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Canaletto’s 'The Stonemason’s Yard':

The Making of a Venetian Master

Curator Francesca Whitlum-Cooper explores ‘The Stonemason’s Yard’ by Canaletto, in 10 minutes.

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Experience the National Gallery's collection like never before with our new exclusive 'National Treasures' film series. A key strand of the National Gallery's Bicentenary celebrations, we will discover 12 paintings which will be loaned from the Gallery's collection to partner venues throughout the UK, providing expert commentary on these iconic masterpieces.

'The Stonemason’s Yard' (about 1725) by Canaletto (1697–1768) is considered the artist’s early masterpiece. It’s the picture that marks the beginning of Canaletto becoming Canaletto. Though, we don’t know who for, or exactly when, it was painted.

Francesca Whitlum-Cooper argues that this painting is like going to an early Beatles concert in the 1960s. The ordinary scene shows contemporary life with blocks of stone, tools, plants, and workers. The four female figures in the foreground go about domestic activities.

Unlike the grand views that he is so famous for, and which became an essential souvenir for wealthy aristocrats to bring home from their Grand Tour, this brilliant painting presents us with a secret side of Venice.


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Dr Francesca Whitlum-Cooper

Dr Francesca Whitlum-Cooper is the Acting Curator of Later Italian, Spanish and French Paintings at the National Gallery. She is the curator of 'Discover Liotard and the Lavergne Family Breakfast' (2023) and 'The Last Caravaggio' (2024), and she previously curated 'Poussin and the Dance' (2021) and ‘Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life’ (2019) at the Gallery. She received her PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection, New York.

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