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The Execution of Marino Faliero

November 1, 2017

As a student of history, I’m forever seeking historic parallels with our tumultuous times, and I see such a parallel between a fourteenth century event and our current political situation.


When Thomas Jefferson was pondering appropriate words for The Declaration of Independence he looked to one of the few republics existing in the world at that time—Venice, an independent nation with a long history stretching back hundreds of years. By our standards, Venice was actually an oligarchy (rule by the wealthy) but it was slightly more democratic than the despotic monarchies of the age.


A crowning achievement of Venice’s power and glory is The Doge’s Palace, in particular the Hall of the Great Council, capable of holding banquets for three thousand people. Over the centuries, artists worked to decorate every inch of this massive room, and one image in particular has always caught my eye.




Hall of the great Council, Venice


Portraits of Venice’s doges (elected rulers), stretching back nine hundred years circle the room—all but one. He’s hidden behind this black painted veil. If you’ve ever been to the Doge’s Palace you might have wondered why.


In 1354, Venice was engaged in a series of costly wars. People had grown tired of politics as usual and elected Marino Faliero as Venice’s 55th doge. By all accounts, he was thin-skinned, self-centered, impulsive and didn’t take criticism well. He attempted a coup d’etat, rumored to have been prompted by an insult to his wife by a rich nobleman. A Byron play suggests his act of treason was based on a romantic gesture but today this event is seen as merely a power grab.


Faliero placed more faith in family members than he did in career politicians or civic leaders and seemed intent on creating a dynasty. His plot to take over the government and instill autocratic rule failed, and in 1355 he was tried for treason and executed.



The Execution of Marino Faliero by Delacroix


This 1827 painting showing the beheading of Faliero is by Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix (who painted Liberty Leading the People) and was inspired by a Byron play about Faliero.



The Hall of the Great Council burned several times over the centuries and the current portraits were created during the Renaissance, but Venetians were determined to remember the horrible year when Faliero betrayed the Republic. His brief tenure as doge is marked by a black painted shroud bearing the words: This is the space for Marino Faliero, beheaded for crimes.


I started this post by saying I’m always looking for historic parallels. Hmmmnn…an unscrupulous person comes to power and for a year tries to destroy established principles and institutions in an effort to expand power, doing so in a way that would have horrified his predecessors? Thin-skinned, self-centered and impulsive?


I wonder if, in the future, a portrait in the White House will be covered by a shroud.





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Someone should be glad we don't have beheadings in this country.
By: PT Dilloway on November 1, 2017
Wall Street is doing the best it ever has, so it won't be him. I can think of a few other presidents who've screwed up far worse.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 1, 2017
Interesting history.
By: Kathe W. on November 1, 2017
As an outsider and neighbour looking in. He certainly does not represent the best attributes of America. I see nothing honourable about this man, nor Faliero.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 1, 2017
This reality zoo is getting more depressing every day and I am now concerned about how long we will make American great again!
By: Tabor on November 1, 2017
I support this future proposition. There should be a shroud for the thin-skinned orange currently occupying the beloved institution.
By: Michael Offutt on November 1, 2017
Why wait? Cover him with a shroud NOW!!
By: fishducky on November 1, 2017
I would prefer no portrait at all.
By: Ellen Abbott on November 1, 2017
Only time will tell.
By: messymimi on November 1, 2017
I was definitely seeing the parallels as I read this account. Rather eerie.
By: Arkansas Patti on November 1, 2017
I find it rather distasteful comparing our president to that leader of long ago. Are you insinuating our president should be beheaded? I find that disgusting. I believe Obama would compare more with that nasty man in Venice than our present president. If anyone sees parallels in this, it's just hateful, wishful thinking.
By: Kate on November 1, 2017
By: Rick Watson on November 1, 2017
You did a lot of research on this one. The characters match. I'm not sure if impeachment will ever happen with this one. I guess we can always hope.
By: red on November 1, 2017
An interesting parallel indeed! I saw the Doge's Palace many years ago during a student tour in Europe. Quite beautiful!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on November 1, 2017
Fascinating bit of history and explanation. As for our own dilemma, while pondering a public punishment for the cur who occupies the White House helps excise the anger I feel, I also would like to a see a movement that would forbid a portrait of the orange lout to be posted in the National Gallery.
By: Tom Cochrun on November 2, 2017
There may be more than one covered with shrouds if we had a lick of honesty in our governing gaggles.
By: Catalyst on November 2, 2017
I'm not really a fan of the concept that history repeats itself, but this sounds eerie similar to our situation.
By: sage on November 2, 2017
Interesting parallel. And I agree with Catalyst, although we might disagree which ones they should be.
By: scott park on November 2, 2017
I wish it would be covered with a shroud! What a horrible thought -- a portrait of Cheeto in Chief on permanent display.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 3, 2017
Very interesting! And yes the parallels are similar (although I think impeachment would be enough of a punishment).
By: The Bug on November 3, 2017

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