Venetian printmakers in the sixteenth century were enthusiastic participants in what became a project of civic self-promotion as they looked beyond the local market to an international one. In response to the fascination of foreigners who marvelled at the city's singular topography and its reputation for liberty and licentiousness, the bird's-eye view and images of local social types – such as the doge and courtesan – became transmuted into icons of the city's urban identity. The medium and modes of representation used to reproduce the republic's social and physical organization on paper are crucial here, for it was the repetition and sedimentation of visual conventions that forged iconicity. Venice was redefined as a centre in which all the world could be seen. And the mechanisms for this redefinition, as this article argues, emerged, in part, out of print, for it was because the city could be seen from the eye of a bird, on paper as an image, by foreigners – that it could be re-envisioned from the outside in.
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