Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/320

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from Venice. There was, of course, another aspect of the patrician class. The vicious nobles became poor, the poor corrupt, and political and social life both suffered in consequence. The Council of Ten was frequently called upon to punish the betrayal of State secrets and the unbridled license of the nobility.

On the other hand, if the people were excluded from the direction of State affairs they found abundant scope for their energies in trade and industries and the guild-life which these created and fostered. Every art and craft and trade in Venice, down to the very sausage-makers, was erected into a guild. They were self-supporting, self-governing bodies, supervised, it is true, by a government office whose approval was necessary for the validity of the bye-laws. They were carefully fostered by the State, which saw in them an outlet for the political activities of the people. At his coronation each new Doge was expected to entertain the guilds, who displayed specimens of their handiwork in the ducal palace; on great State occasions, when Venice entertained distinguished guests, the guilds were called upon to furnish part of the pageant; but they never acquired, as in Florence, or other Italian cities, a voice in the government of the State. The guilds of most Italian towns represented and protected the people against a nobility of arms and of territory. In Venice such a nobility never existed; the patrician was himself a merchant and very probably a member of a trade guild.

And the decorative and cultured side of all this teeming life found expression in the arts. Murano produced the earliest masters of that school of painting which was to adorn the world by the hands of the Vivarini, Carpaccio, the Bellinis, Mantegna, Giorgione, Veronese, Titian, Palma, Cima da Conegliano, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. Dramatic in conception, gorgeous in colour, untrammelled by the effort to express philosophic ideas or religious emotion, the art of Venice was essentially decorative, and was dedicated to the adornment of public and private life in the city. The great colonnade at the Rialto, the very heart of Venetian traffic, was already covered with frescoes and possessed that famous planisphere, or Mapamondo, showing the routes followed by Venetian commerce throughout the world. The study of letters received a vital stimulus, thanks to the asylum which Venice offered to refugees from Constantinople. Cardinal Bessarion made St Mark's Library the legatee of his inestimable treasures. The brilliant history of the Venetian printing press was inaugurated by John of Speyer and Windelin his brother (1469), by Nicolas Jenson, by Waldorfer and Erhardt Radolt, and carried on by Andrea Torresano to the glories of the Aldine Press. Coming third in chronological order, preceded by Subiaco and Rome, the press of Venice surpassed all its Italian contemporaries in splendour and abundance, in range of subjects, in service to scholarship.

Of literature in the sense of belles-lettres there was but little; but the Annali of Malipiero, the Diarii of Sanudo and the Diaries