Palazzo Ducale

Doge's Palace

THE WORLDS OF MARCO POLO. THE JOURNEY OF A 13TH-CENTURY VENETIAN MERCHANT

Exhibition opening hours
9.00 – 19.00 (last entrance at 18.00)
Every day
From 6 April to 29 September 2024

Exhibition

THE WORLDS OF MARCO POLO
THE JOURNEY OF A 13THCENTURY VENETIAN MERCHANT

From 6 April to 29 September, 2024
Venice, Doge’s Palace – Doge’s Apartments

Curated by Chiara Squarcina, Giovanni Curatola

 

Marco Polo (1254-1324) was certainly the most illustrious traveller of the Middle Ages and beyond. But he was not the only one. Before and after him others successfully made journeys to the East. But Marco Polo, by his extraordinary Travels (original entitled Il Milione), is undoubtedly the best-known and most celebrated figure to have travelled from the West to the Far East and to have left a full and richly documented account of what he saw. The Venetian Marco Polo, moreover, not only described most of Asia in a broadly reliable way, but also acted as the supreme interpreter and representative of the international mercantile character of his homeland Venice. It is clear that the fame and glory of the Serenissima as the commercial capital of the West was largely created and spread by this extraordinary and adventurous son of the city. Significantly, he was named after its patron, St. Mark, whose remains were also brought from the East, in this case the Near East. In short, here parallel stories are related in compelling ways.

Celebrating Marco Polo and his travels 700 years after his death provides an important opportunity to recount his superlative and incomparable life and his knowledge of those distant lands and peoples [his books were written “so that people may know the things that exist in the world…”]. It also reveals the relations between these different worlds today and how the “Silk Roads” have not lost their importance or relevance.

The exhibition, scheduled for April 2024 in the splendid setting of the Doge’s Palace, will be divided into several sections. It starts by illustrating the character of Venice and its trade in the first half of the 14th century, as well as the role of travel in Venetian commerce before and after the experience of the Polo family: cartography – Venetian and other – for example, and how far the stories and itineraries of merchants influenced this science.

On their journeys, the Polo family came across realms and political and military powers organised in various ways together with different cultural, artistic and religious practices. All this in a historical period when Asia was largely under the control of various Mongol dynasties closely related to each other. It was the unrepeatable age later known as the “Pax Mongolica”, which allowed safe travel along roads and through regions previously little known.
Marco Polo’s fascinating book gives an account of different religious faiths: Christians of various denominations (including Nestorians), Muslims, again with significant differences, the Chinese (Confucians, Buddhists, Taoists…) and Indians (Hinduism). The exhibition gives an account of these differences as well as the various sensibilities illustrated in the famous text of the Milione.

From Italian museums – primarily the very rich Venetian collections – and other important museum collections in Europe, Asia and North America, will come precious works on loan to reconstruct the life and achievement of Marco Polo, his travels and discoveries. They include maps and objects of various kinds, ranging from ceramics to porcelain (Marco Polo was the first to notice the quality of this material and use the term “porcelain”), as well as fabrics (including carpets), metals, coins, manuscripts and much else. A special section will be devoted to the extraordinary multilingual spread of the Milione and the legend of Marco Polo between the 19th and 20th centuries.

Finally, there will also be a contemporary art installation, curated by a leading artist, celebrating the great Venetian’s adventurous travels.

 

MUVE EDUCATION
GUIDED TOURS OF THE EXHIBITION & MARCO POLO ACTIVITY BOOK

Many activities have been organised for families, adults, children and schools on the occasion of the exhibition dedicated to the great Venetian traveller. Among these, in addition to the special guided tours of the exhibition, children visiting the exhibition will be accompanied by an entertaining Activity Book: a sort of unusual guide, full of anecdotes, games, clues to discover, tales and curiosities relating to the journey to the lands of the Great Khan and to the writing of Il Milione. In particular, it will delve into the descriptions of distant peoples, their different customs and habits, but also into the mysterious and fantastic things described by Marco Polo.

 

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