Palazzo Ducale

Doge's Palace



Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Venice and Safavid Persia

From September 28th 2013 to January 12th 2014 / EXTENDED TO APRIL 27th 2014
Palazzo Ducale, Chamber of the Scrutinio

Taking the large canvas by Carlo and Gabriele Caliari showing Doge Marino Grimani receiving the Persian ambassadors (1603) on display in the Sala delle Quattro Porte as its starting point, the exhibition aims to illustrate the excellent diplomatic relations in modern times between the Serenissima and Safavid Persia at the time of Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1629), at a time when both nations were intent on countering the threatening Ottoman expansion. During the reign of Shah Abbas, starting in 1600, there were at least three periods during which the gifts and requests in exchange for the former convey a clear idea of the trade that was carried out as a result of diplomatic means.

Diplomatic relations with the envoy of reciprocal delegations and gifts was a highly common practice in the relations between Venice and other great powers, above all those in the East, with whom the Venetian Republic was either permanently in touch or in conflict regarding the supremacy over the Mediterranean.

The exhibition will present a series of original 17th century documents bearing witness to the exchange of letters concerning renewed promises for collaboration, together with the sending of goods expressly requested by both sides. The exhibition begins with several engravings from the Cabinet of Drawings and Prints and the Correr Museum Library, illustrating the faces of the protagonists of that time, portrayed in great detail by European artists. There is also a section dedicated to the cartography of Persia, with the maps and portolans used by travellers to find their way in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East; their quality reveals the amazing technical-scientific skill of the cartographers at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, at outlining the profiles of territories that were known to very few at that period. The papers showing the list of gifts the two states exchanged during diplomatic meetings are particularly interesting, especially as a trace of these remains in the collections of the various Venetian museums, including in the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. An important example is the precious Safavid velvet depicting the Virgin and Child offered by Shah Abbas the Great to Doge Marino Grimani on the occasion of the official visit of a Persian delegation to Venice in 1603. It is today housed in the Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo.

Curated by Elisa Gagliardi Mangilli
Coordinated by Camillo Tonini

Patronage of: Ambasciata d’Italia a Teheran, Fondazione Bruschettini per l’Arte Islamica e Asiatica, Università degli Studi di Udine