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A Ruin Caprice
Imitator of Francesco Guardi

A fortified town sits at the edge of a peaceful lagoon – we see just a few boats and a handful of people. These boats may be carrying supplies to and from Venice; for centuries, the city had profited from strong trading routes with mainland Italy and across the Mediterranean. The foreground figures are dashed in with a few flicks of the brush, their movement bringing the scene to life.

We don't know who painted this small scene, but it has similarities to those created by Guardi. His imaginary views, known as capricci, were inspired by the areas surrounding his home city of Venice. This artist has used broad brushstrokes to describe cloud formations, and simple blocks of colour for the buildings and beach.

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 NG2905
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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