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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“A Regatta on the Grand Canal” by Canaletto

"A Regatta on the Grand Canal" by Canaletto

“A Regatta on the Grand Canal” by Canaletto

“A Regatta on the Grand Canal” by Canaletto depicts the annual carnival event in Venice which started in the 14th century and continues to this day. The city of Venice hosted regattas in honour of distinguished visitors as well as the annual carnival Regatta event. Some of the figures in the foreground wear the ‘bauta’, a costume consisting of a white mask and black cape which was typically worn during the carnival. This painting features the one-oared light gondola race and the temporary floating pavilion on the left, from which prizes in the form of coloured flags were presented to the winners.

This picture is from a series of Grand Canal painted by Canaletto that depict Venice’s reputation as a city of festivities.  The ornate temporary structure bears the coat of arms of Carlo Ruzzini who ruled as Doge of Venice from 1732 until 1735. Spectators fill boats along both sides of the Grand Canal and in addition to the balconies of the palaces, many of which are decorated with colourful hangings. In addition to the colour and spectacle, the eight-oared barges have been specially decorated for the occasion.

This Canaletto is a typical example of the vedute paintings popular with Grand Tour travellers of the 1700s as a visual record of their travels. Canaletto was one of the more famous painters of city views or vedute, especially of Venice. From 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he created many paintings of the sights of London. He was highly successful in England and became famous thanks to the British merchant and connoisseur Joseph Smith who sold his extensive collection of Canaletto’s paintings to King George III in 1762. Canaletto’s paintings became highly prized because during the 18th-century as European monarchs vied for his grandest pictures.

Many of Canaletto’s paintings can be found in museums across the world, depict highly detailed, usually large-scale paintings of Venetian other famous cityscapes.

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.

Carnival of Venice

  • The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival held in Venice and is world-famous for its elaborate masks and historical traditions.
  • The tradition of the Carnival of Venice was started in 1162, to celebrate a victory of the Republic of Venice against one of its many enemies during that period.
  • After a long absence, the Carnival returned in 1979 in its modern form as an initiative to revive the history and culture of Venice.
  • Masks have always been an essential feature of the Venetian carnival. One of the highlights of the Carnival is the contest for “the most beautiful mask” which is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.
  • About 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for the Carnival.

Explore

Reflections

  • Have you seen a Canaletto at your local art museum?
  • Does his innovative use of atmospheric effects and strong local colours anticipate Impressionism?
  • Do some of Canaletto’s painting suffer from repetitiveness?
  • Which is your favourite Canaletto?
  • Canaletto’s depiction of the Carnival of Venice. I would love to visit the modern Carnival of Venice. But what type of Mask to wear?

A Regatta on the Grand Canal

  • Title:              A Regatta on the Grand Canal
  • Artist:             Canaletto
  • Year:              1740
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions    Height: 122.1 cm (48 in); Width: 182.8 cm (71.9 in)
  • Museum:        The National Gallery, London

Canaletto

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“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world,
that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden.”

– Mary Shelley

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Photo Credits: 1) Canaletto [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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