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Canaletto in North Carolina

Canaletto in NCMA

This painting by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1697-1768), is in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and is called “Capriccio: The Rialto Bridge and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.”

The Italian word “capriccio” means whim or fancy. It could also be translated as “wait a minute, what the heck is San Giorgio Maggiore doing next to the Rialto Bridge?!?”

Canaletto was a native Venetian and while he painted many “straight up” scenes of his city, he sometimes moved things around a bit which is disconcerting to those of us who’ve been to Venice but just looks beautiful to those who haven’t. Canaletto’s paintings were much in demand by aristocratic British tourists and as a result, there are only a handful of his paintings in Venice but hundreds of them in the UK (the Queen herself has over 50 in the Royal Collection).

JG Links (author of Venice for Pleasure) was a Canaletto scholar and in that book, there are many reproductions of Canaletto’s works to show how much Venice has and hasn't changed since the 18th century. Since Canaletto painted before Napoleon came and wreaked havoc on the churches of Venice, his paintings are a place to see what some of the demolished churches looked like.

For example, this view shows what Piazza San Marco looked like when there was another church at the opposite end facing the Basilica. The church was San Geminiano, and it was torn down so Napoleon could have a palace with a ballroom (now the home of the Correr Museum).


And another capriccio, this one showing the horses removed from the loggia of the Basilica and instead, prancing in the Piazzetta. This one really bothers me. It just looks so wrong!


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Comments (9)


Who knew, Canaletto in the Carolinas - thanks for posting about this.

I guess artists are allowed to take 'liberties' with small things like architectural correctness or location . . .


Annie, I always learn so many interesting new things from your blog!

This is pretty wild -- I had no idea that Canaletto was given to such capricious acts (I wonder if the English word caprice comes from the same root as capriccio?)

It is pretty disconcerting to see San Marco's horses down so close to the ground!

When I first read the title of your post and looked at your photo (should first tell you I am exhausted after staying up way too late last night) I could not figure out how the painting could be a painting of North Carolina! I then realized (dumb me) that it was a painting of Venice in North Caroline. I have not heard of Canaletto (or at least I don't remember Canaletto). I agree that the horses in the last photo are "just wrong". Nice post.

Interesting post. Venice in NC, who could have guessed that? Not me.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, very interesting to learn about this artist. It's interesting but before I scrolled down to read more of your post I was thinking I don't remember seeing that church there by the Rialto bridge. And then I understood why when learning about Canaletto. It does through me off too, especailly seeing the horses.

Thank you for providing links to your other two posts. I'm not sure how I missed those. I want to read them later tonight because they looked really interesting and I saw a couple of beautiful photos there.

Thanks for a wonderful and informative post Annie. Have a great day.

Thanks for visiting and commenting everyone.

Sandra, I bet there is a connection between those words.

I'm glad I'm not the only one thrown off by those horses!

How funny! I love that he just "moved things around a bit." "Hmmm, this church would look better if I moved it closer to another important landmark!" I did not know this about Canaletto so grazie for this post!

Chiocciola, I think it's funny too. Maybe he just got bored with painting the same views of Venice over and over?

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