It was Canaletto’s stay in Rome that helped him get acquainted with the issues of colouring and perspective

In the 18th century Venetian painting the love of human form which had been its characteristic for ages, gave place to architectural painting, a new school of painting founded by Antonio Canal, shortly called Canaletto. He painted many delightful views of Venice - its canals, squares, buildings - with precision, fidelity and exactness, nor found in any of the canvases of the realistic scene painters.

Antonio Canal (Canaletto) was born in Venice in a family “in which painting had come down for generations”. His father, Bernardo Canal, was a successful theatre scene painter. Antonio followed for some time his father’s profession. Next he spent time in Rome, studying ancient remains. The stay in Rome helped him get acquainted with the issues of colouring and perspective.

Returning to Venice in 1720, Canaletto started painting the exact views of the city for which there was great demand from the visitors. Soon his pictures were praised for their truthfulness and correctness of representation. Commissions came in from various countries. Majority of commissions came from England through Joseph Smith, the British Consul at Venice, whose big collection of Canaletto’s works were purchased for the British Crown in 1763.

Canaletto’s picture reproduced here is a proud possession of Salar Jung Museum. It is a delightful piece, with its emerald tones combining magnificent architecture, dainty figures and pleasant natural scenery. Richly framed in the style of the period, the picture shows the Piaza of San Marco on the side facing the basin of San Marco in Venice. In the architectural truthfulness, solidity of the streets, minuteness of details and correctness of perspective, this composition ranks as one of the best productions of Canaletto.

This Jewel of Venetian painting was once owned by a noble Ligurian family and was purchased by the late Salar Jung III at a cost of 50,000 Italian lira through the agency of the National Association of Artists, Florence, Italy, in 1936.

B. Kotaiah

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