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Venice and the Mamluks

The Mamluk empire (1250–1517) was a military-controlled sultanate that ruled lands in present-day Egypt and Syria. Trade between the Venetians and Mamluks began as early as the thirteenth century and profited both empires, strengthening their diplomatic ties. Trade led to the exchange of materials and goods as well as artistic styles and techniques. Artists in Syria and Egypt produced works of exquisite craftsmanship in glass, metal, silk, and wood to be traded with Europe, most often through the Venetians. The Venetians particularly valued the opulence and sophistication of Mamluk enameled glassware and began producing local imitations. Some of the buildings erected in Venice during the height of this trade relationship also reflected Mamluk style, which the Venetians saw as luxurious and exotic (see figs. 53, 54). The Mamluks and Venetians remained advantageous trading partners until Ottoman forces conquered the Mamluks in 1516–17. Trade between the former Mamluk lands and Venice continued, but under the auspices of Ottoman rule.

Fig. 53. Facade of the Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy, 1340–1510

Fig. 54. Mosque of Altinbugha al-Maridani, Cairo, Egypt, 1339–40.

Note similarities in the style of the arcades and crenellations to those in the Doge's Palace above.


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Velvet fragment

The lesson plan related to Venice and the Islamic World features a sixteenth-century velvet fragment from Turkey.