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Veduta (View Painting)


VEDUTA (VIEW PAINTING). The golden age of Vedutismo, the art of painting views of Italian cities, towns, and villages, falls with some precision within the confines of the eighteenth century. The roots of the genre lie in printed and drawn topographical images produced in the previous century, particularly in Rome, of which the Flemish artist Lieven Cruyl produced an impressive series of drawings in the 1660s, and where landscape painters such as Paul Bril (15541626) and painters of ruins such as Viviano Codazzi (1603/41670) had important sidelines painting views of real locations. It was appropriately in Rome that the first specialist view painter, and the founding father of the Italian school of view painting, Gaspar van Wittel (1652/531736), known in Italy as Gaspare Vanvitelli, settled in the 1670s, and produced his first views, in gouache and oil, in the 1680s. Born at Amersfoort in Holland, Vanvitelli shows a Dutch sensitivity to light, meticulous technique, and delicacy in the treatment of detail, combined with a convincing perspective, which distinguish it from earlier, isolated examples. He also worked in Naples and Venice, where he similarly inspired the emergence of indigenous schools of view painting.

All the main practitioners of Vedutismo were also involved in the painting of capricci, imaginary assemblages of buildings, especially classical ruins, and it was from this tradition that Vanvitelli's greatest successor in Rome, the neoclassicist Giovanni Paolo Panini (16911765), emerged in the 1730s as the leading Roman view painter of his generation, his work being especially popular among the French. In addition, Naples had a significant school of view painters, unusual in that not only were few of its members Neapolitan by birth but many were not even Italian. Vanvitelli's views, second only to those he made of Rome, were followed by similar series of the city by the Modenese Antonio Joli (c. 17001777), the most widely traveled of all the Italian eighteenth-century view painters, and of towns on the Bay of Naples by the German Jakob Philipp Hackert (17371807).

It was in Venice that, following a visit by Vanvitelli in the 1690s, the one truly native school of view painting grew up. Luca Carlevarijs (also Carlevaris; 16631730), born in Udine but Venetian by adoption, published an influential set of 104 engravings of Venetian views in 1703, and during the first decade of the century he painted a number of often large representations of particular events, the grandest form of view painting, for foreign visitors to the city. From this moment on, the development of view painting in Venice is inextricably linked to the demand for such work by foreign visitors, especially Englishmen on a grand tour. The career of Canaletto (born Giovanni Antonio Canal, 16971768) was established in the 1720s through his links with the Irish impresario Owen McSwinney, and above all with the English merchant banker, and later British consul, Joseph Smith, who was to be his greatest patron as well as his agent, ideally placed to organize commissions for souvenirs from eminent visitors to the city. By the late 1720s Canaletto had abandoned the vivid brushwork and dramatic light effects of his early work in favor of more precisely defined scenes invariably bathed in warm sunshine, presumably to cater better to his clients' tastes, and his tendency to work on an increasingly small scale was also motivated by commercial concerns. Much has been made of Canaletto's use of the camera obscura, but evidence of this is limited, and Canaletto's views, despite appearances, often involve extensive distortions and lack topographical accuracy.

Although Canaletto showed a reluctance to leave his native city, he did visit Rome in his youth (17191720) and spent nine years in England (17461755). His nephew Bernardo Bellotto (17201780), no less an artist although one of a very different character, also left Italy in the 1740s, but in his case this was to be permanent. The cold light and dark brooding quality of his paintings, even his early views of Italy, were particularly well suited to his views of the northern cities, which he portrayed in series of large canvases during his residence at the courts of Dresden (17471758 and 17621766), Vienna (17591760), Munich (1761), and Warsaw (17671780). With the early death of Michele Giovanni Marieschi (17101743), the most talented of Canaletto's rivals in the 1730s, and the departure of Bellotto, Venice found itself without a significant view painter during Canaletto's years in England. It was left to Francesco Guardi (17121793), the last of the great Venetian view painters who only turned to view painting in the second half of the 1750s, to develop a highly individual new style, one of dramatic atmospheric effects over topographical representation, that carried the genre through to its conclusion on the eve of the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797.

See also Grand Tour ; Netherlands, Art in ; Painting ; Rome, Art in .


Aikema, Bernard, and Boudewijn Bakker. Painters of Venice: The Story of the Venetian "Veduta." Amsterdam and The Hague, 1991.

Beddington, Charles. Luca Carlevarijs: Views of Venice. San Diego, Calif., 2001.

Briganti, Giuliano. The View Painters of Europe. Translated by Pamela Waley. London, 1970.

Kozakiewicz, Stefan. Bernardo Bellotto. Translated by Mary Whittall. London, 1972.

Links, J. G. Canaletto. 2nd ed. London, 1994.

Charles Beddington

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