Antonio Canal (Il Canaletto) Capriccio with Palladian buildings


Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta


1756 - 1759


820 x 580 mm


Landscape Painting

historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The Capriccio with Palladian buildings of the Galleria Nazionale Di Parma is just one of the numerous examples of this subject, which was also repeated in the series of thirteen panels for the British consul in Venice, Joseph Smith, between 1743 and 1744, preserved today in the Windsor collections. “Capriccio” is combination of realistic views with imaginary elements, which can be both a picturesque representation with imaginary architecture and, as in this case, an assemblage of ancient and modern buildings which are existing but placed out of their real locations. The painting depicts a large canal crossed by a covered bridge. Two well-known buildings can be recognized on both sides: the Palladian church and Palazzo Chiericati, both situated in Vicenza. The setting and details such as gondolas clearly suggest that the place in question is Venice, as well as the glimpse of the Fabbriche Nuove, even if positioned differently, and of course, the Rialto bridge. The covered bridge originates from a drawing in Four Books of Architecture by Palladio. Canaletto managed to bring together the accuracy and topographical precision of each monument in irrational composition where buildings from different locations are represented together. Francesco Algarotti, writer, art connoisseur and dealer, wrote about this subject in a letter to Prospero Pesci in 1759, to whom he wanted to commission another “capriccio”. Algarotti described accurately the assemblage of buildings and architectures, the rich realistic details in a fantasy context that allows the observer to recognize Venice with certainty, even when it is not real Venice. He wrote that even many Venetians were looking for this place after seeing Canaletto’s work, convinced that this was an unknown area in the city. The origin of the work is known thanks to annotation by the scholar Cicogna in 1842, which speaks of two “outstanding paintings” by Canaletto belonging to the counts Corniani, inherited from their uncle, count Algarotti, before reaching the Galleria Ducale of Parma in 1825 (Capriccio with Palladian buildings and Capriccio with Imaginary Bridge). The date of this “ideal view” is not certain, but certainly it was made before Algarotti’s letter, dated 28 September 1759. Bibliografia essenziale: Sorrentino A., Itinerari dei Musei e Monumenti d’Italia. La Regia Galleria di Parma, Roma 1932, pp. 12-18; Ghidiglia Quintavalle A., La Galleria Nazionale di Parma, Parma 1960, p. 35; Constable W.G., Links J.G., Canaletto, Oxford 1976, 2 voll.p. 437, n. 458a; Puppi L., in Canaletto. Disegni-Dipinti-Incisioni, Venezia 1982, pp. 73-75; Nepi Scirè G. (a cura di), La pittura veneziana del Settecento Cultura e società nella Venezia, Belgrado 1990, pp. 43-44;

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.