Canaletto – The Royal Collection RCIN 400524. Rome: The Pantheon (1742)
Materials: oil on canvas. Dimensions: 183.5 x 105.7 cm. Inscriptions: Signed and dated ANT.CANAL FECIT / ANNO MDCCXLII. Commissioned by Joseph Smith; from whom bought by George III, 1762. Nr.: RCIN 400524. Source: www.atlantedellarteitaliana.it/artwork-928.html. P.S. I have changed the colors of the original photo.
In 1742 Canaletto painted five upright views of Rome for Joseph Smith. Like an earlier set of Venetian views, they were probably designed for a particular room. They too may have arrived in London unframed, after their acquisition by George III in 1762, since they were hung in English frames in the Entrance Hall of Buckingham House – alongside the Venetian views. The Roman set includes the major sights of ancient Rome. The Pantheon, dedicated to all the gods, was the best preserved monument of ancient Rome and the greatest symbol of the Empire. The glory of an imperial age now long past is suggested by the heaviness of the architecture, which emerges from deep shadows and shows the ravages of time. The vertical format, the low viewpoint and the admiring group of visitors on the Grand Tour emphasise this sense of a monumental past, the brightly clad figures contrasting with the browns of the stonework.
The prominent signatures are the first in Canaletto’s work and are unusual. It has been suggested that artist and patron wanted to promote a new subject at a time when the War of the Austrian Succession had greatly reduced the number of visitors to Venice. There is no record of Canaletto visiting Rome again after his youthful visit in 1719-20. For these paintings he may have relied on prints or the drawings he made in Rome in his youth. It has also been suggested that Canaletto’s nephew, Bernardo Bellotto, with whom he was closely associated, may have supplied material to his uncle. Bellotto was in Rome in 1742, returning to Venice in that year or in 1743.
The first temple on the site of the Pantheon was built in 27 BC by Agrippa, but the existing building with its dedicatory inscription was erected by Hadrian in the second century AD. It was one of the few monuments of pagan antiquity to be converted into a church in the seventeenth century. Its thirteenth-century campanile was replaced by bell towers in the seventeenth century. The fountain is shown without the obelisk bearing the arms of Pope Clement XI installed in 1711. Canaletto set out the architecture by ruling and incising. The figures are less integral to the scene than in the earlier set of views. The prosaic cart in the right foreground contrasts with the ebullience of the coach and horses arriving behind. The influence of Bellotto and of Gian Paolo Panini’s contemporary views of Rome has been traced in such details (http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/egallery/object.asp?searchText=canaletto&x=0&y=0&pagesize=100&object=400524&row=99&detail=about).