In 1851 the street level of Postgasse in Vienna’s first district was lowered by
several metres. In order to assure access to the portal of the Dominican Church, which had been completed in 1675, a double set of outdoor stairs was built. Bellotto’s view depicts the original situation, with the long facade of the Jesuit Seminary, on which construction began in 1623, occupying the right half of the painting. At the end of the street is the Jesuit Observatory in its original state; the upper floors of the building were later removed. The existing architecture initially created a problem for the painter: on the left side is the Baroque church façade with a structure of sculptural elements, while across from it is the horizontal, flat façade of the seminary with its regular pattern of windows. It is difficult to create a convincing perspective out of such irregularly distributed visual elements. As so often before and later, Bellotto solved this problem by using distinct shadows and by combining the various standpoints. In contrast to the sharp contours of the masonry, the staffage figures, coach, crates and barrels of the stalls seem soft and pastose. They enliven the monumental architectural setting, making it seem untouched by (human) transience. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010


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