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Multidisciplinary approaches to food and foodways in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean

Sylvie Yona Waksman

Trading goods, trading tastes

Food habits and tableware in Venice

The connection with the Mamluk Sultanate

Valentina Vezzoli


Thanks to its geographical position and its leading role in the Mediterranean region, Venice developed during the Middle Ages important cultural, economic and political connections with the Islamic world. Between the 13th and the 15th centuries, Venice became the main commercial partner of the Mamluk Sultanate; ships carrying spices, precious textiles and artistic objects (glassware, metals, ceramics) left the harbours of Alexandria, Beirut and Acre for the Serenissima, from which these products were later traded all over Europe.
This paper focuses on the rich material culture from the Islamic world that was present in Venice in the Late Middle Ages, taking into account in particular the presence of ceramic artefacts discovered in the lagoon that were imported from the Mamluk Sultanate (Egypt and Syria) and identified during archaeological investigations. Supported by this material evidence, this article reconstructs the most popular ceramic types from the Islamic world that have been found in the city and endeavours to describe their use in Venetian kitchens and dining rooms, focusing in particular on flavours, recipes and aromas.

Texte intégral

Venice in the Mediterranean Sea: the connection with the Mamluk Sultanate

1The history of Venice is marked by intense political, cultural and economic relations with the Mediterranean world and in particular with its oriental basin.

  • 1 Before the plague of 1576-1577 Venice contained about 168,000 inhabitants (Palumbo Fossati Casa 20 (...)

2The Serenissima was, during the Middle Ages, one of the leading authorities in sea trade, being represented in all the main ports of the region: Alexandria, Beirut, Acre, etc. (Ashtor 1977; Lane 1982; Howard 2006, pp. 59‑71). The city of Venice was at that time a huge market,1 producing and trading a wide variety of objects (glass, furniture, precious textiles, jewels, ceramics, spices, etc.) that were exported all over Europe.

3In order to maintain this supremacy, Venice developed profitable diplomatic and political relationships with the main powers of the region and, from the second half of the 13th century until the beginning of the 16th century, became the main commercial partner of the Mamluk Sultanate, which took power in Syria and Egypt in 1250, establishing its capital in the city of Cairo.

  • 2 The first Venetian consul was probably that of Alexandria, who took office at the beginning of the (...)

4Mamluk Egypt and Syria constituted the richest markets of the Mediterranean area, where spices, drugs, textiles and ceramics were imported from all the Near East and from Central Asia and China to be traded towards European ports. Many merchants from Spain, France and the Italian Maritime Republics (Genoa was in fact one of the main economic adversaries of the Serenissima) developed important commercial relations with the Mamluks. Nevertheless, Venice was able to maintain a leading role within this competitive scene, being the supreme trading partner with Syria and Egypt (Pedani 2002, p. 298) (fig. 1). Indeed, in 1254 the Mamluk Sultan al‑Mu’izz Aybak (r. 1250‑1257) reinforced and facilitated political and economic agreements with the Italian city (Ashtor 1983, p. 12; Pedani 2002, p. 298), allowing the Serenissima to trade and travel in the entire Sultanate, even during the war between Mamluks and Christian countries (Pedani 2002, p. 300). From the beginning of the 13th century, the Venetians owned a fondaco in Alexandria and just a few decades later they added another fondaco and a church to their possessions; moreover, they were allowed to use one of the urban public baths (Pedani 2002, pp. 301‑302). Between 1323 and 1344, Venice was forced to stop trading with Egypt because of the papal interdiction (Howard 2006, p. 75); the fondaco was temporary abandoned and re-established later (Pedani 2002, p. 302). The Venetians also opened a fondaco in Damascus in 1375, and posted consuls and vice-consuls in the main commercial cities of Syria and Egypt (Alexandria, Beirut, Acre, Tripoli, Hama, Ramla).2

Fig. 1 – Venice and its connections with the Mamluk Sultanate.

