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Title Capriccio with Two Bridges and Figures
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Bellotto, Bernardo (Italian painter and draftsman, 1721-1780)
Date Earliest about 1740
Date Latest about 1747

This painting is a typical example of Bellotto's 'capricci', a type of subject depicting elaborate architecture from various sources in imaginary juxtaposition. The artist probably drew his inspiration from the areas around Verona and Padua which he visited in the early 1740s. The painting shows an imaginary town view, with, on the right, a gatehouse and archway, a Corinthian column, sumounted by the statue of a saint, and a woman drawing water from a fountain. On the left side, a horse-drawn carriage is crossing a bridge, and in the background, a row of houses with a medieval tower recedes into the distance. Figures manoeuvring boats are depicted in the foreground.

Bernardo Belloto was born in Venice, where he was trained by his uncle, the view painter Giovan Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1693-1768). He became a member of the Venetian painters' guild, the Fraglia, in 1738. In the 1740s, he travelled through Italy (Florence, Lucca, Rome and in Lombardy). In 1747, Bellotto was invited to Dresden by Frederick-Augustus II, King of Poland (known as Augustus III). He then travelled to Vienna in 1758, and in 1761 to Munich. By the end of that year he returned to Dresden, where he became court painter in 1768.

Current Accession Number 1353-1869
Subject buildings and gardens; figure; townscape
Measurements 37 x 70.8 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend 1868.
Principal Exhibitions Canaletto e Bellotto: L'arte della veduta, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, 2008, 79.
Publications Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London, 1973, p. 26-27, cat. no. 21; Levey, M., 'Bernardo Bellotto. By Stefan Kozakiewicz', in The Burlington Magazine, September 1973, p. 615; Camesasca, E., L'opera completa del Bellotto, Milan, 1974, p. 95, no. 69; Kowalczyk, Bozena-Anna ed., Canaletto e Bellotto: L'arte della veduta, Milan, 2008, no. 79, pp. 198-9.

This painting was attributed to Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto's nephew, by Michael Levey (verbal communication, 1960). It is a typical example of Bellotto's works of the mid-1740s, when he was working on the four 'capricci', formerly in the Sanvitale collection, now in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma, just before his departure to Dresden. These paintings are based on drawings reproducing identical motifs to the ones depicted here.

The present work shows the gate of a town, with an arched bridge leading into it on the left, and a gatehouse adjacent to a large archway on the right. The picture is dominated by Veronese and Paduan motifs, such as the house flanked by a medieval tower, similar to the Paduan Ezzelino tower, in the middle background; while the right hand-side of the composition is taken from a drawing, showing variations, in the Royal Collection (RL 7530/P[C]126). The bridge and tower appear in another 'capriccio' of the early 1740s, now housed in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Castagnola.

The present composition contrasts neutral tones against vivid colours, and light against shade. The solid and imposing architectural setting is inhabited by small figures: the woman drawing water on the right, men in boats in the foreground, as well as the carriage drawn by horses. This restricted palette of blue, brown and neutral tones is enlivened by small touches of red, in the vest of the woman by the fountain, in the figure of the rowing man, and in the carriage. The gatehouse and archway are in particular unified by large passages of shadow, which enhance their function as repoussoir device, leading the spectator's eye into the composition; while patches of light both before and behind the archway enhance the sense of depth.

It has been suggested that this painting was meant as a pendant to a Canaletto's 'capriccio' also in the museum's collection (1352-1869) (Kowalczyk, 2008).

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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