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Made in London.

Teller of London Tales.

Art Review: The Royal Canalettos

If ever there was an exhibition to make you swoon, it’s this one: over 200 paintings, drawings and prints from the Royal Collection, on display in the majestic Queen’s Gallery in Canaletto and the Art of Venice. The Italian master is in excellent company, surrounded by his contemporaries Francesco Zuccarelli, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and Pietro Longhi.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Vivacious Venice

Venice in the 18th century was no longer a trading and military superpower and had morphed into the world’s most beautiful and seductive tourist trap. It was the required stopover on the Grand Tour, in particular for men of the British upper class. Canaletto’s paintings were the postcards used to entice these men to Venice or, once home, to serve a souvenir of their debauched stopover in this most beguiling city.

Canaletto

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Giovanni Antonio Canal (known as Canaletto) was the son of a theatrical and operatic scene painter who taught his son the art of painting stage backdrops. It wasn’t long before ‘Little Canal’ started painting the cityscapes (or ‘vedute’) for which he would become globally famous. During the 1730s, Canaletto was producing paintings at factory-speed in order to meet the foreign demands for Venetian view souvenirs. The outbreak of the War of Austrian Succession in 1740 severely reduced the number of visitors to Venice, and he turned to producing etchings of Rome and the surrounding area for local collectors. He moved to London’s Soho at the age of 49 where he painted 48 views of the capital.

John Smith

Known as Consul Smith (he was appointed British Consul in 1744), he was Canaletto’s agent and the city’s greatest patron of the arts. Smith was married to soprano Catherine Tofts, the first prima donna in London. He lived in Palazzo Balbi on the Grand Canal, which is still standing. In 1762, he eventually sold most of his art collection to George III for his adornment of Buckingham House (later to become Buckingham Palace).  The exhibition has been laid out to mirror the hanging of Smith’s paintings in Palazzo Balbi.

Exhibition Highlights

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Canaletto, ‘The Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute,’ and the painter’s last known example of this popular view.

 

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Canaletto’s ‘Overdoors’. Smith commissioned Canaletto to make a series of 13 paintings to commemorate the work of Andrea Palladio and the Palladian architectural style. These would have hung above the doors of the Palazzo Balbi.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Canaletto’s ‘Roman Views’. The painter would have used his drawings from previous visits to Rome as his ‘aide-memoire’.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

The exhibition includes 4 pastels by female Venetian artist Rosalba Carrera, on display together for the first time. Carrera was a popular artist, and Grand Tourists were desperate to have their portraits done by her.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

‘Capriccio with a monumental staircase’ by Canaletto. Capriccio in Italian means capricious or fantasy. In art, it refers to an architectural fantasy landscape painting combining buildings (often ruins) with fictional settings. This is one of Canaletto’s largest capriccios.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Canaletto and Marco Ricci both worked for the theatre, and the exhibition includes several Ricci designs for the Venetian stage. LEFT, a caricature of castrati Nicola Grimaldi (known as Nicolino) with soprano Lucia Facchinelli. RIGHT, the famed castrati Farinelli.

Canaletto, The Art of Venice, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Torquato Tasso, ‘La Gerusalemme liberate.’ This is one of the finest examples of eighteenth-century printing and contains sixty illustrations by Piazzetta.

Exhibition Details

Canaletto and the Art of Venice  is on at the Queen’s Gallery from 19 May to 12 November 2017.

Tickets from £5.50 to £11.00. Under 5s go free. You can book your tickets here.

Canaletto and the Art of Venice will be broadcast from cinemas around the world on 26 September. The film will include interviews with the curators and behind-the-scene footage.

About the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA   Nearest tube: Victoria

Opening Times:  Daily: 10.00 – 17.30 (from 22 July opens at 09.30)

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

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REIN SUPREME

Born in Paris. Made in London. Teller of London Tales.

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