Home » Exhibitions » Canaletto’s Venice Revisited Exhibition at National Maritime Museum from 1 April to 25 September 2022

Canaletto’s Venice Revisited Exhibition at National Maritime Museum from 1 April to 25 September 2022

The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic © From the Woburn Abbey Collection – Canaletto

On 1 April 2022, the major exhibition Canaletto’s Venice Revisited opens at the National Maritime Museum, London, exploring some of the most iconic view paintings of Venice and how the tourism that helped establish Canaletto’s career, today threatens his city’s future.

View of the Grand Canal from the Palazzo Bembo to Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi
© From the Woburn Abbey Collection – Canaletto

At the heart of the exhibition is the complete set of twenty-four Venetian views from Woburn Abbey, painted by Canaletto for Lord John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford, in the 1730s. This is the first time the paintings, thought to be Canaletto’s largest single commission, will be on display in their entirety outside of their ancestral home at Woburn Abbey. The collection includes twenty-two smaller views of Venice, depicting different aspects of the city’s urban fabric, including iconic landmarks such as Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal, as well as campi, palazzi and churches.

The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic © From the Woburn Abbey Collection – Canaletto

Highlights of the exhibition will be Woburn Abbey’s two monumental views, A Regatta on the Grand Canal and The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic.

These paintings were commissioned as souvenirs following Lord John Russell’s visit to the city as part of the Grand Tour, an educational rite of passage for the wealthy in the eighteenth century. Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will explore these origins of Venice’s tourist industry through some of the personal objects belonging to the Dukes of Bedford.

The Grand Tour is also important to understanding Canaletto as an artist. His reputation was built on relatively rapid turnover of works of art for Venice’s emerging tourist industry. Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will highlight the painstaking detail Canaletto used to quickly lend vibrancy to his work.

The Orient Line cruise ship Orion (1935) moored in the San Marco Basin seen from the Piazza San Marco at Venice, Italy © National Maritime Museum, London circa 1936-1939

While Canaletto’s three-hundred-year-old paintings give the impression of an unchanging and enduring city, Venice today faces urgent threats from mass tourism and severe flooding as climate change brings rising sea levels. In recognition of these threats, Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will also revisit Venice today through contemporary images of a city at risk.

The exhibition will conclude with the annual Ascension Day festival as recorded in Canaletto’s monumental depiction of the celebration from the Woburn Abbey collection. The festival is a medieval tradition revived from the 1960s and is still performed today, in which a ring is tossed into the lagoon, symbolising Venice’s marriage to the sea. In 2022, this festival will be held on Thursday 26 May. Even though Venice today has a precarious relationship with rising sea levels, the Ascension Day festival is a reminder that the Venetian way of life has always been defined by its lasting relationship with the sea.

For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here

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