A revision of my proposal

Mosaics and St. Mark

The mosaics of San Marco Basilica are an important representation of mosaic art and its change over time in Venice and demonstrate the importance of the art of mosaic in Venice starting from the 11th century to present day. In particular the depictions of Saint Mark through the medium of mosaic in San Marco portray the importance of Venice’s relationship to both subjects: St. Mark and mosaics. In these mosaics Venice relates itself to the saint using him as a personification of Venice’s glory by making icons out of a prestigious event within the cities own history.

Venice is responsible for creating its own legend surrounding the life of Mark and his eventual translation to Venice. To be taken seriously as a powerful entity in Europe Venice felt it needed a connection to an important saint.[1] Whether based in fiction or fact the San Marco Basilica was built and decorated as a large reliquary for a body believed to be that of St. Mark. His stories are given precedence in mosaic particularly on the façade of the Basilica and in the interior of the sanctuary.

The chronology of the St. Mark mosaics is interesting and is evident in their appearance. Styles ranging from the early 12th century to restoration work of the 19th century are present. The stylistic changes occurred due to restorations as well as each time period’s dislike for the work done by earlier artists. Even with these changes Venice did create some regulations as early at the 17th century pertaining specifically to mosaics in an attempt to preserve their iconography and narrative. A comparison of the varying styles can be made because evidence of the old mosaics remain in both the decoration of San Marco, personal accounts of viewers and artwork featuring the Basilica that includes the mosaics.

San Marco has undergone many changes in its lifetime and issues concerning mosaics have been a part of it since the end of the 11th century. Examining them in regards to the depictions of St. Mark allows for a more in depth analysis of the mosaics as well as the Venetian relationship to their stolen saint and his portrayal in Venetian art.

[1] John J. Norwich, A History of Venice (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 29.


Narrowing Topic: San Marco Mosaics 19th century

I have narrowed my topic down concerning the Basilica of San Marco’s mosaic decoration. The period of conservation/restoration I would like to focus on is the 19th century. This is an interesting period for the mosaics of San Marco because of the restoration techniques and though not too dissimilar to earlier methods used on the Basilica the administration came under scrutiny for being too intrusive marking a change in the ethical thinking regarding the preservation of mosaics. In 1859 the administration of San Marco made a contract with the Salviati Company for them to supply smalti, restoring damaged mosaics and replacing mosaics that had been lost. The Salviati Company, as well as the individual leading the restorations Giambattista Meduna, faced much criticism largely because the original designs of the mosaics were not always being followed and the glass being used was noticeably of a different quality than the older glass already on the walls. The work that began in 1860 had repercussions for both the aesthetic of the basilica, the conservation of mosaics and mosaic glass making in Italy.


I am working on compiling a bibliography.


Andreescu Treadgold, Irina. “The Real and the Fake: Two Mosaic from Venice in

American Collections.” Studi Veneziani. N. S. 36, 1998. p. 281. n. 13.


Barr, Sheldon. Venetian Glass Mosaics 1860-1917. Antique Collectors Club,



Layard, Sir Henry Austen. “Paper on Mosaic Decoration.” Institute for the Venice and

Murano Glass and Mosaic Company Limited, Metchim and Son, London: 1869.


Otto, Demus. The Mosaic Decoration of San Marco, Venice. Chicago; London:

University of Cicago Press, 1988.