Fig. 1 – Venice and its connections with the Mamluk Sultanate.

5Venice was not only dominant in Mediterranean trade, but as the main centre for the entire northern Adriatic region, it also controlled trade routes to France, Germany and Flanders. The city supervised the circulation of goods from northern Europe to the Orient and vice versa. Many Italian cities conducted important business with Venice: Florence sold fine linen textiles and bought wool, silk, gold and silver, wax and sugar; Milan, Bergamo, Como, Novara and Cremona were regularly supplied from the Venetian market and sold their goods there (Molmenti 1973, p. 226). Markets were located in different quarters of the city: Rialto was definitely the most important, followed by San Pietro di Castello, San Polo, Piazza San Marco, etc. (Molmenti 1973, p. 227). Italian and foreign merchants lived in residences compatible with their work, fondaci, where they administrated their commercial interests.

Traded goods and diplomatic gifts

  • 3 The export of wood and iron to Muslim countries was prohibited during the late 13th century since (...)

6The diplomatic and commercial connection between the Republic of Venice and the Mamluk Sultanate enabled the circulation of an astonishing range of goods from both sides. The Venetian ships, galere, sailed from the city full of wool and linen textiles from northern Europe, furs, Venetian velvets, soap, paper, wood and metals (gold, silver, lead, copper, iron)3 for the Mamluk ports. There, the galere were loaded with spices (Molmenti 1973, p. 225, n. 1) (above all pepper, but also cloves, cinnamon, cassia, cubeb, ginger, sugar, cardamom, etc.), balsams (indigo, sandalwood, sulphur, amber, musk, incense, myrrh, etc.), pearls and gemstones, silk, cotton, carpets and other textiles (velvets, ermine, golden fabrics, stained wools, etc.) (Howard 2006, pp. 75‑80).

7At the end of the 15th century, the Mamluk commercial connection made up 45% of Venetian Mediterranean trade; the Serenissima organized large shipments called mude twice a year (in spring and summer) which were directed to Beirut and Alexandria (Howard 2006, p. 77). Several galere left Venice regularly every year for the Orient (Brusegan 1991, p. 28).

8Precious objects, spices, balsams and luxurious textiles also reached Venice for a completely different reason: as diplomatic gifts, used to promote and reinforce political and commercial alliances. The exchange of gifts between the Mamluk Sultanate and Venice occurred especially during the 15th century, becoming even more substantial at the end of it, when conflicts between Europe and the Mamluks and the advance of the Portuguese commercial fleet threatened the established Mediterranean trade and the two powers tried to reinforce their bond.

9The Mamluks sent to the Doge a standard gift package, made up of Chinese porcelains, spices, scents, balsam oils and textiles. When the Venetian ambassador Domenico Trevisan arrived in Cairo in 1512, he brought with him crystal vessels mounted with gold, luxury textiles, furs and blocks of cheese (Behrens-Abouseif 2014, pp. 109‑110). A few years earlier, another Venetian emissary, Benedetto Sanudo, had presented to the Sultan, during an official visit in 1502, luxury textiles, furs, and Parmesan cheese, receiving in return chickens, sweetmeats, watermelons and twenty pieces of Chinese porcelain of various sizes for the doge of the Serenissima (Howard 2006, p. 84; Carboni 2006, pp. 370‑372, selection made by G. Curatola).

10Italian archives mention in detail the nature of gift packages that arrived in Venice from Egypt. From these texts it clearly appears that the Doge particularly appreciated Chinese porcelain, regularly offered by the Mamluk Sultan (Behrens-Abouseif 2014, pp. 107‑112; Vezzoli 2019, pp. 835‑836): in 1442, Doge Foscari received 30 Chinese items of porcelain; in 1461 Doge Malipiero, 20 items, and in 1490 Doge Barbarigo, 33 items. Chinese porcelains were in demand all over Europe, and Italian and European merchants came expressly to Venice in order to buy these luxurious and exotic objects. They were also attracted to Islamic objects, and archives mention the purchase of Syrian wares frequently referred to as “porcellana domaschina” (Spallanzani 1997, pp. 50‑52).

