Rome hosts exhibition Canaletto 1697-1768 at Palazzo Braschi.
11 April-19 August. The Italian master Canaletto is honoured with a major retrospective, the largest exhibition of Canaletto works ever held in Italy, at Rome's Museo di Roma at Palazzo Braschi. Canaletto 1697-1768 celebrates 250 years since the death of the Venetian painter who revolutionised landscape painting, raising the genre to the same importance as historical and figurative painting.
More than two years in the planning, the show features 42 paintings and nine drawings by Canaletto, along with 16 archive documents on loan from some of the world's most important collections. Hailing the exhibition as “without precedent”, organisers emphasised the significance of having so many Canaletto works in one place, particularly considering that his “most beautiful works are in the museums furthest away [from Italy].”
The exhibition includes several Canaletto masterpieces such as The Grand Canal from the north, towards the Rialto bridge, and The Grand Canal with S. Maria della Carità, exhibited together for the first time, along with the manuscripts detailing their commission.
Born Giovanni Antonio Canal, the young Canaletto served his apprenticeship with his father and brother in Venice, painting opera stage sets. However, after a trip to Rome in his early 20s, Canaletto began concentrating on landscapes and ruin-rich imaginary views, known as capricci.
Best known today for his vedute of his native Venice, Canaletto depicted numerous scenes of Piazza S. Marco - from different angles and in different seasons - with many such examples on display at Palazzo Braschi. An additional treasure is his intricate pen and ink recording of the coronation of the Doge (1766), capturing the pageantry of the event in the finest of detail.
Rome residents keen to see Canaletto's portrayal of the Eternal City in the 18th-century will not be disappointed. There are several scenes from the Roman Forum, including the Arch of Settimio Severo (1743) and the Basilica di Massenzio (1753-54), as well as a wildly overgrown Colosseum (1755). The most impressive Rome work is arguably his 1755 depiction of the Campidoglio, complete with strolling nobility and clergy, and polished off with an ornate horse-drawn carriage at the bottom of the steps.
Canaletto also spent a lucrative decade - during the middle-to-latter part of his career - working in England where his paintings of less sunny scenes ended up in the collection of King George III. Perhaps his most fascinating English work on display in Rome is Chelsea from Battersea Reach, painted in 1751 before being cut in two half a century later. Palazzo Braschi shows both paintings side by side, one on loan from Britain's National Trust, the other from Cuba's National Museum in Havana.
This exhibition has plenty of centuries-old crowd-pleasers, alongside less well known paintings and sketches by the Venetian master. The show also underlines the growing importance of Palazzo Braschi which has hosted several major exhibitions recently including Artemisia Gentileschi, Piranesi and Artisti all'Opera. Canaletto can certainly be added to this list of blockbuster shows.
Cover image: Il ponte di Rialto da Nord, Venezia 1725. Torino, Pinacoteca del Lingotto Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. © Pinacoteca del Lingotto Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Torino.