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Nora Gietz

Thesis title: The Effects of Napoleonic Rule on Venice’s Artistic Patrimony (1797 and 1806-14)



Dr. Louise Bourdua & Dr. Rosie Dias


My doctoral research focused on the cultural and artistic policies of the Napoleonic government in Venice during 1797 and 1806 to 1814. Whilst in the short period of French rule in 1797 the looting of artworks was kept to a minimum and a relatively small number of the most famous artworks were transported to Paris, the policies became much more complex and wide reaching in the second phase after 1806. Two vice-regal decrees, on 28 July 1806 and on 25 April 1810, caused the suppression of over fifty churches and monastic institutions in Venice, many of the buildings also being demolished. The innumerable artworks existent in these had to be organised and valued. Many were reserved for the Imperial Crown or for the Empire’s galleries such as the Louvre in Paris, the Brera in Milan, and the Venetian Accademia. The rest were sold for state profit, or simply discarded. How these policies were implemented exactly, how they varied between different religious institutions, and what the logistics in all of this were, formed my main research questions.
Complimentary to this, several other issues were considered. The context of France in the period helps to understand whether the paintings chosen for the Crown conformed with the contemporary artistic tastes of Enlightenment and Revolution, and how the artistic and cultural policies in Venice compare to those in post-revolutionary France and on Napoleon’s other military campaigns. The market forces in the art markets of the early nineteenth century in relation to the Venetian masters, had to be investigated in order to see if economic factors affected the choices made.
The project relied heavily on primary research of unpublished documents. The wealth of material recording the French presence in Venice in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia was of particular importance and formed the basis of my analysis. The papers of the Demanio give insight into policies and decrees relating to the closing and demolition of the city’s churches, to the potential re-use of deconsecrated buildings as well as inventories and valuations of the buildings and their contents. This includes descriptions of churches, monasteries, convents, scuole grandi, scuole piccoli, and fraternity buildings. The documents of the delegates responsible for the conservation and selection of artworks, Pietro Edwards and Giuseppe Baldassini, provide information on individual artworks, and their transferral to public auctions or galleries and palaces, via centralised deposits where they were catalogued.
By evaluating this primary evidence in the context of extensive secondary research, I demonstrated not only the organisation behind the far-reaching policies, but also tried to understand the motives, logic and reasoning behind the choices made and decisions taken in the process.

Research Interests

Venetian History and Art History
Napoleonic Europe
The Long 19th Century
Cultural History
Cultural Policy and Appropriation
The role of art and culture in times of political and social upheaval


After completing a BA (Hons) in Modern History at the University of Oxford in 2007, I took a year to work as Trainee Picture Valuer at Bonhams Auctioneers in Oxford and do the internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. I then came to Warwick for the MA in Art History on “Venice and Its Legacy”. After this, I continued straight into the doctorate programme in the autumn of 2009. I received a PhD scholarship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation which started in June 2010 and which I interrupted for six months for a residential research grant at the Centro Tedesco dei Studi Veneziani in Venice. In 2010 I also received a one-off grant for independent research in Venice from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.