Flavours, recipes and aromas of the Orient in Venice

11The Venetians were not just commercial partners of the Mamluk Sultanate, they were also great admirers of Islamic and Oriental culture, art and flavours. The influence of the Orient was thus reflected in architecture, in the decoration of their houses, in food habits and tastes.

12As also noted in Palumbo Fossati Casa’s study of Venetian inventories of the 16th century (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013), the houses of the noble or merchant classes in Venice contained every comfort: rich furniture (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, pp. 49‑51; Molmenti 1973, pp. 367‑369) and luxurious objects from all around the world (northern Europe, Egypt, southern Italy, China, etc.) (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, pp. 49‑51). The interiors of their houses mirrored the Venetians’ ambitions in the international market and their open attitude towards different cultures, fashions and tastes.

  • 4 The richest list of objects from the Orient has been identified in the inventory of the Silvestri (...)

13The houses of merchants above all were frequently embellished with objects imported through Mediterranean trade, in particular from the Near East and the Far East. Textiles and carpets were particularly appreciated. Usually mentioned in the inventory lists are panni, drappi, cossin or tapedi: cairini (from Cairo), damaschini (from Damascus), ormesini (from Hormuz, in Persia); camelotto (camel-hair fabric initially from Arabia and later also produced in Venice and its colonies) as well as textiles of silk: samito (from samit textiles), baldachino (from Baghdad), taffeta (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 137).4 Unfortunately, especially in regard to ceramic assemblages, notarial inventories do not always mention the exact provenance of these objects, which are generally defined as “alla forestiera” (from foreign countries) or as “moreschi”, “turcheschi”, “suriani”.

  • 5 It was even necessary to set restrictions on the consumption of food and drink during banquets and (...)

14The prosperity of the city and its fascination for the Orient also influenced food habits and practices; Venetians actually became more and more attracted to good food and good drink and to the arts of cooking and feasting.5 Their tables were finely decorated with oriental tablecloths and set with silverware, cups and jugs, basins, porcelains and other precious wares.

The kitchen

  • 6 Murano glass production was at its highest level during the 15th and 16th centuries (Palumbo Fossa (...)

15The kitchen was the centre of family life, where food was prepared and where, especially in more modest residences, family members could warm themselves. This space was rich in colour, embellished by the objects of pewter and copper and by the colourful ceramics, frequently imported from the Orient, that were placed on its sideboards and tables (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 151). The Venetian kitchens of the upper classes were fully equipped with cutlery (forks, knives, spoons), jugs and pots often made of silver that were bought in northern Italy, cooking pots and frying pans made of pewter (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 51) or copper, glassware (ewers and glasses) from the island of Murano6 and ceramics (dishes and bowls for serving and consuming food). Inventory lists use the general word “maioliche” or “maioliche fine” to indicate ceramic vessels, the provenance of which is unfortunately not clear. We may assume that most of the tableware and kitchenware in Venetian houses was locally produced (as attested by the rich archaeological evidence), but wealthy houses also possessed entire table assemblages that consisted of imported items from China or the Near East.

Flavours and recipes

  • 7 Venetian stores stocked about 5,000 tons of spices, 2,500 tons of which consisted of pepper and sa (...)

16Among the products from the Orient that reached Venice and Europe, spices were the most appreciated and desired. Indeed, more than 70% of Italian recipes of between the 14th and the 16th centuries required the use of spices. The most popular were sugar, pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, representing 95% of the spice trade (Durel 2006, pp. 84‑85),7 as well as cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, cumin, coriander and many others.

  • 8 Translated from Brusegan 1991, p. 26: “Gengiovo, aloe, temerindi, costo, zucchero, cannella, comin (...)

