Venetian Vedute from the Intesa Sanpaolo Art Collection

The Museum of Arts and Crafts is one of the oldest and most important Croatian cultural institutions, and Privredna banka Zagreb of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group is one of the largest and most prestigious banking institutions in Croatia that has been recognized for decades in cultural spaces for its commitment and systematic action through programs of support in projects of representation of Croatian national heritage and also the presentation of global and especially Italian heritage to Croatian audiences.

The Exhibition Venetian Vedute is the crown of many years of cooperation of the Museum of Arts and Crafts and Privredna banka Zagreb and Intesa Sanpaolo, thanks to which we can present the works of four Venetian masters of vedute in Zagreb and Croatia, among them the most famous ones Canaletto and Francesco Guardi accompanied by the less well-known, however really excellent painters Michele Marieschi and Hendrik Frans van Lint. The exhibition of artistic achievements of prominent masters of vedute were the result of long years of cooperation between the two institutions, thanks to which the most significant Italian Baroque painters were presented to the Croatian audience in the Museum of Arts and Crafts, starting with Caravaggio and his masterpiece Supper at Emmaus from Milan Pinacoteca Brera, through the most illustrious paintings of the other great Italian Baroque master Il Guercino, to this year’s demanding exhibition project bringing to the Museum the works of Sebastiano Ricci, Giambattista Piazzetta, the magnificent Giambattista Tiepolo and a dozen other top painters of the Venetian Late Baroque presented at the Exhibition The Splendour of Venetian Baroque.

At the Venetian Vedute exhibition, we present the paintings of the master of this genre coming from Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza. It is an extraordinary collection of Venetian Baroque paintings, in which, in addition to the paintings presented to the Zagreb audience, masterpieces of Tiepolo (currently in The State Hermitage Museum), Pietro Longhi and other famous personalities of that period and a fascinating collection of Old Greek vases and Russian icons. These brilliant collections and the Baroque palace Leoni Montanari are only one part of the great cultural project of Intesa Sanpaolo, which also includes the Gallerie d’Italia – Piazza Scala in Milan, featuring Italian nineteenth and twentieth-century artists, and Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Stigliano in Naples, where Caravaggio’s last masterpiece The Martyrdom of St. Ursula is exhibited.

The exhibition Venetian Vedute from the Intesa Sanpaolo Art Collection represents four masterpieces of four great scholars, of which the most famous is definitely Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, represented by the painting Capriccio with Gothic Church and Lagoon created in 1720/21, during his collaboration with Luca Carlevarijs, in whose studio Canaletto studied and worked after returning from Rome in 1719. During this period, Canaletto had already mastered his teacher and created his own “topographic” style that would characterize him until the end of a magnificent career. Canaletto had captured numerous scenes from the life immersed in the fantastic scenery of Venice, but he also painted capricci, or fictitious vedute, or images in such a manner that it is hard to identify what a vedute is in his work – an image of a certain realistic look at some part of the city and the event in it – or what his personal fantasy or capriccio is. Yet, most of his opus originated alla natura (according to nature), as in our painting; it is actually a skilful combination of his different perceptions and experiences of nature incorporated into one image.

Canaletto was also an excellent printmaker who over the years created numerous prints which were very popular in 18th century throughout Europe and subsequently served many painters as an impetus and inspiration to create their own views of Venice. One of them was Hendrik Frans van Lint called Lo Studio, a flamboyant painter based in Rome, where he enjoyed a very admirable reputation. His city view of La Salute with the Punta della Dogana, was created by one of Canaletto’s printmaking models or one of the paintings van Lint had seen in Rome, because, as far as we know, this artist had never stayed in Venice.

The Vedute of the Grand Canal with the Rive del Vin and del Carbon is a masterpiece of the prominent Venetian vedute master of the first half of the 18th century, Michele Marieschi, who had surely been creating under the influence of the great Canaletto, but still managed to secure his own artistic niche. This is witnessed in this painting of a theme already interpreted by Canaletto; Marieschi, however, expands the cadre and in a personal way construes this popular and even then apparently “exhausted” motif.

The painting of Francesco Guardi Piazza San Marco towards San Geminiano is a mature work of this great painter whose skills are definitely comparable to those of Canaletto. What is clear in this work is a completely different approach to painting of these two artists: while Canaletto aspired to  meticulous photographic accuracy, Guardi almost moves in the direction of impressionism. His mode of painting by „touch“ (pittura di toco) enabled him to create an „impressionist impression“, but also to separate himself from the many Venetians vedute painters of that time. Depicted in this painting is Piazza San Marco of the time, recording its condition prior to the construction of the entire complex of Procuratoria Novissima, revealing to us the spirit of Venice that no longer exists.

The exhibition Venetian Vedute is a great example and confirmation of the long-lasting fruitful cooperation between the two institutions – the Museum of Arts and Crafts and Privredna banka Zagreb, the results that have enabled the presentation of outstanding artworks over a number of years. We strongly believe that in the next period our collaboration will continue to grow with the same quality and intensity.

Miroslav Gašparović

Director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb