Wide view of Venice: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni


Not too many artists dedicated their sharp eye and creativity to describe and document what Carnival was in their times and since its beginnings.

Although Carnival in Venice started in 1162, I have found no images made in those "ancient" times.
My guesses:

  • No Gutenberg press: mechanical print on paper started in 1439, before that date it was all was unique and handmade.
  • The Roman Church: it practically had the monopoly of image production at the time, and Carnival wasn't surely one of its favorite topics.
  • Renaissance painters were mostly concentrated in Florence and Rome, Venice was a different reality.

The artists I have found left a strong sign, though, sending an idea of what Carnival represented in those times to whom may be interested to "know a little more".

I chose of course what I found available on the web, or I had in my books, but there isn't much, really. And the documentation I show here is probably the best available, made from XV to XVIII century, basically, when Carnival was at its strongest.

I also used my Photoshop skills in "making the images a little better" but not so much as to falsify them, so I could pass around a good idea of how Carnival in Venice was documented in those ancient times.

The period I have considered is from the XII century when Carnival started, up to the XVIII when it was fading out already, and was then interrupted by Austrian Laws.

I have used images of the XIX century too, which were still be true enough in reproducing situations and atmospheres. Not too many, though.

Almost all the images (prints, paintings) come from artists living in Venice, because they were close to the source, and could feel the vibrancy of the Venice Carnival in first person.

There is more material available, of course, but I think I have used the best - in quality and meaning - to give the best representation possible of the hystorical period.

I hope this will represent a good starting point for your personal research.

Théodoor Galle after Johannes Stradanus:
"The Invention of Oil Painting" - engraving (ca. 1591)
Vittorio Zonca: Book Printing press - engraving (1607)
Vittorio Zonca: "Book Printing press"
engraving (1607) - from "Novo Teatro di Machine et Edificii"
Unknown Artist: image from The book of trades - Copper Printing
Unknown Artist: image from "The book of trades; or, Familiar descriptions of the most useful trades, manufactures,
and arts practised in England ..." - Copper-Plate Printing
wood engraving for the 1829 printing by A.K. Newman & Co.
Vittorio Zonca: Press for printing pictures with copper engravings
Vittorio Zonca:
"Torchio per stampar i disegni con i rami intagliati"
(Press for printing pictures with copper engravings)
engraving done in Padova in cooperation
with Francesco Bertelli (1621)
Biblioteca Riccardiana, Firenze
Etienne Collault: Operation of a printing press - from the Chants royaux sur la Conception, couronnés au Puy de Rouen de 1519 à 1528
Etienne Collault: "Operation of a printing press"
from the "Chants royaux sur la Conception,
couronnés au Puy de Rouen de 1519 à 1528"
Miniature (1530) - Manuscrits à peinture, BN fr 1537
Bibliotheque nationale de France
Unknown Artist: Printer's device of Josse Badius
Unknown Artist: "Printer's device of Josse Badius"
which features a printing press with the abbreviated form
of the designation given his establishment
(Prelum Ascensianum, or "Press of Asse", since Badius
was from the village of Asse, near Brussels.
Woodcut from Badius' workshop (1520)
Jan van de Velde after Pieter Saenredam: Interior of a printer's workshop
Jan van de Velde after Pieter Saenredam:
"Interior of a printer's workshop".
It was one of the first ones for letterpress printing,
founded in Haarlem (Holland) by Laurens Janszoon Coster
in 1440. The image was printed in 1628 by Adrian Roman
etching (ca. 1440)
National Military Museum, Soesterberg (NL)

Copyright by Roberto Delpiano 1997-2024 - visit my website www.delpiano.com