Leonardo Loredan

Leonardo Loredan (16 Nov 1436 – 22 Jun 1521) was the 75th doge of the Republic of Venice from 1501 until his death in 1521.[1] His dogeship was one of the most important in the history of Venice.[2][3]

Leonardo Loredan
Doge of Venice
Giovanni Bellini, portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan.jpg
Doge of Venice
Reign13 October 1501 - 22 June 1521
Coronation13th of October, 1501
PredecessorAgostino Barbarigo
SuccessorAntonio Grimani
Born16th of November, 1436
Venice,  Republic of Venice
Died22nd of June, 1521
Venice,  Republic of Venice
Burial23rd of June, 1521
SpouseGiustina Giustiniani
IssueLorenzo, Girolamo, Alvise, Vincenzo, Bernardo, Donata, Maria, Paola, Elisabetta
DynastyCoat of Arms of the House of Loredan.svg House of Loredan
FatherGerolamo Loredan di S. Vitale
MotherDonata Donà di Natale
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureLeonardo Loredan's signature

Loredan's reign began during the disastrous second Ottoman–Venetian War, which he settled with a peace treaty in 1503 at the cost of considerable loss of territory. Later that year a dispute arose between Loredan and Pope Julius II, after Venice occupied territory in the northern Papal States. This escalated into the 1509 War of the League of Cambrai in which Venice was fighting an alliance of the Pope and France. Venice was defeated, but in 1513 Loredan formed a new alliance with the French King Louis XII against Pope Julius. This resulted in a decisive victory.

Loredan was portrayed in numerous portraits and paintings, the most famous of which being the Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan, painted by Giovanni Bellini in 1501 and now on display in the National Gallery in London.

Early life and marriageEdit

Coat of arms of Leonardo Loredan

Leonardo Loredan was born in Venice on the 16th of November, 1436 as the eldest son of Gerolamo Loredan di S. Vitale, known as dal Barbaro, and of Donata Donà di Natale, nephew of the archbishop of Candia Pietro. From childhood Leonardo demonstrated "exceptional maturity, combined with goodness and with the most noble talent of genius", as the historian Andrea Navagero testified. After a good classical education, he devoted himself with some success to trade in Africa and the Levant, to increase the family's finances. Legend has it that in Africa a fortune-teller predicted for him the future of a prince in his homeland.[4]

He had a brother, Pietro (1466-1510), of poor health and unstable character, dedicated to studying alchemy in Padua, where he had moved, and disinterested in political life. In the will drawn up in February 1474 in Padua where he was podestà, the father designated Leonardo as the executor of the will and the sole heir of the estate and granted Pietro an annual annuity of 250 ducats.[4] He also had a sister, Caterina Loredan, who later became Dogaressa of Venice by marriage to Doge Antonio Grimani: “The Loredanian tradition for patriotism and nobility was handed on in the gracious personage of Dogaressa Caterina Loredan, sister of Doge Leonardo Loredan – the Consort of his successor Doge Antonio Grimani.”[5]

In 1461 Leonardo married Giustina Giustiniani di Pancrazio di Marco, of the wealthy branch of S. Moisè, who died in 1500, one year before Leonardo became Doge, and with whom he had nine children: the procurator Lorenzo (1462-1534), Girolamo (1468-1532), the only one to continue the branch, Alvise (1472-1521), Vincenzo (died in Tripoli in 1499), Bernardo (1481-1519), Donata, wife of Giacomo Gussoni da S. Vitale, Maria, wife of Giovanni Venier, of the branch that gave birth to Doge Francesco Venier (1554-56), Paola, wife of Giovanni Alvise Venier, descendant of Doge Antonio Venier (1382-1400), and Elisabetta, wife of Zaccaria Priuli.[4]

Some historians claim that his election as Doge in October 1501 was not entirely due to his talent as a politician but also because his wife came from the very influential Giustiniani family.[2][6]

