National Maritime Museum announces 2022 exhibition Canaletto's Venice Revisited
Issued 7 February 2022
Canaletto’s Venice Revisited
National Maritime Museum
1 April – 25 September 2022
On 1 April 2022, the major exhibition Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will open at the National Maritime Museum, London, exploring some of the most iconic view paintings of Venice and how the tourism that helped establish Canaletto’s career, today threatens his city’s future.
At the heart of the exhibition is the complete set of twenty-four Venetian views from Woburn Abbey, painted by Canaletto for Lord John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford, in the 1730s. This is the first time the paintings, thought to be Canaletto’s largest single commission, will be on display in their entirety outside of their ancestral home at Woburn Abbey. The collection includes twenty-two smaller views of Venice, depicting different aspects of the city’s urban fabric, including iconic landmarks such as Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal, as well as campi, palazzi and churches.
Bookmarking the exhibition will be Woburn Abbey’s two monumental views, A Regatta on the Grand Canal and The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic.
These paintings were commissioned as souvenirs following Lord John Russell’s visit to the city as part of the Grand Tour, an educational rite of passage for the wealthy in the eighteenth century. Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will explore these origins of Venice’s tourist industry through some of the personal objects belonging to the Dukes of Bedford.
The context of the Grand Tour is also important to understanding Canaletto as an artist. His reputation was built on relatively rapid turnover of breath-taking works of art for Venice’s emerging tourist industry. Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will highlight the painstaking detail Canaletto used to quickly lend vibrancy to his work, where a single, swift brushstroke, expertly placed, becomes a reflection of a gondola or the movement of the water down the Grand Canal. This will encourage visitors to look beyond the ‘view painting’ and look more closely at how Canaletto brought life to otherwise static scenes.
While Canaletto’s three-hundred-year-old paintings give the impression of an unchanging and enduring city, Venice today faces urgent threats from mass tourism and severe flooding as climate change brings rising sea levels. In recognition of these threats, Canaletto’s Venice Revisited will also revisit Venice today through contemporary images of a city at risk.
The exhibition will conclude with the annual Ascension Day festival as recorded in Canaletto’s monumental depiction of the celebration from the Woburn Abbey collection. The festival is a medieval tradition revived from the 1960s and is still performed today, in which a ring is tossed into the lagoon, symbolising Venice’s marriage to the sea. In 2022, this festival will be held on Thursday 26 May. Even though Venice today has a precarious relationship with rising sea levels threatening its future, the Ascension Day festival is a poignant reminder that the Venetian way of life has always been defined by its lasting relationship with the sea.
Paddy Rodgers, Director of Royal Museums Greenwich said, ‘This exhibition reminds us that throughout history, the beating heart of Venice is its relationship with the water that flows through, surrounds and, unless humanity can lessen its impact on the planet, over the city.’
Katherine Gazzard, Curator of Art at Royal Museums Greenwich, said ‘Canaletto’s masterpieces are not simply depictions of canals and squares. They are extraordinarily detailed portraits of a living city, enlivened with people and boats. The generous loan of this important series from its permanent home at Woburn Abbey provides a timely opportunity to reflect on Venice’s dynamic history and its precarious present.’
Exhibition information for visitors:
Venue: National Maritime Museum, London
Dates: 1 April – 25 September 2022
Visitor Enquiries: 020 8858 4422 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @RMGreenwich #CanalettoRevisited
Instagram: @royalmuseumsgreenwich #CanalettoRevisited
Facebook /royalmuseumsgreenwich #CanalettoRevisited
Notes to editors
1. The National Maritime Museum holds the world’s largest maritime collection. It is part of Royal Museums Greenwich which also incorporates the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the 17th-century Queen’s House and clipper ship Cutty Sark. This unique collection of museums and heritage buildings, which form a key part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, welcomes visitors from around the world every year and is a major centre of education and research. The mission of Royal Museums Greenwich is to enrich people’s understanding of the sea, the exploration of space, and Britain's role in world history. For more information visit www.rmg.co.uk.
2. Woburn Abbey is the home of the 15th Duke and Duchess of Bedford and has been the principal family seat since the 1620s. Shaped by successive generations to adapt to changing family life and taste, the Abbey is currently closed to facilitate a major refurbishment programme. Guided both by rigorous research and the requirements of modern family life, the Abbey’s interiors are being conserved and re-presented using traditional materials and methods.
Woburn Abbey houses an outstanding collection of works of art brought together by the family over nearly 500 years. A major conservation project is underway with work to paintings, sculptures, tapestries, chandeliers and items of porcelain and many other projects are planned. During the closure, there is an active loans programme to share Woburn’s Treasures so they can be enjoyed by audiences in different contexts. For further details of the refurbishment please see www.woburn.co.uk.
For further information or images, please contact:
Royal Museums Greenwich Press Office
email@example.com | 020 8312 6789
Teaser image: A Regatta on the Grand Canal © From the Woburn Abbey Collection