Antonio Canal (Il Canaletto) Capriccio with an imaginary bridge


Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta




820 x 600 mm


Landscape Painting

historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

This painting, together with the other capriccio of Parma, is an imaginary view of what could presumably be the Grand Canal of Venice. The canal is crossed by a majestic imaginary bridge, similar to the Palladian one and represented in the other capriccio, but with five arches, recessed walls and flattened dome. On the left there is a circular three-storey building with a rectangular portico decorated with columns, which has aroused a lot of curiosity, as a certain document seemed to identify it with Castel Sant’Angelo. Other buildings are typical Venetian houses and there are two bell towers that could represent that of the church of San Pantalon and that of San Polo. In the foreground there are cargo boats and gondolas which enliven the waterway making it typically Venetian. Like the Capriccio with Palladian Buildings, this work also came to Parma from the collection of count Algarotti (see the description of the Capriccio with Palladian Buildings) as has been identified for the same reasons. Returning to the particular circular building represented on the left bank of the canal, Ricci proposed in 1896 that this was an idealized representation of Castel Sant’Angelo, due to an annotation in the inventory “Catalogue of paintings, of the late Mr. Algarotti”. In fact, this does not coincide with the painting in question: there is no “great square with magnificent staircase” on the right, or Palazzo Dolfino and it is hard to believe the building would actually represent, even if idealized, the mausoleum of Hadrian. Therefore, the annotation on the catalogue does not seem to apply to the subject of the painting in question. Bibliografia essenziale: Sorrentino A., Itinerari dei Musei e Monumenti d’Italia. La Regia Galleria di Parma, Roma 1932, p. 16; Quintavalle A.O., La Regia Galleria di Parma, Roma 1939, p. 128; Ghidiglia Quintavalle A., La Galleria Nazionale di Parma, Parma 1960, p. 36; Constable W.G., Links J.G., Canaletto, Oxford 1976, 2 voll.p. 348; Puppi L., in Canaletto. Disegni-Dipinti-Incisioni, Venezia 1982, pp. 74-75;

Artist Details

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Canaletto was born in 1697 in Venice, where he started to paint theatrical scenes with his father Bernardo and brother Cristoforo.

On his trip in Rome in 1719 he met landscape painters Gaspar van Wittel, Giovanni Paolo Pannini and Viviano Codazzi. When he came back to Venice he started to paint city views which were influenced by the works of Luca Carlevrijs and Marco Ricci, even though soon he found his own individual style, quite different from the others.

In the 1740s’ he met English consul and merchant Joseph Smith and thanks to him Canaletto stayed in London for several years (1746 – 1756) painting city views and English country landscapes based on perspective and the use of camera obscura, paying attention on atmospheric representation. Among his important clients were the dukes of Richmond, the dukes of Beaufort and those of Northumberland.

After his return in Venice he dedicated himself mainly to his Capricci, such as famous Capriccio palladiano (Parma, Galleria Nazionale), where he combines real elements with alternative places, such as Rialto Quarter and Basilica of Vicenza, but also fantasy elements like Rialto Bridge by Palladio, which was never built.

Collection Details

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The construction of Palazzo della Pilotta started in 1583 for the order of the duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ottavio Farnese, who entrusted the task to architect Francesco Paciotto from Urbino. The name Pilotta derives from the game pelota, played by Spanish soldiers in the courtyard of Guazzatoio.

Today, the building holds the museum of archeology, national gallery, Palatine library, Farnese theater, and the Bodonian museum as well as the Accademia Nazionale di Belle Arti, the artistic lyceum of Paolo Toschi, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts of the University of Parma.

After the extinction of the Farnese dynasty their collection was moved to Naples by Charles III of Spain in 1734. Pilotta remained without its artistic treasures until the duke Philip of Spain arrived in Parma in 1749. The son of the king of Spain and his wife Louise Elizabeth, the favorite daughter of the king Louis XV of France. At this occasion, Pilotta became a cultural center, a real symbol of the enlightenment and the French politics. Accademia di Belle Arti was founded in 1757 and a new artistic collection was created, from which will originate the Galleria Nazionale. The Palatina library (1769) and archaeological museum (1769) were added to the complex.

During the years of the restoration, under the duchy of Marie Louise of Austria (1816-1847) the cultural institutions of the Pilotta underwent considerable transformations. The halls of representation of the court were rearranged and the façade of the Palazzo was remade between 1833 and 1834, creating its elegant neoclassical character. Th task was entrusted to the architect Nicola Bettoli and the aim was to giver greater dignity to the ducal residence.

During the 1944 bombardments the building was severely damaged and from this point began a series of restoring interventions renovating the interiors, which became suitable to host the Galleria Nazionale, starting from 1991. The collection includes La Scapiliata by Leonardo da Vinci, the Turkish Slave and the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Parmigianino, Correggio’s Madonna of St. Jerome and the Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Guercino’s Susanna and the Elders and a view by Canaletto.