David Bomford, Gabriele Finaldi: Venice Through Canaletto's Eyes.
Yale University Press, 1998, 64 p.
Canaletto's Sketchbook edited by Giovanna Nepi Scire and Giorgio
Camuffo, Antique Collectors Club, 1997, 272 p. Get it from Amazon.com.
Edgar Peters Bowron, ed.: Bernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe.
Yale University Press, 2001, 304 p. Get it from Amazon.com
Article added on
August 29, 2001
Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as
"Canaletto" (Venice, 1697 - 1768).
His works portraying his native city go beyond a simple representation. They
are neither pure inventions nor mere recreations. His use of light, his capacity to reduce the architectural information
and to combine different perspectives give it a special quality. The
exhibition "An Imaginary Venice" stresses, as its title
indicates, Canaletto's subjective vision of Venice.
Before Canaletto, there was Luca
Carlevarijs (Udine, 1663 - Venice, 1730). He
was a pioneer of Venetian vedutismo and the real precursor of
Canaletto. Another painter was the Dutch Gaspar van Wittel, who spent the
years 1694-95 in Venice. However, there is a substantial difference in the
artistic approach of the two men: Van Wittel treated his visions of Rome,
Naples and Venice with the same, accurate style whereas
Carlevarijs evoked a mythical and symbolic Venice, painting the city
through the filter of his subjectivity, e.g. changing the perspectives.
Canaletto was influenced by Carlevarijs, especially regarding the
concentration on a limited number of symbolic places in Venice such as San
Marco and the Grand Canal. Antonio Canal also used other sources of
inspiration. However, his way of showing the space and formulating it in a
surface of color is not inspired by any predecessor. In a revolutionary
study in 1985, the Swiss art historian André Corboz ended the myth of the
"photographic painter" with his two-volume monograph entitled Canaletto.
An Imaginary Venice (published in Milan). Antonio Canal was not limited to what his eyes
Canaletto, although considered the leading vedutista, was not
alone. Bernardo Canal (Venice, 1674-1744), his father, is also present at
the exhibition with a major panoramic view painting. His nephew Bernardo Bellotto
(Venice, 1722 - Warsaw, 1780) had the privilege of learning directly from
Canaletto himself and had an international career which took him to
Rome, to the court of Augustus III in Dresden, to the Vienna of Empress Maria
Theresa. He ended his career as Court Painter for the King of Poland in
Warsaw. Therefore, he ventured successfully into genre, portraiture,
allegory and history painting. By the way, the three of them, Bernardo
Canal, Antonio Canal and Bernardo Bellotto all called themselves "Canaletto",
creating a lot of confusion and erroneous attributions.
Michele Marieschi (Venice, 1710 - 1743), like Canaletto and his father
Bernardo Canal, came from the Baroque world of theatre decoration, before
becoming a master of vedute and caprichos. Francesco Guardi
(Venice, 1712 - 1793) is another prominent contemporary of Canaletto. He
created almost fantastic views of Venice, reminiscent of the city's
glorious past. The main difference between him and Canaletto is that he
transparent representation of the atmosphere. Guardi is more lyrical and
melancholic in his vedute of Venice than Canaletto.
The exhibition at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is divided into three
sections, comprising some 100 works of which 55 are by Canaletto. The first
section opens with 31 etchings by Antonio Canal, made between 1740
and 1745, in which capriccios alternate with views of Venice and its
surroundings. Breaking away from his
predecessors, Canaletto combined the topographical view, the capriccio of ruins and the landscape
The second and central section is devoted to oil paintings. The
capriccios juxtapose Venetian and Roman classical architectural motifs in
a poetic atmosphere. This part of the exhibition allows for comparison
since it includes also the works of Canaletto's contemporaries Luca Carlevarijs, Michele Marieschi, Francesco Guardi,
Bernardo Canal and Bernardo Bellotto. Therefore, it is possible to compare
different interpretations of the same places.
third section is dedicated to etchings by Antonio Visentini (1688-1782) from the Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus
Celebriores which reproduce Canaletto's most famous and exact views of
Venice painted between
1725 and 1740. The 38 prints are divided into two series. The first takes
the form of a route along the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge to the
Punta della Dogana and from Rialto to the North entrance; the second
crosses the city from the northern entrance to the Piazza San Marco. The
last 12 prints illustre smaller squares in the city. These etchings helped
to promote Canaletto internationally and changed the world's image