Bernardo Bellotto, a Canaletto for Rome

Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto (1721-1780) shared the nickname “Canaletto” with his more famous uncle, Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), whom he studied under at the beginning of his career.

Apparently, the case of homonymy caused Canal a few problems when he moved to England (where he lived, intermittently, between 1746 and 1756):

“The Venetian painter’s stay in London must have been complicated, also due to his difficulties with local artists – who indeed tried to discredit him, spreading the rumor that he was not the real Canaletto, but his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, who had also left Venice in 1747.”

“Canaletto reacted by publishing ads on the ‘Daily Advertiser’ in 1749 and 1751, inviting art lovers to go see him paint in his atelier on Silver Street (now Beak Street, near Regent Street, in downtown London). Despite these nuisances, in London Canaletto was commissioned a huge number of paintings: from his stay in the United Kingdom, some fifty large ‘vedute’ remain, some of which are truly excellent” (translated from F. Pedrocco, “Canaletto”, Giunti, Florence 1995).

As for Bernardo, he soon came out from under his uncle’s wings and started traveling as soon as 1742, when he briefly moved to Rome and then on to other cities in Italy and Europe (until his death in Poland).

As art historian Lorenza Trucchi has explained, his style diverged from his uncle and master’s over the years, and “while Canaletto was a solar painter, Bellotto was lunar. His greatest ally is the shade, more than the sun: an almost unexpected shadow that suddenly comes over the canvas, like a sudden summer sunset that cools the earth with a chill, giving everything that is off a calm appearance and, by contrast, everything that is on an unnatural glow” (translated from “La Fiera Letteraria”, no. 25, June 22nd 1967).

Here is a selection of the Roman ‘vedute’ he painted in the early “sunny” years he spent in the Eternal City.

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Ruins of the Roman Forum", ca. 1743, oil on canvas

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Roman Capriccio with Triumphal Arch, the Pyramid of Cestius, Saint Peter in the Vatican, and Castel Sant'Angelo", 1742-47, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale di Parma

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient RomeBernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Capriccio with ancient ruins", 18th century, oil on canvas, private collection

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Capriccio with classic ruins and figures on the lagoon", 18th century, oil on canvas, Museo civico di Asolo (Treviso)

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, seen from the West", 1719-20, oil on canvas, private collection

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Roman capriccio with the Coliseum and ruins of the Temple of Vespasian", 18th century, oil on canvas, Galleria nazionale di Parma

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Arch of Constantine", ca. 1720, oil on canvas, private collection

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Capriccio with Campidoglio", ca. 1742, oil on canvas, Galleria nazionale di Parma

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"Capriccio with ruins" (attributed), 18th century, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, vedute di Roma antica - views of ancient Rome

"View of Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano", 1743-1744, oil on canvas, private collection

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