Portraits in the Piazza

Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan on the base of a flagpole in the Piazza San Marco, Venice
Given the Venetian Republic's hostility to the cult of the individual, it is perhaps surprising to find a portrait of one of its doges in such a prominent place as the Piazza San Marco

The portraits (there are, in fact, three) grace one of the beautiful bronze flagpole bases, which stand in front of the basilica. The bases were designed and cast by Alessandro Leopardi in or shortly before 1505. The central base sports three medallions, each containing a portrait, in profile, of Lorenzo Loredan (1501-21), who was the reigning doge at the time. When the flagpoles were first unveiled there was an outcry from the public at such shameless self-promotion on the part of Venice's head of state. To make matters worse, the medallions were gilded, which made the portraits even more conspicuous. 

Loredan was not the first doge to have his image displayed in the piazza. His predecessor, Agostino Barbarigo (1486-1501), was portrayed kneeling before the Leone Marciano at the top of the Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower), which explains why the winged lion stands off-centre.
Leone Marciano, Clock Tower, Piazza San Marco, Venice.
The kneeling doge can be seen in Jacopo de Barbari's famous map of Venice (1500). Both lion and doge were removed by Napoleon's henchman. Under Austrian rule, the lion was replaced, but not Agostino.  

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