17In Pegolotti’s treatise on merchant practices, the Egyptian city of Alexandria is described as one of the richest markets for spices, where merchants could buy “gengiovo, aloe, tamarind, sugar, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, cloves, galangal, nutmeg, long pepper, rhubarb, saffron, cardamom, cubeb, lavandula dentata, scammony, mace and zenzeverata to eat”.8

18Every morning in the Rialto market, merchants bargained over the price of spices, sold to local and international buyers for culinary or medicinal purposes.

19Venetian recipes generally employed a rich variety of spices and frequently required the use of saffron and of different types of pepper (particularly appreciated was melegueta pepper or grains of paradise, a very aromatic grain from the ginger family, and the cubeb, a tailed pepper with a pungent and slightly bitter taste). Unlike the recipes of Tuscany, in those of Venice cumin and anise were not particularly common (Durel 2006, p. 86). Italian and Venetian culinary art flourished during the 14th and 15th centuries. Cooks became particularly masterful in the use of oriental spices to create delicious and sophisticated dishes. Following the oriental tradition, they used sugar to replace honey, saffron for providing a yellow colour and a mix of spices (mainly pepper, cinnamon, ginger and saffron, but also cloves, nutmeg, cubeb, cardamom, cumin, galangal and coriander) to season their dishes (Brusegan 1991, p. 38).

20The use of these spices indicates the wealth of the consumers, who were ready to spend what it cost to procure the most exotic and precious ingredients. Spices were also much used for medicinal purposes, as they were considered to possess therapeutic properties.

  • 9 Translated from Brusegan 1991, pp. 50 and 80: “Se tu voi fare ambrosino per XII persone, toy VI ca (...)

21Spices were used in Venetian recipes to provide strong tastes and aromas. A Venetian cook of the 14th century describes the recipe for a perfect Ambrosino that demonstrates an abundant use of spices (around 750 grams): “If you want to cook ambrosino for 12 people, buy 6 low-fat capons and 2 libre of almonds, and 1 libra of raisins, and one of date, and 1 libra of prunes, and 1½ of ginger, and 1½ of nutmegs together with cloves and full saffron, and half of a libra of fine sweet spice […] This dish can be sour and sweet and vermillion, put it in some bowls and put some powdered spices above them.”9

22Other typical dishes of that period were Oriental in taste: the Salsa Sarasinesca (made of almonds, raisins, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and other spices: Brusegan 1991, p. 81), the Suppa Dorata (made of bread, fried with whipped eggs and sugar and then seasoned with rose water, saffron and much sugar: Brusegan 1991, p. 82) and the Pollastri Assabecho Molto Buoni (boiled chicken with a raisin and vinegar soup, seasoned with saffron and galangal: Brusegan 1991, p. 86).

23More generally, spices were used to prepare sauces (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, melegueta pepper), sweets (cinnamon, sugar, anise) and soups (saffron, coriander), to season meat or fish (cloves, cumin, coriander), to spice cured meats (cloves, nutmeg), to colour food (saffron, sandalwood, curcuma) and also to cleanse breath (cloves).

24Given this appreciation for oriental flavours and products, we can imagine that Venetian nobles and merchants would have used their exotic tableware to serve and consume these exotic courses, in particular porcelain from China and Islamic wares. Evidence for this has been found in the archaeological record.

Ceramic evidence from the Mamluk Sultanate found in Venice

25During archaeological investigations and occasional surveys carried out in the lagoon of Venice, several ceramic fragments from Mamluk Egypt and Syria, dated to between the 13th and the 15th century, have been discovered. However, only a few examples have been published so far; a large amount of this evidence still needs to be analysed in detail. In 2003, Saccardo, Lazzarini and Munarini (Saccardo et al. 2003, pp. 401‑404) provided a general description of ceramic imports attested in Venice, focusing also on Mamluk ware (found in S. Alvise, Costanziaca, Ammiana and from occasional surveys carried out in the lagoon). Their study showed that the two main ceramic groups from Mamluk Egypt and Syria found in Venice are siliceous ceramics with blue and black decoration painted under colourless glaze, and ceramics with blue decoration painted underglaze (Saccardo et al. 2003, pp. 401‑402). In 2012 Lazzarini and Tonghini published a dozen sherds, found by the Venetian scholar E. Canal, that belong to the group of wares with decoration painted in blue under transparent colourless glaze and are dated to the late 14th-15th centuries (Lazzarini & Tonghini 2012, pp. 402‑407). A few examples of imitations of Chinese celadons, also produced in Mamluk Egypt and Syria, have been found in the lagoon (Saccardo et al. 2003, p. 404).