Political careerEdit

Statue of Leonardo Loredan in the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Loredan began his political ascent on 13th December 1455, at the age of nineteen, when he became a lawyer in the “Giudici di Petizion”, a magistracy concerned mainly with financial scandals and bankruptcies, for which he had Filippo Loredan as guarantor. A few years later, Leonardo sat on the “Collegio dei Savi” where he was responsible for assessing and evaluating foreign policy matters prior to their examination in the Senate. On 13th November 1468 he became consul of the Merchants and on 15th November 1473 he was elected chamberlain of the Común. In 1480, along with Marco and Agostino Soranzo, Andrea Erizzo, Paolo Contarini and Nicolò Donà, he was chosen to administer approximately 30,000 ducats, collected through free donations from devotees of the miraculous image of the Virgin, to be used for the construction of the church dedicated to S. Maria dei Miracoli, in the district of S. Leone (Cannaregio district), designed by Pietro Lombardo and his sons. In 1481 he was elected wise man of the Venetian mainland and in November 1483 he was among the electors of Doge Marco Barbarigo.[4]

Doge Leonardo Loredan with Four Sons, by Giovanni Bellini, 1507, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Between 1485 and 1486 he was still appointed wise man of the Council, and on 29th April 1487 he was elected mayor of Padua, taking over from Antonio Venier, and he held this position until 1489, when he was elected to the prestigious position of dogal councilor. In 1490 he was called again as a wise man of the Council. On 1st August 1491 he was re-elected dogal councilor for the Cannaregio district and in 1492 he returned as a wise man of the Council. In July 1492, Loredan secured the election to one of the most distinguished offices of the Republic, that of the Procurator of Saint Mark, which allowed him to rise to the political top of the state. On 3rd May 1493 he was among the governors at the Entrate and from 1495 to 1501 he was continuously re-elected wise man of the Council.[4] In his capacity as procurator and also as wise man of the Council, he was among the three designated by Doge Agostino Barbarigo, on 31st March 1495, to negotiate the alliance between Venice, Pope Alexander VI, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg, the Spanish rulers Ferdinand V and Isabella I and the Duke of Milan Ludovico Maria Sforza (Henry VII of England also joined), with the aim of countering the military operations of the King of France Charles VIII who had, almost without encountering resistance, entered Naples in February. The army of the League, led by the Marquis of Mantua Francesco II Gonzaga, in the Battle of Fornovo on 6 July forced the French army to withdraw from Italian territory. In October of the same year, Loredan signed the agreement for the conduct of Nicolò Orsini, count of Pitigliano, to the services of the Republic of Venice as governor general of the land militias for a period of three to four years. In January 1497, Loredan, with the wise man of the Terraferma Lodovico Venier, ratified the surrender of Taranto on behalf of the doge.[4]

On the 11th of July, 1501, Loredan was appointed podestà in Cremona by the Senate, but he refused.

On the death of Doge Agostino Barbarigo (20th September 1501), Loredan was one of the designated candidates in the election of the new doge, which began on the 27th of September, and finished on the 2nd of October with Loredan coming out first (with 27 votes in the sixth hand of the first ballot). The election was successful thanks to his and his wife's influential relations and the sudden death of the most popular opponent, the wealthy procurator Filippo Tron, son of Doge Nicolò Tron. The announcement was made by the procurator Nicolò Mocenigo and celebrated by the scholars, with numerous praises then given to the press.[4]


War with the OttomansEdit

At the time of his accession to the dogeship, Venice was engaged in the second Ottoman–Venetian War, which started in 1499.[7] Loredan had lost his cousin Andrea Loredan, a naval officer in the disastrous Battle of Zonchio,[8] and the war had proceeded badly on land too, with the Venetians losing considerable territory.[9] This included the strategic city of Modon,[9] which was the site of a bloody battle involving hand-to-hand combat, followed by the beheading of hundreds of Venetians following the Turkish victory.[9] The war took a heavy toll on the Venetian economy and in 1502–1503 Loredan agreed a peace treaty with the Turks.[10] He was helped in the negotiations by Andrea Gritti, a Venetian who had been conducting trade in Constantinople and would later become doge of Venice himself.[11] Venice paid a high price for this treaty including loss of land and a requirement to pay an annual tribute to the Turks.[10]

War of the League of CambraiEdit

Allegory of the Victory over the League of Cambrai, by Palma il Giovane, featuring Doge Leonardo Loredan

Upon the death of Pope Alexander VI in 1503, Venice occupied several territories in the northern Papal States.[6] When Julius II was elected as Alexander's eventual successor, the Venetians expected their seizure of papal territory to be tacitly accepted, as Julius had been nicknamed Il Veneziano for his pro-Venetian sympathies.[12] But instead the new Pope excommunicated the Republic and demanded the land be returned.[6] The Republic of Venice, although willing to acknowledge Papal sovereignty over these port cities along the Adriatic coast and willing to pay Julius II an annual tribute, refused to surrender the cities themselves.[13] In 1508, Julius formed an alliance called the League of Cambrai, uniting the Papal States with France, the Holy Roman Empire and several other Christian states.[6]

