Saturday, December 14, 2013

The City at Night (Venice)

Becket, December 14, 2013

Canaletto (the great 18th century artist Giovanni Antonio Canal) painted countless vedute of his native Venice, but only two of them show the city at night: "La Vigilia di San Pietro" and "La Vigilia de Santa Marta", both painted after Canaletto's return from London in 1755.

The paintings depict two of just a handful of local festivities held specifically at night. The first shows a frontal view of San Pietro di Castello, a church designed by Andrea Palladio in the island of Olivolo, at the eastern end of the city. The other painting shows a line of houses adjacent to the church of Santa Marta, on the southwestern end of Venice, facing the Canale della Giudecca. Both of the scenes are lit by the moon, either directly or, this being Venice, by its reflection on the water. Other than that there are much smaller light sources associated with the festivities, with very little light coming from the interior some of the buildings.

The figures in front of San Pietro, either on the gondolas in the foreground or further back on the banks of the canal, are caught in rather genteel positions, standing, seating or strolling. The other painting shows a rowdy crowd of musicians and dancers. These paintings give us a rather vivid record of the different kinds of scenes one would encounter in the night of 18th century Venice.

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