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Antonio Visentini (Venice 1688- Venice 1782)

Capriccio with a view of Mereworth Castle, Kent Signed and dated 1746

Oil on canvas | 82.6 x 131.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 400687

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  • The picture is one of a series of eleven English architectural subjects painted collaboratively by Antonio Visentini and Fransceso Zuccarelli for Consul Joseph Smith. Visentini and Smith shared a great interest in the designs and theories of the sixteenth-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. Smith commissioned a set of overdoor capricci of English neo-Palladian buildings, of which Capriccio with a view of Mereworth Castle, Kent is one. Visentini painted the buildings using volumes of British architectural engravings for reference, whilst Francesco Zuccarelli painted most of the figures and all of the landscape settings. They date from 1746 and were possibly intended as overdoors for the Consul's villa at Mogliano, on the Venetian mainland near Treviso. Eight of the views were hung in the Entrance Hall at Buckingham House by 1819. They were moved to the Grand Corridor at Windsor Castle in 1828. Completed by 1723, Mereworth Castle was designed by Colen Campbell for John Fane, later 7th Earl of Westmorland. The building's name is a misnomer: Mereworth is not a castle but actually a direct copy of Andrea Palladio's Villa Rotonda near Vicenza, the clearest example of Campbell's devotion to Palladian architecture. The building is from plate 37 in the third volume of Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus series. The elevation is one of Campbell's most detailed plates, and includes a rare shadow that Visentini repeats and augments. Visentini and Zuccarelli demonstrate a clear mutual sensitivity in this work, their most harmonious commission. Moved to the right of centre, the building balances with the surrounding landscape and does not loom unevenly. Visentini must have taken inspiration from the real Villa Rotonda while adapting Campbell's elevations, most of which he could have seen close-by in the Veneto. Visentini digressed from Campbell's elevation when he increased the size of the pediment and simultaneously compressed the dome. Zuccarelli includes the familiar figures of a female water-carrier ascending the stairs, taken from antiquity - and used by Raphael in his Fire in the Borgo fresco at the Vatican. Signed and dated Visentini et Zuccarelli / Fecerunt Venetiis 1746 Adapted from Canaletto & the Art of Venice, London, 2017.
    Provenance

    Acquired by George III from the collection of Consul Smith in 1762

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    82.6 x 131.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    107.2 x 151.5 x 13.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Chiswick, previously identified as