Krellig, Heiner – abstract

Canaletto and the others. Recent Monographic Exhibitions of Venetian Veduta Painters: Art History and the Market

Heiner Krellig

Universität Bamberg

In 1996 the 300th anniversary of the birth of Giambattista Tiepolo was celebrated with various exhibitions, including the monumental monographic one held first at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and then noticeably changed, at Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice. In the next year, the 300th birthday of his great contemporary, the most famous of the veduta painters of all times Antonio Canal, known better as Canaletto, passed over with almost no mention, and no commemorative exhibition.

It was only after the millennium change that a boom of monographic exhibitions dedicated to Canaletto and other Venetian townscape painters started. After the – up to now – most comprehensive and complete overview held at the Metropolitan in 1989-90, no other Canaletto-exhibition had been organized, but since 2000 about 20 exhibitions dedicated to one of the many Venetian painters active in the field in the 18th century have been on show. In the same period prices for Venetian townscapes on the market exploded. At least two times the second highest priced old master-painting sold on auction was to become a Canaletto (topped in both cases only by a work by Titian). In the meantime, in a popular “scientific” book written by a London art dealer, the flock of followers, successors, copiers and imitators riding on the Canaletti-wave in the 18th century were ennobled with the title of “rivals”, minor painters whose works in 18th and 19th-century collection inventories generally had been catalogued under the generic topic “Canaletti”, but nowadays also became themselves subject of monographic exhibitions.

After about 15 years of monographic exhibitions dedicated to Canaletto and other Venetian townscape painters, it is worth to ask which scientific effort those shows have brought, beyond many, often quite doubtful new attributions and a very generic popularization of the genre of the veduta that too often is confined to the simplifying concept of a Grand Tour souvenir. Indeed, it is almost exclusively in the field of the history of collecting that progresses of knowledge can be detected, often not published in exhibition catalogues or scientific literature – but: in auction catalogues.

The proposed conference wants to reflect on the entanglements between public museums and institutions, market and scientific research in the art world of the 21st century. It can be held either in Italian or English language.