The Splendour of Venice
admin 23 February 2016

through the eyes of Canaletto, Bellotto, Guardi and of the great landscape painters of the 19th century

–   The exhibition in Palazzo Martinengo in Brescia, from January 23 to June 12, 2016  –


The Venetian landscape painting takes as its subject one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Melting pot of art, culture, religions, businesses, monuments and breathtaking views, Venice has attracted travellers, merchants, scholars and especially painters, who fixed on canvas squares, churches, canals, lights, reflections and the changing atmosphere of this place out of time. Over the centuries the city has been so often immortalized by Italian and foreign artists to result in the birth of landscape painting, iconographic genre particularly appreciated by educated and wealthy travellers on the Grand Tour, eager to return home with a faithful snapshot of the beauties admired in Italy.

Until June 12, 2016, Palazzo Martinengo welcomes a selection of masterpieces by Canaletto, Bellotto, Guardi and the most important painters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from public and private Italian and European collections, some new and others never exhibited in public, that show how the luck of the genre did not end with the decadent views by Francesco Guardi in the late eighteenth century, but had still extraordinary vitality throughout the nineteenth century. The exhibition is inaugurated by the two noble fathers of Venetian landscape painting: Gaspar van Wittel – the first to perform views topographically faithful in the late seventeenth century – and Luca Carlevarijs, who returned the image of a monumental and grand city, filled with colourful and natural spots.


They both opened the way to the extraordinary talent of Canaletto, the protagonist of the second section. Here, his views, immersed in a natural light, with enlarged perspective thanks to the aid of the optical camera, dialogue with those grey and milky colours taken from his father Bernardo Canal, and those with intense chiaroscuro contrasts from his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, who then had great success at the European courts of Dresden, Vienna and Warsaw.

The third section shows the works of the major active painters between the second and third quarter of the eighteenth century, each of which gave his personal sentimental and pictorial interpretation of the most famous places in Venice: the Italians Michele Marieschi, Antonio Joli, Apollonio Domenichini Antonio Stom, and the Swedish Johan Richter, Carlevarijs student, who used a highly original palette based on the shades of pink, yellow and orange.

A hundred artworks describe the charm of the city that represented, more that any other one, an everlasting myth in the collective imagination.  

In the “Venice reflected in copper” section it is possible to admire a fine selection of carvings by Canaletto, Marieschi and Visentini. Thanks to the circulation in thousands of copies, their prints helped to spread the image of the Serenissima throughout Europe and to consolidate its myth. Absolute and idealized space of Canaletto’s Venice becomes a vague and remote place in the works that Francesco Guardi realized in the second half of the eighteenth century: a city seen in fading from bright flashes and indistinct colour halos preluding modern painting, anticipating the sentimental atmospheres of romantic aesthetics.

Key figure in the transition of landscape painting between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, who interpreted with romantic sensibility the great tradition of the Grand Siècle, by Canaletto and Guardi. His canvases, lively and sparkling, are compared with those of other artists active in the first half of the nineteenth century, such as Vincenzo Chilone, Giovanni Migliara, Giuseppe Borsato, Francesco Moja and Giuseppe Canella. Realizing unusual views, atmospheres and contexts, these painters helped to renew the image of Venice, updating it and enriching it with details. After the room dedicated to Luigi Querena, Francesco Zanin and members of Grubacs family, there are the paintings by Ippolito Caffi, who more than anyone else knew how to detach from the eighteenth-century tradition modernizing its pictorial vocabulary in the direction of European Romanticism, exploring new subjects and atmospheres, such as in the suggestive night views torn by flashes of light. Finally, the last section features paintings realized over the last two decades of the nineteenth century by Guglielmo Ciardi, Pietro Fragiacomo and Rubens Santoro, artists sensitive to the echoes of Impressionism that, with their observation of light and colours of the lagoon under changing hours of the day, perpetuated the timeless charm of the city until the beginning of the twentieth century.

At the end, as the last “gem” of the exhibition, the “Venice theatre of life” section, with paintings with scenes from everyday life set in fields and squares, in streets, squares and canals, signed by Milesi, Zezzos, Favretto, Belloni, Da Rios and Inganni.


Davide Dotti