26Besides these Mamluk finds, archaeologists discovered other productions from the Islamic world in Venice (earlier productions from Egypt and Syria, dated to the late 11th and 12th centuries, as well as wares from Iran, the Maghreb and Spain) and wares from the Byzantine world, the Far East and northern and southern Italy (Saccardo et al. 2003, pp. 395‑420).

27It is thus clear that besides local and regional productions, mainly for everyday use, the city of Venice imported ceramic assemblages from all over the Mediterranean basin and even beyond.

  • 10 The author has worked on a project focused on the study of the new ceramic evidence from the Mamlu (...)

28One archaeological context, the publication of which is in progress,10 shed interesting light on the main ceramic types that Venice imported from the Mamluk Sultanate. This ceramic material was found during archaeological excavations carried out by the Soprintendenza Archeologia del Veneto in Sant’Alvise (located to the north of the town, fig. 2) in 1996 and 1997. This area was reclaimed, filled in and later urbanised starting in the 14th century, following general works that the Serenissima required in order to create new inhabitable spaces because of the demographic growth of the city (Bortoletto 2000).

Fig. 2 – The area of Sant’Alvise, Venice.

Fig. 2 – The area of Sant’Alvise, Venice.
  • 11 The publication of this ceramic study, in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle (...)

29A group of sherds from this site has been attributed to Egyptian and Syrian productions dated to the 14th and the 15th centuries. Although this material will not be presented here in detail,11 this evidence demonstrates the appreciation of Venice’s inhabitants for siliceous wares with underglaze decoration in blue or black and blue (as has been shown in previous studies), and also that imports from the Mamluk world were quantitatively more significant than has been thought so far (few sherds had been found previously).

Functions and colours of the ceramics imported from the Islamic world

  • 12 One example of albarello containing the manna trickled from relics was found in the tomb of S. Nic (...)

30The ceramic assemblages from the lagoon of Venice that have been identified are definitely associated with dining at table: bowls of different dimensions and dishes form table sets, except for a few examples of jars, whose function is not easy to determine. We know that jars and albarelli reached Venice12 and other destinations as containers of precious substances or medicinal products, but a more domestic use of these jars could also have been possible.

  • 13 For a general presentation of siliceous wares with underglaze painting from the Mamluk Sultanate a (...)

31It appears to be clear that Venetians particularly appreciated siliceous wares, with fine white bodies handsomely decorated with patterns typical of the Islamic and the Oriental worlds (floral motifs, arabesques and geometrical patterns, pseudo-epigraphic decorations). The presence of the so-called “Blue and White Ware” (blue decoration under transparent colourless glaze), produced in Mamluk Egypt and Syria, was probably related to the high appreciation of Chinese porcelains; indeed, this Islamic production was influenced by the decorative repertoire of Chinese objects.13

32These ceramic articles were displayed on Venetians’ sideboards and tables and were used to serve courses during meals and banquets. The large deep bowls were probably used for serving soups, the dishes for meat and fish courses and the small bowls for sauces, fruits, etc. One of the main colours displayed at Venetian tables was thus blue, which was also associated with Chinese porcelains.

  • 14 As attested in Rebaldi’s collections Blue and White ceramics were generally described as “bianchi (...)

