The Salon of Giovanna Dandolo Malipiero

One important place for the exchange of ideas was the salon. The word salon first appeared in France in 1664 (from the Italian word salone, itself from sala, the large reception hall of Italian mansions).

francesco dandolo stemma
Stemma of    Francesco Dandolo



Italy had had an early tradition of the salon; Giovanna Dandolo became known as a patron and gatherer of artists as wife of Doge Pasquale Malipiero, the doge in Venice in 1457-1462. Giovanna Dandolo supported the newly introduced art of book printing in Venice, the lace industry of Burano, and acted as a financier for many writers.

She gathered a circle of ‘men of letters’ and writers around her and acted as their patron. Palazzi in La Virtu in Giuocco records that she was: 

… a princess of splendid physical and mental gifts but possessed of no private fortune … in 1469 Giovanni Spira dedicated to her the first book ever printed in Venice — Many of the early books printed in Venice are dedicated to her, in gratitude for her patronage. Four of the first books printed in Venice in 1469 were all dedicated to her patronage.

She also became a patron of the lace industry of Burano, which developed during this period. Reportedly, she gathered a circle of noblewomen and manufactured the lace herself as well.

Many of the early books printed in Venice are dedicated to her. She was referred to as the empress of book printing and the queen of lace. The only known surviving portrait of a 15th-century dogaressa is that of Giovanna Dandolo on the reverse of a medal designed by Pietro da Fano circa 1460.


Other Salons

In 16th-century Italy, some brilliant circles formed in the smaller courts which resembled salons, often galvanized by the presence of a beautiful and educated patroness such as Isabella d’Este or Elisabetta Gonzaga. Courtesan Tullia d’Aragona held a salon in the 16th-century as well.

Isabella d’Este
Elisabetta Gonzaga
Tullia d’Aragona

In 17th-century Rome, the abdicated Queen Christina of Sweden and the Colonna princess, Marie Mancini, rivaled as salon hostesses.



Humfrey, Peter. “The Portrait in Fifteenth Century Venice”. The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini (2nd ed.). New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-1-58839-425-5.

Hurlburt, Holly S. The Dogaressa of Venice, 1200-1500: Wife and Icon.

Staley, Edgcumbe The dogaressas of Venice : The wives of the doges , London : T. W. Laurie.

Uglow, Jennifer S. The Macmillan dictionary of women’s biography.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s