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Visions of Venice: Eighteenth-Century Prints from the Collection

April 24–July 18, 2010

The allure of Venice, a city whose canals and squares constantly overflow with ceremonies and festivals, has always attracted travelers from around the globe. In the eighteenth century, Venice was a leading center of contemporary European culture, where the arts of painting and sculpture, printmaking and drawing flourished alongside music and theater, fashion and design. No longer a powerful maritime empire, the magical city built on water had become the favorite destination of travelers on the Grand Tour, a voyage undertaken by young noblemen - accompanied by an entourage of guides and servants - for artistic and cultural education. Prompted by the thriving tourist trade, Venetian artists created sparkling images of the city and its people for aristocratic visitors to carry home with them as souvenirs of La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

Printmaking in Venice prospered as never before in the eighteenth century as the city's most successful painters, notably Canaletto and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, took up the medium of etching to create their own original prints. The number of publishers and publishing houses expanded rapidly to meet the growing demand for illustrated books and prints, both original etchings and reproductions of paintings. Visions of Venice: Eighteenth-Century Prints from the Collection presents various categories of images that celebrated the culture and beauty of the city with the characteristic inventiveness of the Venetian Rococo style. Vedute, topographical or imaginary views of Venice, dominated the market. These images record the city's unique architecture and waterways as well as major ceremonies and festivals. Venetian artists produced capricci, blending fantasy and reality in lively scenes of classical ruins combined with wizards and satyrs or rustic edifices with hermits and shepherds. Genre prints, representations of everyday life among all social classes, were also popular with visitors and Venetians alike.

The exhibition surveys the broad range of Venetian print production, featuring over 70 works by artists such as Canaletto, Marco Ricci, Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, and Pietro Longhi, along with a small selection of drawings and paintings by notable Venetian masters.

Main Building


Sarah Cantor, Dorothy J. del Bueno Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; John Ittmann, Curator of Prints.

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