«Venice, town of the eye» is an established term in literature, referring to our faculty of seeing. But seeing can be an unconscious perception, as well as a very conscious form of contemplation, with consequences in the field of the arts. We can make a distinction between a “recognizing seeing” and a “seeing seeing” (to borrow expressions used by Max Imdahl in 1972). The former is preconditioned and has much to do with pleasurable perception, for example seeing Venice, while the latter is unconditioned and stimulates the act of cognition. Hence, “seeing seeing” is essentially the mode of perception of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Comparing the different types of Venetian painting with those in other places, especially in France, shows significant differences and substantiates the suspicion that Venetian art was scarcely a part of the European Enlightenment. As far as artistic standards are concerned, the Venetian Republic – unlike Milan or Naples – would not appear to have played any active part in the Italian Enlightenment, owing to its restrictive social system.