Canaletto & The Art of Venice (3 stars)

Canaletto & The Art of Venice

San Geremia and the entrance to the Cannaregio c.1726-7

The painter who put Venice on the map

This exhibition of works by Canaletto – the largest show Scotland has ever seen - was purchased wholesale by George III from Joseph Smith in 1762. Smith was a major collector of Italian art and a crucial patron for Canaletto, commissioning some of his most significant works, including The Grand Canal Series, which forms the centerpiece for the show. There are 14 paintings altogether, capturing all manner of life lived on and alongside this iconic body of water. Smith hung the works in his Palazzo on the Grand Canal, and would impress British Tourists on the Grand Tour with them, encouraging new commissions or the sale of prints.

Canaletto was less concerned with faithfully recording Venice than with representing how it exists for the awe-struck tourist visiting. He was unafraid to move buildings around and manipulate perspectives to create a better composition and a more spectacular image. We see this from the very beginning of the show; the Campanile in San Marco at the Piazza is drastically reduced so as not to overwhelm the church. Smith and Canaletto were major ambassadors for their city; they constructed and distributed breathtaking images of it across the world, inevitably drawing visitors from far and wide. Even today, you can't help but gaze at these works and wish you were there.

The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse until Sun 21 Oct.

Canaletto & the Art of Venice

Back in 1762, the young King George III acquired a bunch of paintings, drawings and prints by Canaletto, and they are now part of the Royal Collection. See some here, along with works by Canaletto's great contemporaries.

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