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Francesco Guardi, An Architectural Caprice

Key facts
Full title An Architectural Caprice
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Date made 1770-8
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 54.2 × 36.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2523
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Architectural Caprice
Francesco Guardi

This capriccio, or architectural fantasy, is a patchwork of features taken from different buildings in Venice: the archway in the foreground is from the Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower) while the buildings and staircase beyond are from the inner courtyard of the Doge’s Palace. Guardi has exaggerated the width of the archway and the distance to the arches beyond to draw our eye further into the painting, while the staircase gives the scene a sense of grandeur.

The archway we are looking through is partially in shadow, but patches of intense sunlight cut across the floor and wall to the left. This feels like a snapshot of city life: two men give money to a beggar boy, while a woman in a splash of yellow walks away from us. Guardi has clearly taken delight in depicting particular details, like the statue above the door on the left and the white cloth draped over the windowsill, and the hanging lantern opposite.

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