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Canaletto in Venice - Queen's Gallery

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION of work by Giovanni Antonio Canal (aka Canaletto, 1697 – 1768) aptly entitled Canaletto in Venice runs at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until April 23, 2006.

Canaletto’s dazzling paintings and lively drawings of 18th-century Venice caught the imagination long before mass tourism made the reality of canals, palaces, churches and squares a distinct possibility for aspiring travellers.

From 1720 and for much of his career, Canaletto was based in Venice where, for 40 years, he worked for a foreign clientele – in particular, for the English nobility on the Grand Tour. His greatest patron, however, was Joseph Smith, the British Consul in Venice and it was the sale of Smith’s collection in 1762, to King George III, that brought the finest collection of Canaletto’s work into royal ownership.

At the heart of the collection are 12 relatively small-scale views of the Grand Canal painted in the 1720s, plus two larger canvases, both painted in the early 1730s, depicting colourful festivals that were, undoubtedly, major tourist attractions of the day.

The 12 smaller canvases represent a journey down the Grand Canal complete with palaces, churches and warehouses, as well as water craft (barges and gondolers) and a picturesque population – beggars, priests, lawyers, aristocrats, gondoliers, masqueraders and oriental merchants. Everything, in fact, that made Venice such a unique and cosmopolitan city.

As well as the 14 canvases, there are 70 drawings on paper on display – making it the largest group of Canaletto drawings ever shown. All this, alongside Treasures from the Royal Collection which includes paintings by Duccio, Rubens and Van Dyck; works by Faberge; as well as furniture, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, silver and gold.

Access to the new portrait of The Queen by Rolf Harris, which was specially commissioned by the BBC to mark Her Majesty’s 80th birthday, is included in the general admission to the Gallery.

Tickets: £7.50, £6 concessions, £4 under 17s, £19 family (two adults and three under 17s).

For further information call 020 7766 7320 or visit the website.