The Doge's problems did not end in Europe. In 1509, the Battle of Diu took place, in India, where the Portuguese fleet defeated an Ottoman and Mameluk fleet, which had been transferred from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea with Venetian help. The defeat marked the end of the profitable Spice trade, which was bought by Venetians from the Mameluks in Egypt and in turn monopolised its sale in Europe, reaping great revenues from it.

The Triumph of Venice (1737), by Pompeo Batoni, featuring Doge Leonardo Loredan, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

After losing to the league's forces at the Battle of Agnadello, Venice found its holdings in Italy shrinking drastically.[14] Soon Padua, Venice's most strategically vital Terraferma holding, had fallen, and Venice itself was threatened. Loredan united the population, calling for sacrifice and total mobilisation. Padua was retaken, though Venice was still forced to accept a reluctant peace, following which it joined the Pope as only a junior ally in his new war against the French.[15] The alliance was on the verge of victory, but a dispute arose over territory. Emperor Maximilian refused to surrender any Imperial territory, which in his eyes included most of the Veneto, to the Republic; to this end, he signed an agreement with the Pope to exclude Venice entirely from the final partition. When the Republic objected, Julius threatened to reform the League of Cambrai. In response, Venice turned to Louis; on 23 March 1513, a treaty pledging to divide all of northern Italy between France and the Republic was signed at Blois.[16] Under this alliance with the French King Louis XII, the Venetians achieved a decisive victory over the Papal States,[17] and were able to secure back all the territories they had lost. In addition, the Papacy was forced to repay many outstanding debts to the Loredan family totaling approximately 500,000 ducats, an enormous sum of money.


Doge Loredan’s health was never excellent, but his character and intellectual energy supported him well in his government posts. In 1514, due to an accidental fall, he was injured in the leg but never stopped presiding over the meetings of the sovereign councils. From 14th June 1521 he was no longer able to attend government meetings, due to a feverish state and his conditions worsened quickly.

He died in Venice on the 22nd of June, 1521. The death, which occurred between eight and nine, was kept secret until sixteen at the behest of the children who, during their father's agony, had no regard for transporting furniture and objects from the doge's apartment to their residence. As is customary, the body was subjected to embalming practices. On the morning of June 23rd, after the body was moved to the Piovego room of the Doge's Palace, the coffin was closed. At the solemn funeral the eulogy was read by the scholar Andrea Navagero, and Pietro Bembo, then abbot and secretary of Pope Leo X, was also present.

Loredan died "with great fame as a prince".[4] He was interred in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, in a simple tomb with a celestial marble headstone without inscription, placed above the steps of the main altar and now no longer existing. In about 1572, and after some disputes between the heirs and the friars of the church, a funeral monument was erected for him, divided into three parts and adorned with Corinthian columns in Carrara marble, placed to the left of the main altar, with architecture by Girolamo Grappiglia , and adorned with an extremely lifelike statue, an early work by the sculptor Girolamo Campagna, which depicts him in the act of "getting up and boldly throwing himself in defence of Venice against Europe conspired in Cambrai". On its right was the statue of Venice with sword in hand and on the left that of the League of Cambrai, with the shield adorned with the heraldic coats of arms of the opposing powers (these, and the others in the monument were done by Danese Cattaneo, a pupil of Sansovino).[4][18]


