1742: Canaletto in Rome

With Bernardo Bellotto? Or maybe not?

Around the year 1742 Canaletto and his nephew Bernardo Bellotto - now 20 years old - are said to have taken a drawing and painting trip together along the river Brenta, Dolo and Padova, to get new ideas for drawing, paintings and etchings that had been required.

Bellotto at this point is very much involved in Canaletto's art and well established in his skills as a painter, and since Anton Maria Zanetti the elder (di Girolamo) is keeping Canaletto's contacts for selling the paintings that come out from his workshop, so Bernardo Bellotto is in the process of becoming his uncle's alter ego.

Business is business, and in this travel together Bellotto has the precise duty of elaborating Canaletto sketches for the Smith's collection.

But ... did the trip together really happen or, since there is no record at all of Canaletto going around the peninsula, and we can only count on documentation from Bellotto, that he was there, but his uncle ... nobody knows.

By 1742 it is documented that Bellotto passes through Florence, Lucca and Rome and we also assume that he uses Canaletto's Rome early drawings from 1720 as reference for new drawings and potential paintings.

What we can imagine is that in 1742 Canaletto dedicates quite a bit of his working time to make the five Rome paintings ordered by his great buyer Joseph Smith.

These paintings, considering size and shape (vertical!), were very likely planned in advance to fit in a particular location: Smith's palace on the Grand Canal where he lived at the time, which now is called Mangilli Valmarana after its new owners.

And - very unique event - all five Rome paintings of that set are boldly signed and dated on the front by Canaletto: definitely a choice, or maybe a request from his client or ... marketing?

Rome's main monuments are portrayed in these five paintings, but in that period Canaletto let his imagination fly on a few Capriccio too, he never abandoned his love for creating images of fantasy until the end.

Interesting fact: not even one of the images of Rome in his 1720 first drawings has been used for these Joseph Smith's paintings, while they will be later used by Canaletto and Bellotto to make new paintings and drawings.

Who knows, maybe in his head the View Paintings were considered WORK, while the Capriccio was FUN.

I've always felt this way in my professional life as a photographer, too.

 

Canaletto:  [1742-45] - The Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum in Rome - Oil on canvas - Getty Center, Los Angeles - Courtesy: Google Art Project
Canaletto: [1742-45] - The Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum in Rome
Oil on canvas - Getty Center, Los Angeles - Courtesy: Google Art Project - size (HxW): 83.2x122.9 cm

Canaletto:  [ca. 1740-60] - Rome - A ruined building with a dome - Drawing - Pen and ink, with bluish-grey wash, over free and ruled pencil and pinpointing - Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 907531
Canaletto: [ca. 1740-60] - Rome - A ruined building with a dome
Drawing - Pen and ink, with bluish-grey wash, over free and ruled pencil and pinpointing - Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 907531 - size (HxW): 19.1x28.1 cm

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