Francesco Guardi - inv. 3197
Francesco Guardi is one of the greatest and most sensitive interpreters of the ‘capriccio’ genre. Much requested in the 18th century, the caprice was an imaginary landscape in which
classical buildings, often in ruins, sometimes real but also imaginary, were freely placed.
In this painting, the remains of a great Roman arch in ruins stand near the shoreline sloping down to the sea, flanked by columns with Corinthian capitals and covered by a profusion of wild vegetation. The scene is animated by men and fishermen, engaged in various activities, who move singly or in groups like small splashes of colour.
The most important traits of Guardi’s style can be found in this work: brusque jumps in colour and the vibrant broken progression of outlines. The Roman arch flanked by columns supporting a broken entablature is also frequent in the Venetian painter’s works. This painting has been dated by experts between 1780 and 1785 for the accentuated dissolving effect of the architectural elements and for the particular way of rendering the figures, translated on the canvas as ‘pinheads’.
The condition of the work is good, despite a few extensive abrasions and a yellowing of the paint over time, and its great quality can readily be appreciated.
A drawing recognised by critics as being a work by Guardi and relating to this Poldi Pezzoli painting is conserved in the Correr Museum in Venice: Caprice with Ruins, Boats and Fishermen (inv. no. Cl. III, 7318, Museo Correr). This drawing, in pen and brush with brown ink and white lead, shows only a few differences compared to the canvas, in the placing and number of the figures, while the architectural element remains unaltered.