The Bishop's Palace in Portogruaro dedicates an exhibition to the dogaresses of Venice

Women's History of Venice at the Bishop's Palace in Portogruaro, which is hosting an exhibition on the dogaresse, the... First Lady of the Serenissima, from December 16, 2023 to May 19, 2024.

Women’s History of Venice at the Bishop’s Palace in Portogruaro, which hosts the exhibition La dogaressa tra storia e mito. Venetian femininity from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, open to the public from December 16, 2023 to May 19, 2024. The Distretto Turistico Venezia Orientale is the proposing and organizing entity under the important Operating Protocol signed in June 2021 between the Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia - MUVE, the Municipality of Portogruaro and the Distretto itself, in order to carry out far-reaching cultural projects of proven scientific quality capable of enhancing the historical and cultural link between Greater Venice and Little Venice overlooking the banks of the Lemene River. The exhibition also enjoys the support of the Veneto Region under the Law on the Enhancement of Venetian Identity.

The exhibition, coordinated by Chiara Squarcina, Director of Museum Activities of the MUVE Foundation assisted by Pietroluigi Genovesi, is curated for MUVE by Daniele D’Anza and Luigi Zanini and for the Distretto Turistico Venezia Orientale by Pierpaola Mayer who is also responsible for technical direction. The exhibition is made possible thanks to the active participation of the Municipality of Portogruaro, Banca Prealpi SanBiagio and many important companies in the area, some of them in continuity others for the first time, who have long supported and believed in this cultural project, to which is added the important technical partnership with Italo S.p.A.

The Dogaressa between History and Myth. Venetian femininity from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century proposes an exhibition itinerary that for the first time draws attention to and sheds light on the figure of the dogaressa, the consort of the Venetian doge, highlighting her role and importance at the time of the Serenissima, and whom today we can consider on a par with a... First Lady ante litteram.

The exhibition therefore aims to explore Venetian femininity through an anthology of significant episodes extrapolated from the lives of some of the most famous dogaresses, often importers of foreign fashions, promoters of entrepreneurial projects and many other innovative and visionary initiatives that have come down to us.

Five sections each occupy the five rooms of the Bishop’s Palace. The first, titled Byzantine Opulence and Venetian Moroseness, tells how in the wake of the last foreign dogaressa, the Greek Theodora wife of Doge Domenico Selvo (1071-1084), the refined art of perfumery was introduced in Venice, which then had an unparalleled impetus in the following centuries, reaching in the Renaissance the apex that led it to be recognized as the capital of perfume. Venetian Murano glass perfume holders from the 17th and 18th centuries and a selection of raw materials used in the perfumery art will be on display, allowing interaction with the public through an interesting olfactory and tactile sensory experience. This first room also reviews the dresses worn over the years by the dogaresses, their transformations, starting with the morose one presented by Dogaressa Felicita Malipiero in Bellini’s painting, continuing with those highlighted in the reproductions engraved in some important printed volumes.

The second section, Virtuous Patronages and Noble Erudition consolidates the authoritative, virtuous and positive role played by the dogaresses in contributing, with their patronages, to defend and increase local craft production. Dogaressa Giovanna Dandolo, wife of Pasquale Malipiero (1457-1462) and descendant of one of the Republic’s most illustrious families, went down in history as patroness of printing and lace. Indeed, it is due to her if Burano then became the world’s first lace center. It was she who gathered with her a large number of young women of the people and initiated them into the delicate work of weaving, which gave luster to the city for the exquisiteness of the product and means of livelihood to many people of the people, especially the women of Burano, where a real school of art arose.

In the third section, The Dogaressa Coronation Ceremony, paintings and prints testifying to this highly original practice are displayed. Marchesina, wife of Lorenzo Tiepolo (1268-1275) went down in history for being the first dogaressa to make her solemn entrance into the Doge’s Palace, together with the doge, in a procession headed by the guilds of arts and crafts. Forty years after Zilia Dandolo Priuli’s triumph, another very famous and even more pompous coronation took place in Venice, that of Morosina Morosini, wife of Doge Marino Grimani (1595- 1606). The Golden Rose that was given to her on the occasion was upon her death assigned to the Treasure of St. Mark’s Basilica.

The fourth section, Myths and Revivals of the Doge’s World, features Francesco Hayez ’s painting I due Foscari, on loan from the Uffizi Gallery, which well illustrates the heartbreak experienced by Marina Nani, second wife of Doge Francesco Foscari (1423-1457), when her son Jacopo was imprisoned, for accepting gifts and deniers from gentlemen and even the Duke of Milan. As he was the son of the doge, such an operation was precluded: the crime of embezzlement was therefore configured. To no avail were the woman’s pleas. The reason of state prevailed over everything. To this affair Lord Byron dedicated the drama The Two Foscari, later performed in the theater by Giuseppe Verdi in 1944.

Finally, the fifth section The Dogaresses of the 20th Century is reserved for theLast Dogaress, an appellation that was reserved for those women who distinguished themselves for the patronage reserved for the arts, and who brought prestige to Venice at a time when the Serenissima Republic had already fallen. This title was awarded to Peggy Guggenheim, and before her to Countess Anna Morosini (whose portrait by Lino Selvatico, housed at the Fortuny Museum in Venice, is on display), a friend of Rilke, d’Annunzio, Maeterlinck and Shaw, Prince von Bulow and the Shah of Persia, as well as rulers throughout Europe: a woman with a fascinating and complex personality. It is also flanked by several Focuses of the Territory dedicated to other women, from Isabella da Passano Signora della Frattina (1542-1601) to Lucia Memmo (1770-1854) to Marta Marzotto (1931-2016).

The exhibition designed in a dynamic and interactive form in addition to important paintings of the Venetian school, including the portrait of Doge Alvise I Mocenigo by Jacopo Tintoretto from the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, gives space to drawings, engravings, glass, fabrics, lace and other artifacts of Venetian material culture from the Venetian civic collections.

For all information, you can call +39 0421 564136, send an email to or visit MUVE’s official website.

Image: Pietro Nordio, Marin Falier (oil on canvas; Venice, Museo Correr)

The Bishop's Palace in Portogruaro dedicates an exhibition to the dogaresses of Venice
The Bishop's Palace in Portogruaro dedicates an exhibition to the dogaresses of Venice

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