Ever heard of the doges of Venice? No, me neither. Well, they were kind of like dukes but more powerful; they were in charge of the watery city from 697 to 1797. All in all, there were 120 doges, some of which, as we shall see, looked pretty darned fresh.
Over the years, the powers and influence of the doges varied, but in general, they were the top of the Venetian political tree. They were the only guys who were allowed to attend meetings of any governmental bodies, and they had access to all the secret files of Venice. In a word: “nosey.”
The doge were mostly aristocrats by birth and the position was for life, for this reason, they only came into power pretty late in the day. The average age of a doge was 72, that way the Venetians could guarantee that none of them would be all-powerful for too long.
The election of the doges was an oddly random affair that was considered to be impossible to cheat and therefore “fair.” Mary McCarthy, an American author, explains the process in her book Venice Observed:
“Out of the Great Council (consisting at first of 480, then of 600, and finally of 1,200 nobles), 9 were picked by lot to elect 40 electors, who had to be chosen by a majority of at least 7.
The 40 drew lots to see which 12 would elect 25 more by a majority of at least 7. These 25 then drew lots to see which 9 would elect 45 by a majority of at least 7.
Finally, these 45 drew lots to choose 11, who would vote for 41 electors, who would elect the doge by a majority of at least 25″
To add an extra layer of bonkers to an already bonkers process, at several stages, lots were drawn from a hat by a child that they plucked at random from the streets.
Recently the doges have picked up a bit of modern interest due to an internet meme. The chap above, has been “improved” like so:
The first doge was Paolo Lucio Anafesto and the last was Ludovico Manin (the guy pictured at the top of the article with the mad white balls for ears), who was deposed by Napoleon in 1797. The dates are open for debate, after all, written accounts from the 7th century are not renowned for their accuracy and clarity.
For the purpose of this article, I just wanted to show you some killer portraits of Venetian doges. So here you are, enjoy them:
Doge from 1752 to 1762.
Doge from 1523 to 1538. Painted by Tiziano.
Doge from 726 and was assassinated in 737.
Doge from 11 November 1653 – 5 January 1735.
Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo
Doge from 1701–1778.
Doge from 1675 for less than 2 years. His career was initialy hampered because his father had shown cowardice in battle by running from the enemy as the Venetians were killed en masse.
Later, the Sagredo family were killed in great numbers as they fought the Cretans enabling Nicolò to rise in influence. Looks pretty chilled right now:
The 91st Doge of Venice, reigning from July, 1612 until his death in 1615.
Reigning from January 10, 1606 until he died in 1612.
MORE GOOD OLD ART: