Describing the City, Describing the State

Representations of Venice and the Venetian Terraferma in the Renaissance


In Describing the City, Describing the State Sandra Toffolo presents a comprehensive analysis of descriptions of the city of Venice and the Venetian Terraferma in the Renaissance, when the Venetian mainland state was being created. Working with an extensive variety of descriptions, the book demonstrates that no one narrative of Venice prevailed in the early modern European imagination, and that authors continuously adapted geographical descriptions to changing political circumstances. This in turn illustrates the importance of studying geographical representation and early modern state formation together. Moreover, it challenges the long-standing concept of the myth of Venice, by showing that Renaissance observers never saw the city of Venice and the Venetian Terraferma in a monolithic way.

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Sandra Toffolo, PhD (2013, European University Institute, Florence), is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of St Andrews. Her research focuses on Venice and the Venetian mainland state in the Renaissance.
“Sandra Toffolo’s work has undoubtedly identified a perspective that, until now, has been neglected by historiography. […] Toffolo’s attempt to bring together the two souls of the Venetian State – sea and mainland – is also admirable. It is something that scholars have only recently started to explore. […] Sandra Toffolo’s book succeeds in opening a window on the potential for further inquiries into Renaissance geographical descriptions, on the one hand, and for a stronger inclusion of mainland voices, long underrated in the study of Venice”
Daniele Dibello, Ghent University. In: Journal of Early Modern History, Vol. 25, Nos. 1–2 (March 2021).

List of Figures
A Note on the Book

 1 Geographical Descriptions, the Myth of Venice, and the Venetian Terraferma
 2 Placing Texts within Literary Contexts
 3 Constructing a Mainland State
 4 Outline of the Book

part 1: Perceptions of Venice in Its Urban Setting

1 Venice, Religious City
 1 God’s Role in the Foundation of Venice
 2 Divine Protection throughout History
 3 Connections to Saint Mark
 4 External Religious Structures
 5 The Piety of the Venetians

2 Venice, Centre of Material Culture
 1 A City Situated ‘in the Stormy Fury of the Sea’
 2 Urban Structure
 3 Wealth
 4 Commerce
 5 Industry
 6 Art and Scholarship

3 Venice, Seat of an Ideal Government
 1 The Development of a Political Narrative of Venice
 2 Elements of a Political Venice
 3 The Ideal of a Mixed Constitution
 4 The Concept of Liberty
 5 Politics and Morality

4 Venice, Morally Exemplary City
 1 ‘It Presses Every Gathered Virtue to Its Bosom’
 2 A Moral Venice from Its Foundation
 3 Morality and Poetry

part 2: Perceptions of Venice and the Terraferma as a State

5 Venetian Views on Venice and the Terraferma as a State
 1 Justifications for Mainland Expansion
 2 The Conquest of Friuli
 3 Links between Venice and the Terraferma
 4 Political Affiliation as a Factor in the Depiction of Territories

6 Viewing the Venetian Mainland State from the Mainland
 1 Two Poems Dedicated to Local Families
 2 Ubertino Posculo’s Oratio de laudibus Brixiae
 3 Michele Savonarola’s Praise of Padua
 4 Silvestro Lando’s Preface to the Statutes of Verona
 5 A Paduan Pilgrim on His Way to the Holy Land
 6 Four Poems by Bartolomeo Pagello
 7 Jacopo Sanguinacci’s Inchoronato regno sopra i regni
 8 Francesco Corna da Soncino’s Poem on Verona

7 Foreign Views of the Venetian State
 1 ‘Hit Is also Vnder the Domynyon of the Venysyans’: Views of Formal Political Affiliation
 2 Political and Geographical Affiliation: the Case of Greece
 3 Conflicting Ideas on Venice and the Venetian State
 4 Interpreting Venice and Its Dominions in One Common Framework

Conclusion: Venice as City, Venice as State
All interested in Venetian history, the Italian Renaissance, representation of geographical spaces, early modern state formation, and history of cities in the Renaissance. Keywords: Venice, Terraferma, Stato da Terra, Stato di Terra, Venetian mainland state, Renaissance, geographical descriptions, geographical representations, city descriptions, Italy, 1381-1509, regional states, early modern state formation.
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