Visual Representation of Power in Paintings (L4) – Project Progress 1

Background in Venice power

Our project aims to obtain an understanding of visual representation in Venice’s painting during the High renaissance periods. In the beginning, we have spent time to discover the information related to Venetian power system, and especially pay attention to Venetian procession.  The famous ‘Procession in Piazza San Marco’ of Bellini is the starting source of information as it sketches quite clearly the hierarchic, symbolic and paradigmatic structure of Venetian society at that time (Figure 1).


Figure 1. The painting ‘Procession in Piazza San Marco’ [1]

To understand the procession, a spatial arrangement is the key factor to consider where each particular position reflects a certain ranking and power of the person in the queue together with the symbols he was carrying.  Conventionally, the procession may consist of three distinct segments, each with different roles and participants.  First segment is led by eight standard-bearer followed by commanders walking two by two and six musicians. Then, it continues with the squires of the visiting ambassadors and the ducal squires and cavalier, again followed by another group of instrumentalists. The following position usually belongs to six canons of San Marco, preceding the patriarch, the chaplain and the squire carrying the coronation crown before ending the first segment by the secretaries of the doge and the Senate (Figure 2 & 3).


Figure 2. Order of procession – page 1 [2]


Figure 3. Order of procession – page 2 [2]

The second segment is the one that the doge stands. In front of him, there are squires who hold a gold faldstool, which is the symbolic throne of the doges (left) and the gold foot-cushion of the doge as well. We also notice the ballotino, who is often a young boy assigned the task of handle the ballots during elections. Behind the doge, a patrician holds the umbrella for the doge, who is followed by a few ambassadors and the sword bearers at the end of the second segment (Figure 3 & 4).


 Figure 4. Order of procession – page 3 [2]

The third segment consists of the most important noble people and their positions are placed according to their ranks of power. It is headed by some counselors paired with the procurators, followed by the chief criminal court, the sons and brothers of the doge. Then, walked the savii grandi, the avogadori di comin (state attorney), the cavaliers of San Marco and lastly, the members of the Senate (Figure 4).

Visualization approach

As described above, each person who represents a particular position or responsibility in the Venice power tends to gather in groups in the procession. Therefore it is important to identify, visually partition them and verify against various data sources. An example of this representation is shown in Figure 5, in which there are six musicians standing at the same site in the procession, wearing common costumes as well as holding (and playing) the same music instrument. The visualization demonstrates details of the people being displayed, including their role in the society, the relationship with other people, and probable misplaces in the procession. Besides that the relevant items such as costumes, hats, tools, etc. are additionally featured to explain the characteristics of the mentioned subjects.


Figure 5. Visualization mock-up

The relationship of people in the power system can potentially be represented under hierarchy graph, node-link diagram and timeline structure. Details will be specified along the way of project development.

Refined plan

Since there are several changes in the project objectives as well as approaches to the topic, our milestones have been updated accordingly.

Week 1-4 (17.02 – 09.03): Elaboration

  • Research on background of power in Venice
  • Outline visualization ideas and producing mock-ups
  • Refine plan

Week 5-7 (10.03 – 06.04): Implementation

  • Build basic visualization based on designed mock-ups
  • Organize data for each person (node) in the political system (tree)

Week 8-11 (07.04 – 04.05): Enhancement & publishing

  • Integrate visualization with additional descriptions and graphics
  • Publish the work on website
  • Outline abstract paper

Week 12-13 (05.05 – 18.05): Write abstract paper

Week 14-15 (19.05 – 28.05): Preparation of demo fair



[2] Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice (Muir, 1986)