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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Grand Canal in Venice” by Canaletto

"The Grand Canal in Venice" by Canaletto

“The Grand Canal in Venice” by Canaletto

“The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola” by Canaletto was painted in 1738. This composition is called a veduta (Italian for “view”) meaning a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting of a cityscape or some other vista. This vendute painting depicts the upper reaches of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, near the entrance to the Cannaregio Canal. Venduta paintings were popular with the wealthy tourists to Venice in the mid-1700s.

The vantage point of this painting is in the middle of the canal, surrounded by gondolas, barges, and the buildings lining the banks of the Grand Canal. Many of the structures depicted in this 1738 painting still stand today. The painting pictures the traghetto, a ferry service using rowboats that were the primary means of crossing the Grand Canal before the construction of the many bridges that we can see today.

This famous 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. During 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 as during the 18th century European monarchs vied for his grandest paintings.

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. 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.

Grand Canal of Venice

The Grand Canal is a channel of water that divides Venice, Italy and forms one of the major water-traffic corridors for the city. One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the railway station, and the other end leads into the basin at San Marco. In between the two ends, it makes a large S shape through the central districts of Venice. It is 3.8 km (2.4 mi) long, and 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft) wide, with an average depth of 5 metres (16 feet).

The Grand Canal in Venice

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with nearly 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century which represent the wealth and architecture created by the Republic of Venice during its height of power. Venetian families competed to show off their wealth with palazzos facing the Grand Canal., also the churches along the canal include many famous basilicas. Most of the palazzos emerge from water without pavement. Because most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge.

On the first Sunday of September every year the Historical Regatta “Regata Storica” takes place. It is a competition between Venetian boats watched by thousands of people from the banks or floating stands. Competitions are preceded by a historical procession remembering the entrance of the Queen of Cyprus Catherine Cornaro after abdication in 1489: gondoliers in costumes sail in typical 16th-century boats following the Bucentaur, doge’s state galley.

Timeline of the Republic of Venice

  • 421 – Venice is founded, with the establishment of a trading post
  • 476 – Fall of the Western Roman Empire
  • 535 – Byzantine Emperor Justinian I launches the campaign which for the re-conquest of Italy
  • 539 – Ravenna falls and the provinces of Venetia belong to the Byzantine Empire
  • 697 – A general assembly of all the peoples of the lagoons elects a single ruler in place of the twelve tribunes
  • 828 – Relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist arrive in Venice having been stolen from Alexandria in Egypt
  • 841 – Venice sends a fleet of 60 galleys (each carrying 200 men) to aid the Byzantines in driving the Arabs from Crotone, but fail
  • 1082 – Needing Venetian naval help, the Byzantine emperor grants them major trading concessions within his Empire
  • 1099 – St Mark’s Basilica is consecrated in the presence of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV
  • 1096- First Crusade begins
  • 1105 – Great fire of Venice
  • 1122 – Byzantine emperor refuses to renew the trading rights granted in 1082. The Venetian fleet raids the Greek coasts in retaliation
  • 1171 – The Byzantine emperor expels all Venetians from Constantinople. An outbreak of a war that continues inconclusively until relations normalize ca. 1180
  • 1182 – Massacre of the Latins in Constantinople
  • 1202 – During the Fourth Crusade, crusader and Venetians reconquered Zara. Unable to raise enough funds to pay to their Venetian contractors, the crusaders agreed to reconquer the city
  • 1203 – The Fourth Crusade is diverted towards the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, under the request of the Byzantine Emperor
  • 1204 – Sack of Constantinople by the crusaders and Venetians conquered Constantinople. Venice seizes the Horses of Saint Mark
  • 1211 – The island of Candia (Crete) is annexed to Venice
  • 1263 – Venetian victory against the Genoese and Byzantines at the Battle of Settepozzi
  • 1284 – First gold ducat is minted
  • 1348 – The Black Plague begins to spread in Venice killing half of the population
  • 1363 – A colonial revolt breaks out in Crete that needed significant military force and five years to suppress
  • 1404 – Venice extends its rule over Vicenza, Belluno, and Feltre
  • 1405 – Venice acquires Vicenza, Verona, Padua, and Este
  • 1409 – Naples sells his “rights” on Dalmatia to the Republic of Venice for 100,000 ducats. Dalmatia will with some interruptions remain under Venetian rule for nearly four centuries, until 1797.
  • 1410 – Venice has a navy of 3,300 ships (manned by 36,000 men) and has taken over most of Venetia, including such important cities as Verona and Padua
  • 1453 – Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks, but Venice manages to maintain a colony in the city and some of the former trade privileges it had under the Byzantines
  • 1454 – The Ottoman Turks grant the Venetians access to their ports and trading rights
  • 1463 – Outbreak of the First Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–79)
  • 1484 – The treaty of peace between Venice and the Ottoman Turks is confirmed with the pacific exchange of the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia
  • 1488 – Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope, providing Europeans with a direct all-sea route to the Indian Ocean
    1489 – February -Catherine Cornaro, the widow of the last king, James II, willingly cedes Cyprus to Venice
  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus discovers the Americas; the major European trade centres begin to shift away from the Mediterranean
  • 1498 – Arrival of Vasco da Gama of Portugal in India, destroying Venice’s land route monopoly over the Eastern trade
  • 1570 – Outbreak of the Fourth Ottoman–Venetian War (1570–73), when the Ottomans attack Cyprus.
  • 1575 – The population of Venice is about 175,000 people
  • 1575-1577 – Bubonic plague strikes Venice, killing around 25% of the population
  • 1591 – The Rialto Bridge is completed
  • 1609 – Galileo Galilei presents a telescope to Venice
  • 1631 – The plague ends in Venice with 50,000 dead – nearly a third of the population. As a votive offering for the city’s deliverance from the pestilence, Venice builds a church to Our Lady of Health (Santa Maria della Salute)
  • 1699 – The Great Turkish War ends with the Treaty of Karlowitz. Venice makes extensive territorial gains in southern Greece
  • 1789 – Ludovico Manin is elected Doge. He will ultimately be the last Doge of the Republic of Venice
    1796 – Prelude to the Fall of the Republic. The Republic of Venice can no longer defend itself since its war fleet numbers only 4 galleys and 7 galliots. French troops occupy the Venetian state up to the Adige. Vicenza, Cadore and Friuli are held by the Austrians
  • 1797 – The Fall of the Republic with Napoleon threatening Venice with war. The Great Council of Venice sits for the last time and approves a motion to hand over power “to the system of the proposed provisional representative government”. The end of the Republic of Venice after more than a thousand years.

Reflections

  • “City of Canals”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges” or “The Floating City”. How do you see Venice?

Explore Canaletto

Explore the Getty Museum

The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola

  • Title:              The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola
  • Artist:            Canaletto
  • Year:              1738
  • Medium:       Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 47 cm × 78 cm ( 18 12 in ×  30 34 in)
  • Museum:     Getty Museum

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) By J. Paul Getty Museum (J. Paul Getty Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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