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Francesco Guardi, An Architectural Caprice

Key facts
Full title An Architectural Caprice with a Palladian Style Building
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Date made 1770-80
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 22.3 × 17 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2517
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Architectural Caprice
Francesco Guardi

This theatrical scene, with its stage-like setting of dramatic buildings that loom over the figures, was imagined by Guardi. The building on the left may be based on an unused design for Venice’s Rialto bridge by Andrea Palladio, a sixteenth-century architect. Guardi probably studied the design and has added a dome here.

The painting presents a collection of Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, from the domed building with a temple front to the classical arcade in the background, which curves round to end in the loggia (open-sided gallery or room) on the right. Although you get a sense of the distances between the buildings, the staircase going down from the temple portico merges into shadow and it isn't easy to tell where the drum-like podium actually meets the ground.

Guardi’s painting is characteristically lively, with energetic figures and sharp yellow and white highlights that suggest brilliant sunshine.

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