Canal, Antonio

, an eminent painter of Venice, was born in 1697, the son of one Bernardo a scene-painter. He followed the profession of his father, and acquired a wildness of conception and a readiness of hand which afterwards supplied him with ideas and dispatch for his nearly numberless smaller works. Tired of the theatre, he went young to Rome, and with great assiduity applied himself to paint views from nature and the ruins of antiquity. On his return to Venice he continued the same studies from the prospects of that city which the combination of nature and art has rendered one of the most magnificent and the most novel of Europe. Numbers of these are exact copies of the spots they represent, and hence highly interesting to those whose curiosity has not been gratified by residence in the metropolis of the Adriatic. Numbers are the compound of his own invention, graceful mixtures of modern and antique, of fancied and real beauties: such he painted for Algarotti. The most instructive and the most novel of these appears to be that view of the grand canal, in which he adopted the idea of Palladio, by substituting the Rial to for its present bridge, with the basilica of Vicenza rising in the centre, the palace Chericato and other fabrics of that great architect rounding the whole. Canaletto made use of the camera to obtain precision, but corrected its defects in the air-tints; he was the first who shewed to artists its real use and limits. He produced great effects somewhat in the manner of Tiepolo, who sometimes made his figures, and impressed a character of vigour on every object he touched: we see them in their most striking aspect. He takes picturesque liberties without extravagance, and combines his objects so congenially, that the common spectator finds nature, and the man of knowledge the art.

Lord Orford informs us that he came to England in 1746, when he was about the age of fifty, by persuasion of his countryman Amiconi, and encouraged by the multitude of pictures he had sold to, or sent over to the English. He was then in good circumstances, and it was said came over to vest his money in our stocks. Lord Orford thinks he did not stay above two years. At Strawberry hill is a perspective by him of the inside of King’s college chapel, Cambridge; and at Buckingham-house are several large pieces far superior to his common views of Venice. They had belonged to Smyth, the English consul at Venice, who early | engaged Canaletto to work for him for a long term of years, at low rates, but retailed the pictures to travelling English at higher prices. Canaletto died in 1768, aged seventyone. Mr. Fuseli adds, that Francesco Guardi, his scholar, has been of late considered as the rival of his fame, and his views of Venice have excited in Italy and on this side of the Alps, the admiration of those whom the brilliancy of his effect and the taste of his method prevented from perceiving how much he wants of the precision and solidity of the master. He died 1793, aged eighty-one. 1


Pilkington.—Walpole’s Anecdotes.