33The use of Islamic wares on Venetian tables is not frequently attested in the archives, where only general references to oriental ceramics are made (for example, the definition “alla domaschina”, indicating a possible Syrian provenance)14 and more importance is definitely attributed to porcelains. Although precise descriptions of ceramic imports and their provenances are not to be found in the written sources, archaeological evidence provides more information regarding the presence in Venice of such products. Indeed, they have been quite frequently attested in material from the lagoon, and were used primarily as tableware, organized in sets of deep bowls, dishes, small bowls, etc.

34The study of the material evidence enhances our knowledge of the already well-known appreciation of the Venetians for Oriental culture and culinary art and provides further elements for understanding, with new perspectives, the intense connection between the West and the East and the fascination of each for the other. Not only did Oriental art and architecture exert a strong influence on Venice, but Oriental tastes, flavours, cooking practices and food habits also had an important impact on its society, which discovered culinary traditions and recipes that may still be detected in modern Venetian cuisine.

35The project conducted at the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice will bring, first of all, new evidence from the lagoon regarding the imports of ceramic materials from Mamluk Egypt and Syria, providing additional quantitative and qualitative data on the ceramic trade in the Mediterranean basin. Furthermore, it will offer new elements for discussion of the impact of the “Mamluk connection” on Venetian – and later European – art and culture, focusing in particular on how Oriental taste influenced the local cuisine.


Ashtor 1977: Ashtor E., “L’apogée du commerce vénitien au Levant. Un nouvel essai d’explication”, in H.G. Beck, M. Manoussacas, A. Pertusi (ed.), Venezia: Centro di mediazione tra Oriente e Occidente. Secoli XV‑XVI, aspetti e problemi, vol. 1, Florence, 1977, pp. 307‑326.

Ashtor 1983: Ashtor E., Levant trade in the later Middle Ages, Princeton, 1983.

Beltrami 1954: Beltrami D., Storia della popolazione di Venezia dalla fine del secolo XVI alla caduta della Repubblica, Padua, 1954.

Berhens-Abouseif 2014: Berhens-Abouseif D., Practising diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate: Gifts and material culture in the medieval Islamic world, London-New York, 2014.

Bortoletto 2000: Bortoletto M., Tra due elementi sospesa, Venice, 2000.

Brusegnan 1991: Brusegnan M., Specie fine a tute cosse, Venice, 1991.

Carboni 2006: Carboni S., Venise et l’Orient, Paris, 2006.

Durel 2006: Durel A., L’imaginaire des épices. Italie médiévale, Orient lointain (xive-xvie siècle), Paris, 2006.

Howard 2006: Howard D., “Venise et les Mamluks”, in S. Carboni (ed.), Venise et l’Orient (828-1797), Paris, 2006, pp. 73‑89.

Lane 1982: Lane F.C., I mercanti di Venezia, Turin, 1982.

Lazzarini & Tonghini 2012: Lazzarini L., Tonghini C., “Importazioni di ceramiche mamelucche a Venezia: Nuovi dati”, in S. Gelichi (ed.), Atti del IX Congresso Internazionale sulla Ceramica Medievale nel Mediterraneo (Venezia, 23‑27 Novembre 2009), Florence, 2012, pp. 402‑407.

Molmenti 1973: Molmenti P.G., La storia di Venezia nella vita privata (2nd ed.), 3 vol., Trieste, 1973.

Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013: Palumbo Fossati Casa I., Dentro le case. Abitare a Venezia nel Cinquecento, Venice, 2013.

Pedani 2002: Pedani M.P., “Bahri Mamluk-Venetian commercial agreements”, in H.C. Guzel, C.C. Oguz, O. Karatay (ed.), The Turks, Ankara, 2002, pp. 298‑305.

Saccardo et al. 2003: Saccardo F., Lazzarini L., Munarini M., “Ceramiche importate a Venezia e nel Veneto tra XI e XVI secolo”, in Ch. Bakirtzis (ed.), VIIe Congrès International sur la Céramique Médiévale en Méditerranée (Thessaloniki, 11‑16 octobre 1999), Athens, 2003, pp. 395‑420.

