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Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) 1697-1768
The portico with the lantern
Etching, 1744
Bequeathed by M.B.C. Adkin 1968

Venice was the first European city to market itself to tourists. From the early eighteenth-century views of local scenes (vedute) were produced as souvenirs for the steady influx of visitors, but Canaletto elevated the form to a new level. This depiction of sunlit buildings seen through a three-arched portico belongs to a series of 34 etchings of real and invented views. Canaletto's distinctive, painterly etching style - a blanket of loose short strokes in various directions and densities - is clearly visible. It is an impression of the second state, after Canaletto had strengthened lines in various places to deepen shadows and create greater contrasts.

This is one of the most famous prints from the set, showing a view through a three-arched portico, with a neglected open lantern hanging from the central arch. Elements of the composition demonstrate the mastery of Canaletto's etching technique, such as the blades of grass above the bright patch of ground in the left foreground, where the artist has drawn a stroke stopping-out varnish on the surface of the plate, and given the right-side a dark outline.

The portico with the lantern (detail)

One of the imaginary group is Landscape with woman at a well, one of his earlier etchings (perhaps the earliest), which is much more loosely handled and the tonal range is limited. In contrast with The portico with the lantern, the sky is more schematically treated, and the lines for the river are very similar in character.

Landscape with woman at a well (P.36-1968)

The set was dedicated to Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice, who helped Canaletto build a strong clientele of English collectors and arranged for the artist to come to London in 1746.


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