Two divergent stories unfolded in 18th-century Venice. Once an influential city-state backed by a powerful navy and a dominant trade position, Venice slid into economic stagnation and lost military and political significance. At the same time, its distinct beauty and sensuous character attracted crowds of tourists and produced a flowering of the arts still visible in the sugary pastels and sparkling brushwork throughout this gallery.
The veduta (view)—a tradition of painting unique to Venice that combines marine, landscape, and architectural elements—served visitors’ desire to remember and share what they saw in their travels. Early painters of vedute set out to document the city’s incomparable panoramas. Luca Carlevariis helped to establish the genre, devoting large canvases to architectural vistas as well as the local citizens and their festivities. Canaletto, the best known of the vedutisti, introduced brilliant light and expressed a warm optimism that made his paintings perfect collectors’ items. A school of contemporaries and many later followers would try to achieve the spirit and masterful handling that set Canaletto apart as the greatest painter of the movement.
The Doge's Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice, ca. 1710, Luca Carlevariis, Italian, Venice, 1663–1729, oil on canvas, 37 3/4 x 75 3/4 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Floyd A. Naramore, 50.70.