Between sky and water

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Journal Article
Angelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 2011, 16 (1), pp. 41 - 62
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Represented as the face of Venice, the houses of the Grand Canal were used during the Renaissance to support the portrayal of the Venetian Republic's unique structure of governance. Paolo Paruta's dialogue, Della perfettione della vita politica, a work of political theory on the Venetian Republic, is one such text used here to examine how in a changing context of modernization, architecture has been presented as a representation of state. Paruta's use of architecture as a representation of state was conceptually different from those earlier writers such as Gasparo Contarini who presented the uniqueness of Venice's social qualities through its orderly governance and law. Fundamental to Paruta's incorporation of architecture to the conceptualization of Venice was Daniele Barbaro's interpretation of Vitruvius' representation of the body-of-state, being reflected in the architectural makeup of the city. However, Vitruvius' text, De architectura, described the monarch's body reflected in the architecture and urban strategies of the late Roman Republic. Paruta's use of the text and of Daniele Barbaro aimed to transfer these values to the Venetian Republic and its social formations. Subtly forging links between the radicalism of Doge Andrea Gritti's renovatio programmes and the power struggles of the young patricians, Paruta's aim for architecture was to support the preservation of Venetian values as distinct from those of Rome. Indications are that Paruta's message was understood. To examine the comprehensibility of Paruta's political propositions, his terms and arguments are analysed in the context of three different architectural composition types used in Venetian houses of the mid-sixteenth century. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
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