Spallanzani 1997: Spallanzani M., Ceramiche orientali a Firenze nel Rinascimento, Florence, 1997.

Vezzoli 2013: Vezzoli V., “The Fustat ceramic collection in the Royal Museums of Art and History of Brussels: The Mamluk assemblage”, Bulletin des Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire 82, 2013, pp. 119‑168.

Vezzoli 2019: Vezzoli V., “Precious objects for eminent guests: The use of Chinese porcelain during diplomatic banquets”, in F. Bauden, M. Dekkiche (ed.), Mamluk Cairo: Historical sources and material evidence, Proceedings of the International Congress “Mamluk Cairo, a Crossroad for Embassies” (Liège, 2‑8 September 2012), Leiden, 2019, pp. 823‑842.


1 Before the plague of 1576-1577 Venice contained about 168,000 inhabitants (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 37; Beltrami 1954).

2 The first Venetian consul was probably that of Alexandria, who took office at the beginning of the 12th century. The consul was responsible for controlling trade transactions but also for judging Venetians involved in legal cases in foreign countries (Pedani 2002, p. 303; Howard 2006, p. 77).

3 The export of wood and iron to Muslim countries was prohibited during the late 13th century since these products could have been used to reinforce Muslim military equipment (Ashtor 1983, p. 27; Pedani 2002, p. 300; Howard 2006, p. 75).

4 The richest list of objects from the Orient has been identified in the inventory of the Silvestri family, who lived on Giudecca island (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 147).

5 It was even necessary to set restrictions on the consumption of food and drink during banquets and parties, in order to avoid waste (Molmenti 1973, p. 474).

6 Murano glass production was at its highest level during the 15th and 16th centuries (Palumbo Fossati Casa 2013, p. 46).

7 Venetian stores stocked about 5,000 tons of spices, 2,500 tons of which consisted of pepper and saffron (Brusegan 1991, p. 28).

8 Translated from Brusegan 1991, p. 26: “Gengiovo, aloe, temerindi, costo, zucchero, cannella, comino, pepe, gherofani, galinga, noce moscade, pepe longo, ribarbaro, zafferano, cardamoni, cubebe, spigonardi, scamonea, mace e la zenzeverata da mangiare.

9 Translated from Brusegan 1991, pp. 50 and 80: “Se tu voi fare ambrosino per XII persone, toy VI caponi magretti e II libre de mandole, e una libra de uva passa, e 1 datali, e una libra de brognole, e I ½ de genzevro, e una ½ entra noce moschate e garofani e zafarano integro, e meza libra de specie dolce fine […]. Questa vivanda vuole essere agra e dolza e vermiglia e stretta, traila indietro e dala per scudelle e polveriza specie di sopra le scudelle.

10 The author has worked on a project focused on the study of the new ceramic evidence from the Mamluk Sultanate found in the lagoon (2015-2017, University Ca’ Foscari, Venice).

11 The publication of this ceramic study, in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per il comune di Venezia e laguna, is in progress.

12 One example of albarello containing the manna trickled from relics was found in the tomb of S. Nicolò da Myra (Saccardo et al. 2003, p. 402, fig. 6).

13 For a general presentation of siliceous wares with underglaze painting from the Mamluk Sultanate and their relation to Chinese porcelains, see Vezzoli 2013, pp. 136-137.

14 As attested in Rebaldi’s collections Blue and White ceramics were generally described as “bianchi con zert foiami azuri sopra”. This description could indicate both Islamic imports and Chinese porcelains (Saccardo et al. 2003, p. 402).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Venice and its connections with the Mamluk Sultanate.
Fichier image/jpeg, 283k
Titre Fig. 2 – The area of Sant’Alvise, Venice.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M


Institut français du Proche-Orient, Département des études arabes, médiévales et modernes, BP 11‑1424, Beirut, Lebanon,

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