Business as usual

Canaletto the Artisan Painter

There is a remark I've read on the book "The Kraken Wakes" by John Wyndham* and published in July 1953 that explains my point here:

"As for ... Art, really only became Art in the last two centuries. Essentially, before that, it was furniture for improving one's home."

XVIII century painters saw themselves as "artisans", and they were, really, Art is a modern concept, that makes the output and skills of these artisans become "invested money" for who has plenty of it.

Just and example: the Canaletto painting "The Bucintoro at The Molo, Venice, On Ascension Day", for instance, sold for $20 million in a Christie's London Auction on July 6th, 2005.

It is a 150x137 cm painting, quite big for our home settings nowadays, but nevertheless, that was sort of the standard size for Canaletto and other painters of the time.

Nowadays these artisans-of-the-past works end up in Museums where viewers can see the real thing, or ... on the web, in the website for instance.

The Canaletto Workshop

Maturity and a good business running could give also a certain psycological stability to any artist, and Canaletto was reaching his own.

But this situation always asks, at the same time, for productivity.

Canaletto was for sure quite fast with pens and brushes, but he would stay behind in his deliveries, as he wanted to always deliver a perfect painting.

This brings a question: did he have assistants to help him with the process?

He surely did, as this was a common practice in those times. But there is no documentation about whom and how many could have been his assistants, the people working in his bottega (workshop).

And sometimes we may find paintings defined as "Canaletto workshop", meaning they came from his bottega, but don't have the master's touch, the one that really may make the difference.

Bernardo Bellotto goes in there for sure, as Canaletto very likely passed his art secrets to his nephew since a very early age.

We know that Bernardo Bellotto had 15 of his paintings sent by Anton Maria Zanetti di Girolamo to the Castle Howard, in Yorkshire in 1739. Bellotto was, at this time, 17 years old.

Also in 1740 again A.M. Zanetti the elder organizes the fist travel outside Venice for Bernardo Bellotto , where he can make some paintings that he will sign as "Canaletto".

And on November 5, 1741 the young Bellotto, close to getting married, states that he can support his future family with his work: nineteen years old he was.

Talking about new generation coming to create their own recognition ...

* John Wyndham (1903-69) was the English science fiction writer author of "The Day of the Triffids (1951)" from which it was made this tense but ingenuous movie in 1962. Worth reading and watching, meet the "killer ivy" and stuff like that.


Canaletto:  [1730s] - Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo - Oil on canvas - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Christie's Auction of a Canaletto painting

[2005] - Christies auction - Venice Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day
$20 million

Canaletto's receipts to Stefano Conti & Lord Bruk

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