This week we focus on one artist in our collection: Canaletto. While he is most widely known for his depictions of Venice, he lived and worked in England from 1746 to 1756 producing many famous pieces, two of which are among our best selling pocket squares and linings.
The River Thames With St. Paul's Cathedral On Lord Mayor's Day
This work is similar to Canaletto's later paintings in that it shows the spectacle of Lord Mayor's Day, celebrated in November of each year since the 13th century. The impressive flotilla of boats shows the Georgians how they would have wanted to be shown off: prosperous and peaceful. Rather than a royal display though, the city of London was responsible for putting on such a display, celebrating the presentation of the new Lord Mayor of London to the Lord Chief Justice and the other senior judges.
Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day 1740
Every year on Ascension Day, the Venetians celebrate The Marriage of Venice to the Sea. This event commemorated the Venetians' conquest over Dalmatia in c1000 AD and saw a procession of boats, lead by the Doge, out to sea by the Lido. The following prayer was said in a bid for good fortune on the seas: "For us and all who sail thereon the sea may be calm and quiet". In 1177, Pope Alexander III gave the Doge a ring and by casting it into the sea, Venice would be "married" to the sea every year on Ascension Day.
"Canaletto is one of my favourite artists, so he was always going to have a few pieces in our range of products. Having grown up in London visiting multiple art galleries and seeing Canaletto's work from a young age, The River Thames With St. Paul's Cathedral On Lord Mayor's Day has a special meaning to me. The use of colour throughout the painting provides an exceptionally versatile piece that suits most jacket combinations depending on the fold."
Elliott Rampley, Co-founder
Canaletto (1697-1768) was very influential, and most famed for his precisely depicted and evocative views of the city of Venice. His early work for local patrons are his most accomplished and these carefully designed and captured pieces are today seen as his best work. These days, one can easily recognise a Canaletto viewpoint even now, especially so with his Venetian paintings, with the city having not changed for centuries.
While he was living and working in England, he was hugely successful, largely in part to the merchant Joseph Smith, who bought a large collection of Canaletto's works. Smith's collections were purchased by King George III in 1762, and many of these works are still held by the Royal Family today. In addition to hanging in Buckingham Palace, there are several Canaletto works held in the National Gallery in London, including Venice: The Basin Of San Marco On Ascension Day. Following his death, the rulers of Europe, including Catherine the Great, were keen to buy up his works as he was swiftly seen as one of the great Italian Masters, an accolade that he still holds today.
Throughout his life, Canaletto was much admired for his ability to subtly blend sunlight, shadow and cloud effects, and especially the way in which he used light to play on architectural structures. This is largely due to his preference to paint outside which was very unusual for the time as artists generally painted in their studios.
Following his move to London, he initially made good money, but his painting soon began to be criticised for being too "mechanical", and the rumour soon started that this was not the "real Canaletto". To counter this rumour, and to prove who he was, he took to painting outside
After returning to Venice from London, Canaletto chose to focus on grand scenes of the Venetian canals and the Doge's Palace, often depicting the pageantry of the city towards the end of its life, being stormed by Napoleon's troops in 1798. In making innovative use of atmospheric effects and accurate colours, his works may be said to have been a precursor to Impressionism.
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