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Details of gondola on a Venice canal
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Artists in Venice

Canaletto was one of many artists working in Venice, a flourishing artistic centre in the eighteenth century. Joseph Smith (c.1674–1770) was one of the greatest art patrons in the city. He knew many Venetian artists personally, and most of the paintings in this section were part of his vast collection. These works filled his palazzo on the Grand Canal and his country retreat at Mogliano on the Venetian mainland. The taste in Venice at the time was for sets of paintings or framed drawings, densely hung in decorative arrangements and uniformly framed to give a pleasing visual harmony to the collection.

Venetian artists worked in a variety of media and subjects, united by their technical expertise, their appreciation of light and colour and their sense of theatre. The painters Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini painted in oil or fresco on a large scale, their narratives taken from history, literature or mythology. Other artists, including Sebastiano’s nephew Marco Ricci and Francesco Zuccarelli, painted landscapes. Like Canaletto, many Venetian artists experimented with the capriccio, combining real elements with the imagined. Encouraged by Smith, Canaletto, Zuccarelli and Antonio Visentini were also part of a group of artists interested in the buildings of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–80).

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