Capriccio with a Roman Arch by Bernardo Bellotto
The painting illustrates the new genre – the architectural capriccio when the artist artificially combines different architectural motifs but in visually pleasant way. With the help of his rich imagination, Bellotto depicted Roman ruins near the water against the background of a town – original landscape is decorated with the beautiful architecture “brought” from different place.
Although, the painting is Bellotto’s own invention as a result of his own observations and extensive drawing of nature, buildings and humans, its town landscape resembles many Italian towns, and most of the scholars identify it as Verona (Schumacher 145). The city gate is comprised of the Roman Arch which is a copy of the ancient Arch of Titus near the Roman Forum. Bellotto painted over the inscription of the original Arch thus giving the appearance of decay to the arch on his painting.
Standing just in front of the arch, three peasants with a dog act as a counterpoint to its majesty. Behind the arch, two representatives of the elite (judging by their upper-class attires) are involved in the conversation turned back to the viewer. A domed church and two towers are clearly visible parts of townscape on the background.
Interesting is a water mill near the river which diminished proportions are not seen at the first look at the picture. It looks slightly odd comparing to the arch that is rising to the heavens. Potentially, the mill was directly transferred from another composition without modifications in proportions to be completely integrated into this painting.
Another feature of the painting is its interspersing lights with spots of profound shadow. The nightfall with the light of the waning sun and the arch’s breathe of antiquity suggest the passage of time and bring melancholic feelings which, however, are softened by the masterly and harmonic depiction of the town’s inhabitants, townscape and architectural surrounding.
Schumacher, Andreas. Canaletto: Bernardo Bellotto Paints Europe. HirmerPublishers. …