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Venice and Venetian Life in 18th Century Prints from the Collection of the State Hermitage
May 25, 2004 - September 5, 2004

veniceAmong the artists represented are the celebrated masters Luca Carlevaris (1665 - 1731), Antonio Canaletto (1697 - 1768), Antonio Visentini (1688 - 1782), Giambattista Brustolon (1712 - 1796) and Michele Marieschi (1696 - 1743).

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Scenes of Venice from the Bacino San Marco, with the Cathedral, the Doge’s Palace, the cupola of Santa Maria della Salute, the riva degli Schiavoni, and the Sansovinian Library are familiar even to those who have never been in the city.

Venetians always loved their city, but in the 18th century, the last century of the Venetian Republic’s independence, artists felt the need to capture the city’s image in art for all time.

Luca Carlevaris was the first of the artists to have produced scenes of Venice in engravings. In his etchings the lines are nervous and fluid, which distinguishes them from works by other European masters of prints. The city is reflected in a mirror of canals, and reality assumes a tinge of fanciful play and becomes changeable, all of which is characteristic of Venetian perceptions.

After Carlevaris, the publisher Domenico Lovisi issued an album of prints which directed attention to everyday Venice, to the life of simple people and to somewhat rude behavior. Prints by unknown artists are invaluable first-hand evidence of street life in Venice.

Among the exhibits is a very rare series of prints in the mezzotinto technique which were made in the 1730’s by Bernard Vogel on the basis of paintings by the Swedish artist Johan Richter. Here we typically see very detailed genre scenes.

There are also five works from a series of etchings prepared by the artist Antonio Canaletto. These are architectural capriccios. The artist combines reality with imagined elements.

Antonio Visentini’s prints have a new conception. They are dedicated to paintings by Canaletto depicting Venice. The emphasis is not so much on the city as on the artist’s interpretations.

In contrast to the classically balanced compositions of Visentini, the Venice we see in works by Michele Marieschi is subjective and romantic. Marieschi exaggerates the dimensions of buildings, sometimes changing the proportions, as is the case with his depictions of the Cathedral of San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, which become unbelievably large in the prints.

The works by Giambattista Brustolon date from the second half of the 18th century. The figures of people resemble marionettes performing in a theatrical performance. This is the same period when Francesco Guardi’s genius reached its peak. Guardi created an image of the city, while continuing and developing the romantic tendencies of Marieschi.

Though Guardi did not himself produce engravings, there were talented masters in this medium around him. And if the prints by Antonio Sandi and Dionigio Valesi did not succeed in conveying all the charm of the artist’s paintings, nonetheless they are sufficiently interesting examples of the last phase of urban landscapes in 18th century Venice.

The exhibition includes scenes of city life which seemed so unusual and attractive to numerous travelers. These are found in works by Francesco Bartolozzi, Giuseppe Flipart and Giacomo de Leonardis, as well as in paintings by Pietro Longhi and Domenico Tiepolo. The majority of the prints on display in the exhibition are being shown in the State Hermitage for the first time.

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