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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Prà della Valle in Padua” by Canaletto

Canaletto - Prà della Valle in Padua

“Prà della Valle in Padua” by Canaletto

“Prà della Valle in Padua” by Canaletto depicts a public square in Padua, before an extensive makeover in 1775-1776 altered its appearance. The painting represents a valuable record of the city’s history and its grand piazza, with its large grassy surfaces, is bounded by the Basilica of Santa Giustina and by the University College. The open square is shown with a multitude of people, plus several horsedrawn carriages and carts making the scene animated and alive.

The painting is an example of the style called the “Venetian veduta”, which is characterised by the integration of natural and architectural elements into a composition.  Canaletto was the master of the genre and one of its finest interpreters. Canaletto has created a vibrant painting with a brightness that permeates the scene while a multitude of shadows seems to dance with the figures and buildings.

Prato della Valle

The Prato della Valle ( Prà della Valle ) is the largest square in the city of Padua and among the largest in Europe. The current configuration dates back to the period of this painting and is characterised by a central elliptical island surrounded by a water channel on whose sides is a ring of statues. There are currently 78 statues and today’s layout derives from the destruction of six statues depicting Venetian doges demolished by the Napoleonic army in 1797.

Prato della Valle

Today’s View of the Prato della Valle

On the Prato della Valle faces the imposing abbey Basilica of Santa Giustina, first constructed in the 5th century, but its present form dates to the sixteenth century. Nearby is the monumental complex of the monastery. The other churches around the square that are shown in the painting were demolished at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Padua

Padua is the capital city of the province of Padua in northern Italy. The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area. Padua is 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Venice. It hosts the University of Padua, founded in 1222, where Galileo Galilei was a lecturer between 1592 and 1610.

Padua has played an essential role in the history of art with the university attracting many distinguished artists, such as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello. The sculptor Antonio Canova produced his first work in Padua, one of which is among the statues that once stood at the Prato della Valle, but now is in the Musei Civici. Padua is the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and there is a play by Oscar Wilde entitled The Duchess of Padua.

Facts about Padua

  • First settled about 4th century BC
  • Became part of Roman power in 215 BC
  • Padua was destroyed by Attila in 426 AD
  • Padua is home to the oldest Botanical Gardens in the World
  • Padua is home to the second oldest university in Italy (1222)
  • The city is where Saint Anthony, a Portuguese Franciscan (Anthony of Padua) spent part of his life and died in 1231.
  • University where Galileo taught mathematics between 1592 and 1610
  • Hieronymus Fabricius, a pioneering anatomist and surgeon, constructed the first Anatomical Theatre in 1594

Canaletto

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.

Reflections

  • Have you seen a Canaletto at your local art museum?
  • Which is your favourite Canaletto?
  • A 300-year-old view of today’s largest public square in Europe.

Prà della Valle in Padua

  • Title:               Prà della Valle in Padua
  • Artist:             Canaletto
  • Year:               1741 – 1746
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions    Height: 39 mm (1.53 ″); Width: 87.50 mm (3.44 ″)
  • Museum:        Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Canaletto

Explore the Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Explore Museums in Milan

Explore Museums in Bologna

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“I come to wive it wealthily in Padua;
If wealthily, then happily in Padua.”

– Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew 

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Photo Credits: 1) Museo Poldi Pezzoli [Public domain] 2)No machine-readable author provided. P tasso assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

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