Visualizing the 1630-31 Plague Epidemic in Early Modern Venice and the Veneto

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dc.contributor.author Gear, Jennifer
dc.date.accessioned 2018-06-07T17:53:09Z
dc.date.available 2018-06-07T17:53:09Z
dc.date.issued 2018
dc.date.submitted
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/144191
dc.description.abstract In the summer of 1630 a catastrophic plague epidemic struck Venice and its subject cities in the Veneto region, killing around 100,000 inhabitants, disrupting travel and trade, and affecting all aspects of life over the course of its 18-month duration. In response to the outbreak, the Venetian State and other local governments and boards of health implemented widespread plague controls and other initiatives, such as quarantine, travel restrictions, and citywide prayers. The 1630-31 plague generated a rich visual and material culture, both during the epidemic and in its aftermath. Works related to this outbreak range from modest ex-votos created during the plague by individuals, to large-scale architectural and decorative campaigns designed as memorials to the tragedy, commissioned by the Venetian Senate, confraternities, and other social institutions. This dissertation explores the making and the efficacy of art associated with the 1630-31 plague in Venice and the Veneto. Building on iconographic conventions and motifs introduced during earlier plague epidemics, artists such as Domenico Tintoretto, Antonio Zanchi, and Giambattista Tiepolo took up the challenge of representing the plague visually. The imagery in altarpieces, votives, and confraternity halls emphasized disease-stricken bodies, ubiquitous body-removers (pizzigamorti), and timely sacred intercession by saintly protectors. A balance was struck between evoking the dire conditions of plague, affirming the power of the Venetian State to manage the epidemic, and instilling a sense of order in the community. In this way, visual art promoted social cohesion, countering the destabilization caused by the outbreak. In later memorials and retrospective works, the triumph over the 1630-31 plague became a topos used to characterize local civic and religious identities. Following the Introduction, Chapter 2 of this dissertation presents a timeline of the progression of the 1630-31 plague epidemic and introduces the most important social and religious institutions responding to plague in seicento Venice. Chapter 3 explores Venice’s two plague hospitals (lazzaretti), which operated continuously and exerted influence over life in Venice and its subject cities during plague epidemics and in times of general wellness. The second half of the dissertation offers detailed analyses of individual works of art representing the 1630-31 plague. Chapter 4 examines case studies of works of art that were created in Venice during the outbreak, addressing issues related to patronage and the challenges affecting art production during major outbreaks of plague. Topics include Venice’s relationship with its colonies in Dalmatia, and the common themes related to holy intercession that were shared across media, linking sacred music composed by Claudio Monteverdi to painted plague votives. The focus of Chapter 5 is Antonio Zanchi’s monumental painting created for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in 1666, arguably the most extensive visualization of plague’s effects on a city in the early modern world. This chapter considers the conceptual frameworks shared by seventeenth-century painting and the performance arts, particularly public opera. The dissertation concludes by leaving Venice proper in Chapter 6 to explore the impact of the 1630-31 plague epidemic on art production in Este, a subject city in the province of Padua. A series of commissions are tracked, from an ex-voto completed during the seventeenth-century outbreak, to a commemorative altarpiece created by Giambattista Tiepolo in 1759. The role of plague in generating collective memories and supporting socio-cultural identity in the eighteenth century is examined.
dc.language.iso en_US
dc.subject plague art
dc.subject Venice and the Veneto
dc.subject Antonio Zanchi
dc.subject Tintoretto
dc.subject Tiepolo
dc.subject plague hospital
dc.title Visualizing the 1630-31 Plague Epidemic in Early Modern Venice and the Veneto
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename PHD
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline History of Art
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies
dc.contributor.committeemember Holmes, Megan L
dc.contributor.committeemember Mallette, Karla
dc.contributor.committeemember Chatterjee, Paroma
dc.contributor.committeemember Willette, Thomas Chauncy
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Art History
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel Humanities (General)
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Arts
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Humanities
dc.description.bitstreamurl https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/144191/1/gearj_1.pdf
dc.identifier.orcid 0000-0003-1762-1770
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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