Francesco Foscari (1373 – 1 November 1457) was doge of Venice from 1423 to 1457, at the inception of the Italian Renaissance.
Foscari, of an ancient noble family, served the Republic of Venice in numerous official capacities—as ambassador, president of the Forty, member of the Council of Ten, inquisitor, Procuratore di San Marco, avvogadore di comun— before he was elected in 1423, thus defeating the other candidate, Pietro Loredan. His task as doge was to lead Venice in a long and protracted series of wars against Milan, governed by the Visconti, who were attempting to dominate all of northern Italy. Despite the justification of Venetian embroilment in the terraferma that was offered in Foscari's funeral oration, delivered by the humanist senator and historian Bernardo Giustiniani, and some encouraging notable victories, the war was extremely costly to Venice, whose real source of wealth and power was at sea, and to her ally Florence; they were eventually overcome by the forces of Milan under the leadership of Francesco Sforza. Sforza soon made peace with Florence, however, leaving Venice adrift.
In 1445, Foscari's only surviving son, Jacopo, was tried by the Council of Ten on charges of bribery and corruption and exiled from the city. Two further trials, in 1450 and 1456, led to Jacopo's imprisonment on Crete and his eventual death there.
News of Jacopo's death caused Foscari to withdraw from his government duties, and in October 1457 the Council of Ten forced him to resign. However, his death a week later provoked such public outcry that he was given a state funeral.
Beside his profile portrait by Lazzaro Bastiani, Foscari commissioned a bas-relief bronze plaquette from Donatello, which survives in several examples. His figure kneeling in prayer to St Mark figured over the portal to the Doge's Palace until it was dismantled by order of the revolutionary government, 1797; the head was preserved and is conserved in the Museo dell'Opera di Palazzo Ducale. His monument by the sculptor Antonio Bregno in collaboration with his architect brother Paolo was erected in Santa Maria dei Frari, Venice. Foscari's life was the subject of a play The Two Foscari by Lord Byron (1821) and an episode in Samuel Rogers' long poem Italy. The Byron play served as the basis for the libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave for Giuseppe Verdi's opera I due Foscari, which premiered on 3 November 1844 in Rome.
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