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The Portico with the Lantern

Although at first glance this etching seems to be a straightforward cityscape, it is in fact a vedute ideate, or a fanciful view. Best known for his topographic views, Canaletto executed quite a few of these imaginary scenes. The deception is particularly strong, since the artist’s descriptions of the realistic portico overlooking the street and lagoon mislead the viewer into looking for a visual source. The mood enhances the apparent realism: a master of light and atmosphere, Canaletto uses tonal variations—developed through cross-hatching—to convey the sense of cool shadow under the portico and the brilliance of the sun reflecting off the house wall. The juxtaposition of the vaguely Roman portico and triumphal arch, in the background at the right, and the elaborate tomb at the left, however, belong to no specific locale, indicating the image was invented. Canaletto also clued in the viewer to this fact by the omission of a title.

Canaletto
Venetian, 1697–1768
The Portico with the Lantern from Views (Vedute)
ca. 1740–44
Etching on paper
Image: 11 ¾ x 16 ¾ in. (29.8 x 42.5 cm); sheet: 18 3/16 x 24 in. (46.2 x 61.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, William H. Conroy Memorial, 71.81