posted on 06/03/17
Giovanni Antonio Canal, or Canaletto (Little Canal) as he is widely known, was inspired from an early age by the great Roman vedutista Giovanni Paolo Panini. Canaletto sought to recreate vedute, or highly detailed cityscape paintings, of his hometown Venice. He merged these real life depictions with capricci, or imagined views, and due to his use of strong colours and atmospheric effects it is not always easy to distinguish reality from fiction in Canaletto’s work.
Canaletto’s paintings became a hot commodity in the 18th Century amongst wealthy Englishmen on their Grand Tour of Europe, largely due to the artistic patron and avid collector Joseph Smith. The painter’s popularity became such that he took up residency in London for 9 years between 1746–55, painting several views of the newly constructed Westminster Bridge, as well as various castles and homes of his patrons.
The Royal Collection’s vast collection of Canalettos is mainly owed to King George III – who in 1762 paid £20,000 (roughly £4 million in today’s money) for Consul Smith's collection of 50 paintings and 142 drawings.
Art Treasures of Venice (23–27 February 2018) visits the inspiration for many of Canaletto’s iconic paintings, including the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica.