Canaletto's technique of filling up paintings with persons and situations

One very peculiar aspect in Canaletto's paintings is the use of very realistic and humorous snapshots of people to create a lively atmosphere in all the painted scenes.

A quite large population has always filled up the city of Venice, making it alive with their personalities: it's a city where you walk, where you have to expose yourself, you cannot hide in protecting moving boxes ...

What may usually be considered a "filling up of space" with human forms, in Canaletto, becomes a recreation of the life in the city, being it Venice or London.

I am talking of "staffage", which defines the idea of putting people in urban architectural contexts to make them alive and more realistic. Canaletto did not invent the trend, but was surely the first major exponent.

Canaletto loved Venice, and his staffage is humane stories, shown as real as they may be, painting snapshots taken with a lot of care and quite 'photographic' work.

We notice men and women dedicated to everyday activities, children playing, dogs, working people, beggars, and tourists or rich elegant characters, who in the end were his prospective customers.

Each character has a defined personality, and Canaletto's skill shows in making them alive with just a few brush touches.


He could in this way fill up big scenes with a lot of people, each with his own definite personality, and not only paint blobs in the scene, but also give a well-defined presentation of (almost) a unique personality and charm, always from a precise perspective size context, to make the image as real as it can be expected.

... and pissing men, salesmen in the market (or in the street), gondola rowers ... you name it, Venice's everyday life.

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