“Eton College” by Canaletto
“Eton College” by Canaletto depicts the famous school and its chapel as viewed from across the river Thames. The general position of the chapel as shown is correct, but many of the other buildings details are invented. Canaletto did staying nearby at Windsor in 1747, but this painting seems to be a later work that was produced from sketches and his memory. The composition is an imaginary view referred to as ‘capricci’, and the demarcation in some of Canaletto’s works between the real and the imaginary is never quite clearcut.
The view may not be an exact record, but it is expertly composed, with the various figures who are fishing, punting and strolling by the river providing animation to the scene. The tree framing on either side of the composition and the shadowed foreground lead the eye of the viewer on into the college.
Eton College was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI of England, to give needy students with a free education that would allow them to attend King’s College in Cambridge. Henry planned to make the nave of the college chapel the largest in Europe, with religious relics to set up the status of the college. However, when Edward IV deposed Henry VI in 1461, the new king withdrew the college’s generous finances, and it fell onto wealthy patrons to support the school. Today, Eton College is an English independent boarding school for boys and one of the most expensive schools in the UK.
Giovanni Antonio Canal better known as Canaletto was an Italian painter of city views of Venice, Rome, and London. 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 eventually sold his extensive collection of Canaletto’s paintings to King George III in 1762. During the 18th-century as European monarchs competed for his grandest pictures, Canaletto’s paintings became highly prized.
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 or vistas:
- Bucentaur’s return to the pier by the Palazzo Ducale
- The Grand Canal in Venice
- The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice
- Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, Venice
- Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande
- Have you seen a Canaletto at your local art museum?
- Which is your favourite Canaletto?
- Title: Eton College
- Artist: Canaletto
- Year: 1746-54
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions H: 62 cm (24.4 in); W: 108 cm (42.5 in)
- Museum: The National Gallery, London
- Artist: Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto)
- Born: 1697 – Venice, Republic of Venice
- Died: 1768 (aged 70) – Venice, the Republic of Venice (now Italy)
- Nationality: Venetian
- Notable works:
“Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton,
but the opening battles of all subsequent wars have been lost there.”
– George Orwell
Photo Credits: 1) Canaletto [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons