The unique topography of the city of Venice is mirrored in a multitude of visual and kinesthetic practices. I draw these behaviors and habituations out of the landscape by a process of thick description, both visual and documentary. The practices are the basis of several phenomena in Venetian Renaissance painting: unique spatial strategies, mesh-like figure/ground relationships and structures, maze-like constructions, and a concentration on optical effects, exemplified by reflections and highlights. Even in non-Venetian settings, Venetian painters employ Venetian spatial practices. Further, the viewer's relationship to the pictures, driven by the highly liminal nature both of the city and the visual practices that it engenders, is multiply liminal, causing the viewer to cross the pictorial border, actively to penetrate the pictorial space, and to navigate purposefully around the picture. The shift in narrative content between late Quattrocento and the Cinquecento occurs simultaneously with local change in painting technology and technique, so that while Venetian paintings retain their level of narrative content, the type of narrative switches from extended storytelling to the tale of the journey of the eye.
Last updated May 26, 1999