Beginnings: 1716 on

Theater backdrops with father Bernardo

Giovanni Antonio Canal was born in Venice on October 18, 1697, son of Bernardo Canal and Artemisia Barbieri.

His father was Bernardo Canal, a successful theatrical scene painter from Venice, who was in good standing position financially, being his social situation a little below the patrician nobility.

Bernardo was at the time a painter of theatrical scenery and a view painter, and Canaletto since 1716 - together with his older brother Cristoforo, who would die 26 years old in 1722 - started helping his father with theater scenery work.

The name Canaletto very likely came out because of his height, being he a short guy:
Canaletto = little Canal.

Nevertheless, his future and well-being - as a "figlio d'arte" - was already set for him.

We know almost nothing about his youth, but there are enough records that place him in Rome in 1716 to paint the sceneries for two operas by Vivaldi e Chelleri, shown at the S. Angelo theater, as it is testified by the relative librettos.

He's again later on in Rome with father Bernardo producing the scenery for two operas by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti: "Tito Sempronio Gracco" and "Turno Aricino" which were performed at the Teatro Catranica in Rome during the carnival season of 1720.

No images are left of these sceneries, as it can be imagined, but this is not so important: what matters is that Antonio, possibly after making contact with the art that was being developed and shown in Rome at the time, decides he will not go ahead in his father's profession, but he will become a painter on his own, and painting the real or imaginary worlds he had in his head.

That was 1719, not a real breakup but rather a choice from the young Antonio Canal, that from what we can imagine was well accepted and helped by his father: you can't make oil paintings 3 meters wide without financial support, this is for sure.

Canaletto's name was inscribed for the first time in the register of the Venetian artists' guild in 1720, as pittor di vedute (view painter), this gives us an ideal date for the beginning of his solo career.

The paintings for his beginnings range from quite dreamlike and fully invented images in which Rome, with the magic of its ruins, was used as a subject, or plain views of some Roman sceneries that might have tickled his interest and - he was hoping - would interest the prospective buyers too.

Let's never forget that Canaletto - as all the painters of his time - was doing his art with the purpose of selling his works and making money, it was a profession for him, as much as for the all the others.

 

Canaletto:  [ca. 1720-21 ] - Capriccio with Gothic church and lagoon - Oil on canvas - Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza
Canaletto: [ca. 1720-21 ] - Capriccio with Gothic church and lagoon
Oil on canvas - Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza - size (HxW): 118.3x147.6 cm

Canaletto:  [ca. 1723-24] - Grand Canal Looking East from the Campo San Vio - Oil on canvas - Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Canaletto: [ca. 1723-24] - Grand Canal Looking East from the Campo San Vio
Oil on canvas - Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid - size (HxW): 140.5x204.5 cm

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