John Julius Norwich has kindly written of ‘The Doge Embarking’ “But the Embarkation is simply magnificent. I think it almost certainly represents the departure of Doge Francesco Morosini on his Greek campaign in 1685; it must be one of the last pictures Heinz painted; of all those that I have seen, it looks to me by far the best.”
The dynasty of Heinz painters were of Swiss origin, and Josef the Elder had worked for the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. After studying with his father, Josef Heinz theYounger arrived in Venice in the mid-seventeenth century and began to specialise in views of the city’s pageants and carnivals. His northern training gave his art an earthy realism, and he became adept at large and colourful crowd scenes, giving each of his numerous figures an individual character, and setting them against the elegant architecture of the Serenissima. In this sense he can be seen as providing a link between the early Renaissance views of Venice by artists such as Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini, and the eighteenth century vedute, peopled with colourful crowds, of Carlevaris and Canaletto.
This pair of recently re-united scenes would appear to date from circa 1690, at the end of the artist’s career. In January 1684, after lengthy debate, Venice decided to join the League formed by the Emperor Leopold against the Turks. The Imperial ambassador was summoned before the Collegio and informed of the decision. The Doge at this time was the recently elected Marcantonio Giustinian, but more importantly the Captain-General was Francesco Morosini, who led the Venetian fleet on a series of successful raids on Turkish strongholds on the Dalmatian coast in 1685. As a result he was elected Doge to succeed Gustinian in 1688, and despite illness again embarked at the head of his fleet in 1693.
John Julius Norwich inimitably describes the scene in A History of Venice: “The day before he was due to embark, Wednesday, 24 May 1693, he marched in solemn procession to the Basilica, splendidly robed in the gold-embroidered mantle of Captain-General, baton in hand. Many of his subjects, we are told, objected to the baton ‘as too manifest a sign of authority in a free and republican city’…On the following day, escorted as before by his carabiniers and halberdiers, his standard-bearers, military band and trumpeters, the Patriarch and clergy, the Signoria, the Procurators of St Mark, the Papal Nuncio and foreign ambassadors, the Senate and finally his family and friends, he proceeded in state from the Zecca at the corner of the Piazetta, along the Riva to the furthest extremity of Castello, where the Bucintoro waited to carry him across the lagoon, through a dense throng of exuberantly decorated gondolas, first to S.Nicolo on the Lido for a last prayer before achor was weighed and the ship, with her sails set and the Lion of St Mark at her prow, headed out through the Lido port towards Malvasia, where the main body of the fleet was already gathered.”