The Grand Canal, Venice

Bernardo BellottoVers 1736-1740

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
LYON, France

Like his uncle, the famous Canaletto, Bellotto was a “veduta” (Italian for "view") specialist, meaning he painted urban monuments and panoramic views. Highly fashionable in Italy in the 18th century, the “veduta” style was particularly popular with young British aristocrats undertaking the “Grand Tour”—a visit to the European continent that formed an integral part of their education. The predecessors of souvenir photographs, “vedute” (plural) enabled travelers to keep a memento of their visits to Italian cities.

Bellotto was eager to depict Venetian architecture with great fidelity, rigor, and precision. The Balbi Palace, for example, can be recognized in the background, with the two obelisks on its roof. Behind it, the campanile of the Frari church rises on the left and the bell tower of the church of San Tomà on the right. However, the painter gives us more than an exact description by imbuing his composition with all of the magic exuded by the City of the Doges. He takes care to breathe life into this cityscape by adding a few picturesque details. Beneath a windy, silvery sky, the buildings rise majestically in the center of the composition. Small, slender, colorful silhouettes move on the gondolas, lending rhythm and animation to this theatrical scene, and contrasting with the more rigid monochrome lines of the architecture.

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  • Title: The Grand Canal, Venice
  • Creator: Bernardo Bellotto
  • Date Created: Vers 1736-1740
  • Physical Location: Lyon, France
  • Physical Dimensions: H 79 ; L 121 cm
  • Provenance: Acquis en 1891
  • Rights: Photo : © MBA Lyon - EnDetail
  • Medium: Oil on canvas