Saturday, June 6, 2009

Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard, c. 1726-30

Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard

A humble, untidy, unfamiliar area of the city, tucked away from tourist gaze, is the scene of the daily round of labour, for women, it should be noted, as for men. …. The city is lived in and used: washing is hung out on lines, and rooms are aired, and floors are swept. Above all, art is being created in the midst of it: stone is being chipped and crafted to make a building beautiful ….
Michael Levey[1]

The history of photographic representations of Venice begins long before the invention of photography – with the painted views of Canaletto and his eighteenth-century contemporaries, although in fact they often adopt fictional viewpoints that would be difficult or impossible to emulate with a camera: usually above head-height, and sometimes in mid-canal. They also depict scenes under blue sky and sunlight. Atmospheric effects are eschewed in favour of clarity of line and definition of form. The habit of representing Venice under fog and snow is a much later one, which is bound up with the idea of the city in decline – a site for nostalgia rather than for scientific examination. Under fog, the city becomes mysterious and elusive; under the clear light of Canaletto, it is rational and explicable: an Enlightenment city rather than a Romantic one.

[1] The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, eds J. Martineau and A. Robison, exhibition catalogue, 1994, p. 43.

No comments: