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, a connection celebrated annually in the Doge's 'Marriage to the Sea' ceremony. The ritual required the Doge to sail into the Lido in his Bucentaure (a royal golden ship) and toss a ring into the ocean, thus cementing the bond Venice held with the Adriatic. Critics also claimed that Venice during Foscari's leadership abandoned 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.
Foscari was married twice: first to Maria Priuli, and then in 1415 to Marina Nani. In 1445, his 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.
In literature and opera
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. Mary Mitford, author of the popular literary sketches of the English countryside entitled Our Village, also wrote a successful play concerned with events in Foscari's life. Mitford's play debuted at Covent Garden in 1826 with famed actor Charles Kemble in the lead.
- The posts of procuratori di San Marco appointed by the Maggior Consiglio, were , beneath the Doge, the most prestigious administrative posts of the Venetian Republic; the offices of the pocuratori, the Procuratie are the long low buildings that enfold Piazza San Marco.
- "In proclaiming the new doge the customary formula which recognized the people's share in the appointment and asked for their approval – the last vestige of popular government – was finally dropped." (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.)
- See Wars in Lombardy.
- Law, J. E. (1992). "The Venetian Mainland State in the Fifteenth Century". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Sixth Series 2: 153–174 [p. 157f]. doi:10.2307/3679103.; "empire" occurred in the tomb's inscription, though it was never officially employed (p. 163).
- Edgcumbe Staley, The Dogaressas of Venice: The Wives of the Doges (London: T. Werner Laurie).
- Von Bode, W. (1924). "Eine Porträtplakette des Dogen Francesco Foscari von Donatello: Ein Nachtrag". Berliner Museen 45 (2): 42–430.
- Illustrated and discussed by Schulz, Anne Markham (1978). "The Sculpture of Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon and Their Workshop". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. New Series 68 (3): 1–81 [p. 47f and figs. 54, 55]. JSTOR 1006192.
- Mariacher, Giovanni (1950). "New Light on Antonio Bregno". The Burlington Magazine 92 (566): 123–129.
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- Romano, Dennis (2007). The Likeness of Venice: A Life of Doge Francesco Foscari. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11202-5.
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