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Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793)
THE PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN NOBLE FAMILY
Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793)

A capriccio with figures amongst classical ruins

Details
Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793)
A capriccio with figures amongst classical ruins
oil on canvas
15¾ x 11¼ in. (40 x 28.6 cm.)
Provenance
F. Flameng collection sale; Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 26-7 May 1919, lot 23.

Lot Essay

Francesco Guardi's early works are stylistically close to Canaletto, leading Giuseppe Fiocco to suggest that he may have worked for a time in Canaletto's studio. By the 1770s, Guardi's technique had gradually evolved into what is considered his mature style, characterized by looser, freer brushwork and a greater liberty with his interpretations of the Venetian topography. He found an enthusiastic market for his capricci, of which the present painting is a charming example; the term capriccio, which means 'idea' or 'invention', was used during the eighteenth century to describe architectural fantasies that combine real and imaginary buildings, monuments, and classical ruins. Unlike his views, which were from the outset collected by foreign visitors, Guardi's capricci seem to have been intended for a domestic and specifically Venetian audience.

The present capriccio is dominated by a decaying stone archway overgrown with vines that dwarfs the tiny figures beneath it. At the left, a young mother carries a basket of laundry in one arm while leading a small boy by the hand. On the steps, two men are playing a game of dice while a third man watches idly from a balcony above and an elegantly dressed couple strolls arm in arm. The figures, brilliantly drawn with Guardi's characteristic flickering line, stand out from the dark shadows, illuminated by the lively touches of color defining their costumes - blue, red, and yellow. This composition is typical of Guardi's late style, and the classical arch reappears numerous times in his capricci, perhaps most closely in his Classical architectonic capriccio in the Thierry collection, Paris.

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