Painting: One Last Dramatic Moment

The once great republic of Venice was dying. Spies kept watch on the Piazza San Marco, clerics confiscated books by Voltaire and Rousseau, and not infrequently a tourist would stumble upon a dead body ignominiously tagged "For treason against the state." Throughout the 18th century, Venice still ranked as the favorite playground of Europe, but with its possessions dwindling, its power declining, and its wealthy reveling in pomp and cant, all that remained was shimmer and shadow.

Of all Venice's once-grand traditions, none seemed destined for a more in glorious end than...

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