House of Loredan-Santo Stefano (Genealogy)
Nicolò Loredan
Gerolamo Loredan (d. 1474)Donata Donà
Antonio Grimani (1434-1523)
Caterina Loredan 
Leonardo Loredan (1436-1521)
Giustina Giustiniani (d. 1500)Pietro Loredan (1466-1510)
Domenico Grimani (1461-1523)Lorenzo Loredan (1462-1534)Girolamo Loredan (1468-1532)Alvise Loredan (1472-1521)Bernardo Loredan (1481-1519)Vincenzo Loredan (d. 1499)Donata LoredanMaria LoredanGiovanni VenierPaola LoredanElisabetta Loredan
Francesco Venier (1489-1556)
Francesco LoredanFrancesca Barbarigo
Leonardo Loredan (d. 1675)Alba Soranzo
Francesco Loredan (1656-1715)Giovanni Loredan (1662-1725)Andrea Loredan (1664-1704)Caterina GrimaniFrancesca LoredanElisabetta LoredanMaria LoredanMaddalena LoredanPaolina Loredan
Francesco Loredan (1685-1762)
Girolamo LoredanCaterina CornaroGiovanni Loredan (d. 1767)Anna Maria VendraminFrancesco LoredanAntonio LoredanAntonio LoredanLeonardo LoredanLeonardo LoredanGirolamo LoredanContarina LoredanGiovanni Tommaso MocenigoAlba Loredan
Andrea Loredan (d. 1750)Caterina Loredan

Note: The branch of Santo Stefano is also known as the branch of San Vidal (San Vitale).[e]

Note: There are some generations missing between Girolamo Loredan (1468-1532) and Francesco Loredan (17th century).

Note: Giustina Giustiniani (d. 1500), the wife of Doge Leonardo Loredan (1436-1521), is also known as Morosina Giustiniani.

Note: Caterina Loredan, Dogaressa of Venice, is featured in the family tree as the daughter of Gerolamo Loredan (d. 1474) and Donata Donà because, in some sources, she is mentioned as the sister of Doge Leonardo Loredan (1436-1521), although she may have been a daughter of Domenico Loredan.

Interestingly, near the Palazzo Contarini-Sceriman and the nearby bridge, Leonardo Loredan (d. 1675) was found dead in a boat. The unexplained death was the source of many rumors, claiming accidental death, murder by relatives, or murder by the Inquisitors of the Republic.

Andrea Loredan (d. 1750) died young, thus ending the male (agnatic) line of the branch of Santo Stefano.

Doge Leonardo Loredan in artEdit

Giovanni Bellini's portrait of Loredan is notable for being one of the first frontal portraits of a reigning doge; throughout the Middle Ages, mortal men had been portrayed in profile, while the frontal view had been reserved for more sacred subjects. Bellini's portrait was painted in 1501–02, and hangs in the National Gallery, London.[19]

Over two centuries later, when Pompeo Batoni was given a detailed programme for his large Triumph of Venice (1737) by the Odescalchi cardinal who commissioned it, Loredan was chosen to represent the office of Doge, standing amid a group of allegorical personifications.[20]

In sculptureEdit


  1. ^ Spalding, William (1841). Italy and the Italian Islands: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Time. Oliver & Boyd. p. 144.
  2. ^ a b Rendina, Claudio (1984). I Dogi: Storia e Segreti. Venice: Newton Compton. pp. 270–279.
  3. ^ Distefano, Giovanni (2011). Enciclopedia Storica Di Venezia. Venice: Supernova. p. 683. ISBN 978-88-96220-51-1.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dal Borgo, Michela (2005). "LOREDAN, Leonardo". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). 65.
  5. ^ Staley, Edgcumbe (1910). The Dogaressas of Venice: The Wives of the Doges. London: T.W. Laurie. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b c d Partridge, Loren (2015). Art of Renaissance Venice, 1400–1600. Univ of California Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-520-28179-0.
  7. ^ Barzman 2017, p. 113.
  8. ^ Barzman 2017, p. 114.
  9. ^ a b c Barzman 2017, p. 118.
  10. ^ a b Setton 1976, p. 523.
  11. ^ Barzman 2017, p. 122.
  12. ^ Norwich 2003, p. 594.
  13. ^ Mallett, Michael; Shaw, Christine (2012). The Italian Wars, 1494–1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-582-05758-6.
  14. ^ Setton 1976, p. 60.
  15. ^ Setton 1976, p. 80.
  16. ^ Norwich 2003, p. 425.
  17. ^ Norwich 2003, p. 431.
  18. ^ Colombo, Stefano. "The Commemorative Monument to Doge Leonardo Loredan in Santi Giovanni e Paolo: Rethinking the Funerary memory in Early Seventeenth-Century Venice, (Mausolus, Summer Bulletin, 2016), pp. 23-29". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ "Doge Leonardo Loredan". National Gallery, London. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  20. ^ North Carolina Museum of Art[permanent dead link]


External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Agostino Barbarigo
Doge of Venice
Succeeded by
Antonio Grimani