, who was active in the city at the time the painting was created. Listen to the works he wrote for the all-female orchestra and choir of a Venetian orphanage.
- The Aspern Papers by Henry James (1888), a classic novella of intrigue and suspense surrounding an obsession with a set of mysterious lost letters, will place you in the romantic heart of Venice.
- Gods and Heroes in Art, edited by Lucia Impelluso and Stefano Zuffi (2003), guides readers in learning about and recognizing mythological Greek and Roman figures in art.
- The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona (2008) is the fictional story of two sisters, who are complete opposites, coming of age in 18th-century Venice.
- Venice: A New History by Thomas F. Madden (2012) explores centuries of Venetian history using newly discovered archival material to dispel stereotypes and celebrate the city’s incredible achievements.
Children’s books: Introduce young readers to the magic of this ancient city and the gods and goddesses pictured in The Triumph of Venice with the following recommendations.
- This is Venice by Miroslav Sasek (1961)
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (2008)
- Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer (2009)
The Triumph of Venice looks back to celebrate the city’s wealth of arts and culture during the Italian Renaissance, nearly 200 years earlier. Discover ways to make meaning from the symbols and mythology in this painting with ideas for hands-on activities for all ages.
Inspired by Batoni’s Triumph of Venice, we recommend films that are set in the picturesque city.
- Summertime (1955). Director: David Lean. An American woman finds romance while vacationing in scenic Venice. Watch on HBOMax or rent on Amazon or YouTube.
- Don’t Look Now (1973). Director: Nicolas Roeg. A couple find themselves grieving the death of their daughter in a horror-filled Venice. Rent on Amazon or YouTube.
- Casanova (2005). Director: Lasse Hallström. In 18th-century Venice, Giacomo Casanova, the world’s greatest lover, falls in love. Rent on Amazon or YouTube.
Venice and Vietri
After viewing our Italian Renaissance paintings, continue your experience in the Museum Store. Our current collaboration with Vietri features handcrafted products for the table and home. With Mother’s Day approaching, browse unique gifts such as the hibiscus small glass bud vase, mouth-blown in Tuscany and complete with authentic Italian packaging.