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Francesco Guardi, A Caprice with Ruins on the Seashore

Key facts
Full title A Caprice with Ruins on the Seashore
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Date made about 1775-80
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 36.8 × 26.1 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2522
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Caprice with Ruins on the Seashore
Francesco Guardi

This imaginary scene reflects an eighteenth-century fascination with ruins. In it, a once glorious but now ruined folly has been positioned on one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon. Two men dig energetically beside the classical arch, a scene repeated in other paintings by Guardi. He has used the crumbling ruins, emphasised by the trailing greenery and warm light, to evoke an emotional response in viewers, reminding us of the inevitable passage of time.

Guardi painted this in the late 1770s, when he was over 60 years old, and it displays all his ability to suggest form with only a few strokes of paint. The two closest figures are placed in a shaft of light, with the arch acting as a framing device that allows the distant architecture to recede.

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