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A Ruin Caprice
Imitator of Francesco Guardi

An imaginary ruined castle or fortress, bathed in gentle sunlight, stands on a piece of land that juts into the water. A fishing boat is moored in a sheltered cove, and two figures – perhaps off fishing, as one holds a rod – walk past it along the water’s edge. A gentle breeze coming off the water catches and tilts the white sails of boats towards the horizon. You can sense the movement of the clouds, made up of thick white paint, which give way to an expanse of blue sky.

This imaginary scene and its companion, A Ruin Caprice, entered the National Gallery’s collection as the work of Guardi – the artist’s expressive brushstrokes and heavy-set lines certainly imitate Guardi’s style. Both are now thought to be by a nineteenth-century imitator.

Key facts
Artist Imitator of Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Full title A Ruin Caprice
Group Two Caprices of Ancient Ruins
Date made 19th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 13.4 x 19.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lady Lindsay, 1912
Inventory number NG2904
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Caprices of Ancient Ruins

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These two paintings, known as capricci, combine reality and fantasy: set in the Venetian lagoon, they show people, buildings and boats surrounded by invented ruins. The paintings were given to the National Gallery as genuine works by Guardi, but are now thought to be by a nineteenth-century imitator.

The varnish on both has become discoloured and the colours have darkened, Guardi’s stylistic influence is apparent in the thick paint that expresses cloud movement and the heavy outlines that define the landscape. Guardi painted numerous imaginary scenes inspired by his home city of Venice, where he lived and worked.

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