Throughout its existence as a bustling center of seafaring and trade, Venice has loomed large in maritime history. Its location, its governmental policies, and the skills of its citizens made Venice a dominant military power and a major player in international trade by the Middle Ages. Yet little is known of what made that military and trade prowess possible—the early seagoing vessels of Venice. Remains of its ships and boats are few, and written records are rare.
Artistic representations of Venetian ships and boats can offer distinctive clues unavailable in other forms of evidence. To gain a better understanding of the watercraft of Venice, nautical archaeologist Lillian Ray Martin has collected representations of ships and boats in medieval and early Renaissance art. To do so, Martin systematically surveyed the museums, churches, libraries, and public buildings of Venice and the surrounding region in search of watercraft depicted in art.
Drawing on material from several disciplines, The Art and Archaeology of Venetian Ships and Boats combines lively discussions of art and history with scientific scholarship. After outlining her method of study, Martin presents a brief history of Venetian art, inextricably linked to the history of the area. Martin then carefully catalogues each known piece of Venetian art that depicts watercraft. She includes such information as the
title, artist, date, location, types of watercraft depicted, and a comprehensive description of each piece.
Excavations in the region so far have revealed only a few small boats, two merchant ships, and a galley, a limited sample of the ships and boats of Venetia, but offering the base on which to build. Archaeological, documentary, and iconographic evidence are here combined to paint a more accurate picture of Venetian watercraft, making The Art and Archaeology of Venetian Ships and Boats the most complete compilation of the sources available today.
The book is enhanced by more than 150 illustrations, including representations of ships and boats from paintings, sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, engravings, manuscript illuminations, and more.
The Art and Archaeology of Venetian Ships and Boats reveals important facts about the construction, rigging, and sailing of Venetian watercraft, shedding new light on the history of Venetian seafaring and the resulting economic and political relations Venice had with the Byzantine and European worlds.
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Lillian Ray Martin, who has a degree in art history and European studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, earned her master’s degree in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University. She has worked as an archaeologist and photographer at numerous underwater and land excavations since 1981, including the Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun, Turkey, as well as sites in the Dominican Republic, Holland, Greece, Cyprus, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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