Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic:
Images of Authority from Renaissance Venice
The Venetian Republic, a prosperous and powerful state in Renaissance Europe, cultivated an image of stability and liberty. This image-making is on display in a new Yale Law Library exhibition, “Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic: Images of Authority from Renaissance Venice.”
The exhibition draws on the outstanding collection of Italian law books in the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, along with drawings and medals from the Yale University Art Gallery and reproductions from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
The exhibition is on display through December 15, 2016. It was curated by Christopher Platts (History of Art, Yale University) and Michael Widener (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library).
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Venice played a central role in the political and economic affairs of Europe, ruling an empire that extended through northern Italy, the Adriatic, and the eastern Mediterranean. By the year 1500, Venice could claim that it had been a sovereign republic for more than a millennium. Venice was so highly esteemed for its stable government, selfless leaders, and free citizens that it came to be known as “La Serenissima,” the Most Serene Republic.
The exhibition introduces the most significant offices and symbols of the Venetian Republic, and explains how laws were crafted, debated, publicized, and frequently broken. The protagonists are the doge and highest magistrates of Venice, the governors appointed to rule the Republic’s territories, the lawmakers in the Senate, and the lawbreakers, illustrated in finely executed drawings, prints, and numismatic portraits.
“Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic” is on view daily through December 15, 2016 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT). Excerpts will also appear here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.
– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian