Bernardo Bellotto Il Rio dei Mendicanti and the Scuola di San Marco


Gallerie dell' Accademia di Venezia




590 x 410 mm


Landscape Painting

historical period


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Artwork Details

Young Bellotto’s work is quite distant from the works of his master, Canaletto, perhaps due to the requirements of his client. The view represents the Rio dei Mendicanti from the parish of Santa Marina, which was a complementary work chosen by the master for another canvas, which is also in the public collections of Venice. The comparison between the two canvases highlights the differences between the view painters. A beam of light and the horizontal façade of the school of San Marco cut the panorama in half, which is mainly realized with vertical lines that follow the course of the canal. Bellotto painted in detail the typical Venetian houses on the right side of the Rio and Palazzo Dandolo on the left, animating the figures who enliven the streets of Venice. The figures are illuminated by afternoon light. There is a lady in white shoes holding a hand fan waiting for a gondola with a character wearing a wig and black cape in front of the entrance of Palazzo Dandolo, showing a glimpse of lifestyle of the lagoon city. To create this effect of great illusion Bellotto used techniques which he had learnt from Canaletto, using them quite freely, however. The use of color masterful. From the brown and reddish colors of the building to the infinite shades of green of the water and the transparent blue of the sky, Bellotto showed great skill in Venetian color tradition. Although the composition is extremely rigid, the strong experimental nature of the light, which is contrasted on the facades in the shade and warm on the facades of Palazzo Dandolo and the school, animate the picture. The attribution to Bellotto has been generally accepted only since the 1950s’. Before this it was assumed a work by Canaletto, or, as a work by maestro with a great help of some of his students. Behind the work there is a label with the name Gerolamo Manfrin, who was a venetian collector of artworks in the 18th century. For this reason, it is believed that the work was commissioned by a Venetian client and that the work has never left the city. There are many copies of this artwork, each of which stand out with different stylistic results depending on the hand of the second-generation view painters. Painters such as Vincenzo Chilone, Francesco Zanin and Giovanni Migliara, who attended the Manfrin gallery to study and imitate the techniques of Canaletto and Bellotto, the greatest exponents of Venetian Vedutism. Bibliografia essenziale: Constable W.G., Canaletto. Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1786, Oxford 1962, II, n. 291, p. 312; Moschini Marconi S., Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia. Opere d’arte dei secoli XVII, XVIII, XIX (cataloghi dei Musei e Gallerie d’Italia), Roma 1970, n.7, p. 5; Links J.G., Bellotto Problems, “Apollo”, XCVII, 1973, pp. 107-110; Links J.G., Canaletto, London 1982, pp.102-103; Nepi Scirè G., Valcanover F., Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, Milano 1985, n. 45, p. 95; Links J.G., Exhibition Review: Verona, Castelvecchio Museum. Bernardo Bellotto, “Burlington Magazine”, CXXXII, 1050, September 1990, p. 660; Marini G., in Bernardo Bellotto. Verona e le città europee, catalogo della mostra a cura di S. Marinelli (Verona, Castelvecchio), Milano 1990, n. 1, pp. 52-53; Links J.G., A supplement to W.G. Constable’s Canaletto. Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1786, London 1998, n. 291, p. 29; Kowalczyk B.A., in Bernardo Bellotto 1722-1780, catalogo della mostra a cura di Kowalczyk B.A. e da Cortà Fumei M. (Venezia, Houston), Milano 2001, p. 56 (con bibliografia precedente);

Artist Details

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Bernardo Bellotto was born in Venice on 30 January 1721. He was the son of Canaletto’s sister and around 1735 he entered his uncle’s workshop from whom he inherited the name Canaletto, for which was best known in Germany, and he began to paint the views of the city. His younger brother Pietro Bellotto was also a painter.

Bellotto traveled to Rome in 1742 on his uncle’s advice, passing via Florence, Lucca and Livorno. In the following years he worked in Lombardy at the service of count Simonetta and Turin, where he started to paint views with his own style distinguishing himself from his uncle, with less sharp vision that was almost hazy and melancholic (such as Vaprio d’Adda, situated in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Vedute della Gazzada in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan, the view of Palazzo Reale of Turin and the Ancient Bridge over Po in the Pinacoteca Sabauda of Turin).

In 1747 he moved to Dresden, then to Vienna in 1758, and Munich in 1761, and once again to Dresden until 1767 and finally to Warsaw, where he spent the last years of his life.

At first, he was at the service of Augustus III, elector of Saxony, then Maria Theresa of Austria, elector of Bavaria and finally Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski, king of Poland and he obtained an incredible success at European level. The Nordic protectors were fascinated by his work and his views of the northern cities, which were large and modern thanks to the investments and policies made by the latter.

The works of this period with wide skies, majestic palaces, bourgeois houses and rococo bell towers are characterized by melancholic atmosphere and his human figures with long shadows channel loneliness. This is visible in the Moat of the Zwinger (ca. 1754) View of Vienna from the Belvedere (1759-1760) or in Nymphenburg seen from Munich (1761).

Thanks to particular details, he left an indelible trace on his paintings of all the cities he visited: the views he painted in Warsaw were used as models for the reconstruction of the city after the bombings of the World War II.

In the last years in Warsaw he worked on the decoration of the Royal Castle, never leaving his activity as a view painter and alongside his paintings he completed some fine engravings.

Bellotto died in October 1780 in Warsaw.

Location Details

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The Accademia of Venice was founded in 1750 and the opening of the Gallerie dell’Accademia was linked to it with primarily educational purpose: in 1803 a decree established the need to adjoin a gallery next to the school that was used by the students who studied painting and sculpting.

In 1817 the gallery was opened also to the public. The gallery is located in the area of Dorsoduro, down by the Accademia bridge, in a complex including the church of Santa Maria della Carità, the Canonici Lateranensi convent and the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità, all situated in a single floor, divided into twenty-fours and covering 5537 square meters.

The first section of the collection includes the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple and the Pietà by Titian (1538) and the Triptych of the Madonna della Carità by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna (1480). The collection also includes essays by the students of the academy and a collection of plaster casts (hence the plural name, gallerie) which were put on display in the exhibition with success in 1817.

The collection was enriched with the paintings brought from defeated France and with the masterpieces that were left to the museum by great collectors. However, the paintings were always linked to the Venetian culture and this feature was tried to overcome for the whole 20th century. Among these works was the legacy of Felicita Reiner (in 1833, but only formalized in 1850), which included masterpieces such as Piero della Francesca’s St. Jerome, Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child and Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene. The legacy of Girolamo Contarini (1838) included 180 works, among them Madonna of the Small Trees and the Four Allegories by Bellini, and six paintings by Pietro Longhi.

The emperor Franz Joseph grew the collection with Nicolò di Pietro’s Madonna and Mantegna’s St. George, Memling’s Portrait of a Young Man and Giorgione’s Old Woman. The gallery was radically reorganized in 1895 by the director Giulio Cantalamessa. He excluded all the 19th century artists and for the first time the exhibition was organized chronologically. He coordinated the cycles of the School of St. Ursula by Vittore Carpaccio and the School of St. John the Evangelist by Cima da Conegliano, previously divided in various locations. Under the direction of Gino Fogolari (1905) the museum acquired other fundamental masterpieces, such as the Tempest by Giorgione and the Crucifixion by Luca Giordano and the Feast at the House of Simon by Bernardo Strozzi.

In the post-war period the museum performed various changes, for example Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, which was supposed to be placed in a specially designed room, was returned to the Frari church in Venice instead. The 19th century works that were already excluded from the exhibition were sent to the deposit at the museum of Modern Art in Ca’ Pesaro and the foreign art in the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti in Ca’ d’Oro. In the 1940s’ Vittorio Moschini and Carlo Scarpa wanted to perform a modern reorganization of the museum, including the 19th century salons, but which resulted quite impractical in the end. In these years Francesco Guardi’s Fire in the Oil Depot of San Marcuola and Montagna’s St. Peter and Donor became part of the collection.

In 1987 director Sciré decided to increase the exhibition space opening the gallery on the fourth floor with the graphic collection and a new deposit was opened on the top floor of the Palladio building. In the same year the collection was enriched with two cherubs and two allegorical figures representing Justice and Patience, taken from Giorgio Vasari’s ceiling in a room of Palazzo Corner on the Grand Canal. Between 2001-2003 the gallery was renovated expanding the exhibition areas and adding modern lightning in the rooms.