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Canaletto, 'London: Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh', 1754

Key facts
Full title London: Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh
Artist Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Date made 1754
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 47 × 75.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1894
Inventory number NG1429
Location Room 38
Collection Main Collection
London: Interior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh

This painting shows the inside of the famous rotunda (demolished in 1805) at Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea. Ranelegh opened in 1742 as one of London’s most prestigious pleasure gardens, and its main attraction was this vast circular building in which fashionable society could attend balls and listen to music.

To the right, an orchestra performs, catching the attention of a small crowd. We look down on the elegant clientele, which, along with the light that floods the space, emphasises the building’s loftiness. Canaletto’s theatrical lighting highlights the curvature of the building and sparkles on the delicate chandeliers. We aren't just watching the concert – we watch the men, women and children scattered across an enormous stage.

Canaletto painted this work in 1754, towards the end of his nine years in England. He had dominated the London market for view paintings – no other artist, native or foreign, could compare to him.

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