Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings” by Canaletto

"Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings" by Canaletto

“Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings” by Canaletto

“Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings” by Canaletto depicts an architectural fantasy, placing together buildings, archaeological ruins and other structural elements in fictional combinations. In this painting, Canaletto drew on his studies of identifiable sites and buildings but combined them in an imaginative form to create a poetic image. In this inventive capriccio, Canaletto brought together different architectural elements of ruins and classical buildings from Rome and Padua.

Many different versions of such compositions were produced, by various artists, indicating that there was an eager market for works of this type. They were inspired by the classical landscapes of the seventeenth century. Their appeal increased with the growing interest in antiquarianism, archaeology and the history of things of the past.

Capriccio in Art

Capriccio paintings can be anything from re-imagining a building into the future as ruins or placing structures in entirely different settings from reality. The subjects of capriccio paintings cannot be taken as an accurate depiction due to the fantastical nature of the genre. Capriccio falls under the broad genre of landscape painting.

This style of painting was introduced in the Renaissance and continued into the Baroque. This artistic freedom in capriccio paintings allows for the transformation of buildings and compositions. Some artists took elements that didn’t belong in the original inspiration such as people, animals, or plants and incorporated them into the work. It is important to remember that in the realm of Capriccio, a painting of a building is not one of record or history, but that it is a creative artwork.

Explore Capriccio Paintings


Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697 – 1768) better known as Canaletto, who was born in Venice, is famous for his paintings of the city views of Venice, Rome, and London. He was also a printmaker using the etching technique. From 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he painted the many sights of London. He was highly successful in England, thanks to a British merchant, whose extensive collection of Canaletto’s works was sold to King George III in 1762, which significantly increased Canaletto’s prestige.


  • How do you feel about these types of paintings?
  • Have you seen a Canaletto at your local art museum?
  • Which is your favourite Canaletto?

Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings

  • Title:              Capriccio: Ruins and Classic Buildings
  • Artist:             Canaletto
  • Year:              1730s
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions   Height: 87.5 cm (34.4 ″); Width: 120.5 cm (47.4 ″)
  • Museum:        Museo Poldi Pezzoli


Explore the Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Explore Museums in Milan

Explore Museums in Bologna

Twitter feedback to @joyofmuseums for the post on 13th May 2019:

Question: How do you feel about these types of paintings?

  • Buildings and nature are my favorite things to paint so I absolutely love these types of paintings!
  • I love Canaletto.
  • It’s not my favorite style
  • I want to go on holidays…. to ancient locations. 🏛😊
  • Spectacular detail from Canaletto, love it.
  • In raptures.
  • Fascinating to study.
  • Tipici virtuosismi del neoclassico.
  • The past is not dead, it’s not even past. Wm Faulkner. Hanging on what use to be. ❤
  • Ravages of time.
  • I believe in leveling a city whose business class (ie they commute 9-5m-f) keeps cramping all over the place to urbanites who have been victims of forced migration.
  • Reason is the crown of man
    Rome is the origin
    The symbolic proof as the face of the Sublime.
    Perspective as the emblem of the Glory of God.
    Aristotle under Plato.
  • Love Canaletto. Was very pleasantly surprised to find one in Havana’s museum
  • Meraviglioso.
  • like if it was painting at the last day of Jesus ✍🏽☑️
  • Canaletto is one of my heroes
  • …love them for their transportive quality…reminds us of the permanence of impermanence.
  • Love them. True windows into the past.
  • Quite surreal & evocative
  • Glorious pieces
  • Ambiguous. Glorifying ruins.
  • I like them, I think they’re a bit surreal 🙂
  • Great. Love The subject
  • Interesting.
  • Reminds me of ‘Ode to Tintern Abbey’
  • Windows into the past
  • Love them, reminds me of some place I’d like to go. Also the ability to paint a picture like that is just amazing. Paintings are like a picture of a captured thought or a memory.


“Men freely believe that which they desire.”
– Julius Caesar


Photo Credits: 1) Canaletto [Public domain]