Art & Culture

Veneto, eternal land of art

Throughout 8000 years the Veneto has accumulated some of the greatest historical and cultural treasures of man, becoming a cultural depository without parallel in Italy and among the top in the world.

The oldest artefacts come from the region around Verona and consist of thousands of stone incisions, to be found along the eastern coast of Lake Garda. The Paleovenetian civilisation, based in the centres of Este and Padua during the Bronze Age, has also been generous with its remains, leaving behind various ceramic and bronze objects. Rome gradually absorbed the Veneto, eventually transforming it into a province in the 1st century B.C., and busied itself with the construction of road networks and centres of inhabitation. Many monuments and remains are preserved today in all their majesty and beauty. The most visible trace of the Roman presence in the Veneto is unquestionably the Arena in Verona.

The Medieval period has left particular traces in the zone. In the Venetian lagoon the frequent trading with southern Mediterranean lands led to a fusing of oriental elements, witnessed in the area's architecture of palazzi and churches. Inland also sees a wealth of architectural treasures, such as the Longobard style of San Giorgio in Valpolicella, the Romanesque San Zeno Maggiore of Verona, and the Chiesa dei Santi Felice e Fortunato at Vicenza. Padua demonstrates the pictorial realism of Giotto: his frescoes in the Palatine chapel built in 1302 by the banker Enrico Scrovegni is one of the absolute high points of European art. Fundamental for the renewal of the pictorial language was also Giorgione, the artist from Castelfranco Veneto who played a major influence also on Titian. The Medieval feudalism produced the villages and cities whose walls remain intact and which can be considered authentic urban monuments: Cittadella, Castelfranco Veneto, Marostica, Este, Montagnana and Monselice among others.

The affirmation of the Renaissance in the Veneto was the perogative of Padua, with the Florentine Donatello for sculpture and Andrea Mantegna for painting. Venice preserves the immortal works of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. The Palladian Renaissance deserves special attention. The classical-based architectonic majesty of the Paduan Andrea Palladio is concentrated above all in and around Vicenza: Villa La Rotonda, Villa Chiericati, the Basilica Palladiana (or Palazzo della Ragione), and the Teatro Olimpico.

In the following century another architect, this time in Venice, Baldassare Longhena, produced many different designs throughout the lagoon. Still in Venice, the Belluno-born Andrea Brustolon acclaimed fame in his woodcarvings, supplying sculptures and furnishings for several churches and palazzi. Seventeenth century Venetian landscape painting, with its perspective effects achieved in accordance with strict measurements and rules, finds its greatest representative in the figure of Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, though other names of high regard are Bernardo Bellotto and Francesco Guardi. The pictorial theatricality which veils the irony of the portraits of Giambattista Tiepolo and Pietro Longhi completes a particularly prolific period for Venice.

In the succeeding centuries important figures include the sculptor Antonio Canova, the portraitist Francesco Hayez and in the 1900s the sculptor Arturo Martini and the architect Carlo Scarpa.