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Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View reveals much about Venice at the turn of the sixteenth century; however, by its nature as a bird’s-eye view, it also conceals some essential aspects of the city. One of these is purely visual: for anybody viewing Venice at sea level, in 1500 or today, the image of the city would be defined by an element that fades into the broader picture: the bell towers, about a hundred of which dominate the skyline. As chapter 14 makes clear, bringing the bell towers back into focus also makes us aware of another way a bird’s-eye view obscures reality. From high in the air, Venice is quiet and serene, but at ground level, it was occupied by over 100,000 people and filled with sounds, none of them louder or more ubiquitous than those produced by the three hundred or so bells that rang out from their towers.

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