Nov 23, 2012

Capriccio: A Palace with a Courtyard by the Lagoon

Capriccio: A Palace with a Courtyard by the Lagoon

c. 1750–55

Antonio Canaletto

(Italian, 1697–1768)

Pen and brown ink and brush and gray and black wash over traces of graphite (?); framing lines in pen and brown and black ink

Support: Cream(1) laid paper

Sheet: 26.9 x 42.1 cm (10 9/16 x 16 9/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1930.23


Did you know?

The round building in the distance, across the lagoon, is reminiscent of the Pantheon—a former Roman temple located in Rome.


Privileged young Europeans embarking on the Grand Tour during the 1700s invariably visited Venice, where they purchased paintings, prints, and drawings to commemorate their trip. Canaletto’s vedute (view paintings) were particularly desirable as mementos of the city. This drawing is a capriccio—an artistic fantasy of architecture and landscape. Canaletto often referred to actual buildings in his capricci, manipulating and combining them to create his invented views. The palatial structure in this composition appropriates the neo-Palladian portal to the Palazzo Tasca in Venice; however, the lagoon, peasant figures, and architectural details are artifice. Traces of Canaletto’s graphite underdrawing are visible in the cloudy sky, as are the black chalk lines he carefully ruled in before delineating the building with pen and brush. The brown ink outlines of the composition contrast with Canaletto’s tints of transparent gray wash, which animate the drawing through their effect of flickering sunlight. Though three large, painted capricci paintings share compositional elements with this drawing, it is unclear whether it is a preliminary study, or an independent work of art.

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