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THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERSAuthor(s): F. J. B. WATSONSource: Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 114, No. 5116 (MARCH 1966), pp. 266-289Published by: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and CommerceStable URL: .Accessed: 24/06/2014 23:01Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is collaborating with JSTOR todigitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS The Fred Cook Memorial Lecture by F.J . B. WATSON , C.V.O., B.A. , F.S.A. , Director of The Wallace Collection , and Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art, delivered to the Society on Wednesday 12 th January 1966, with James By am Shaw , M.A., F.S.A. y a Director of P. & D. Colnaghi and Co. Ltd ., and Lecturer at Christ Churchy Oxford , the Chair the chairman: I think it is appropriate to begin by saying something about the origin of the Fred Cook Memorial Lecture. Fred Cook was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and when his widow died in 1954 she left a sum of money to endow an annual lecture in memory of her husband. The subject is the Old Masters. The first lecture was given in 1955 by Mr. Allan G wynne- Jones, and since then the Memorial Lecture has been delivered by such experts as Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Anthony Blunt, Sir Gerald Kelly, Mr. Boase and Professor Gombrich. Mr. Francis Watson succeeded the late Sir James Mann as Director of the Wallace Collection in 1963, having been on the staff at the Wallace for fifteen years previously, and in 1963 he also became Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art (having been previously Deputy Surveyor). His recreations, according to Who's Who , are 'reading, writing and arithmetic'. What more concerns us here is his exceptionally wide knowledge of all forms of art of the eighteenth century. His catalogue of the French furniture in the Wallace collection was generally acclaimed, I think, as a masterpiece of its kind. At the Wallace Collection he is, of course, chiefly concerned with the French Schools, but he is also the author of an excellent book on Canaletto, and I believe his personal preference is for everything connected with the art, topography and life of Venice in the eighteenth century. It is as one of the best living authorities on Venetian Art that he speaks to-day. The following lecture , which was illustrated with lantern slides , was then delivered. THE LECTURE For many people, probably for most, the name Guardi evokes merely the painter of views of Venice, a sort of more romantic Canaletto. Yet Francesco Guardi was probably at least middle-aged by eighteenth-century standards, before he adopted view-painting as an independent career. His working life was more than half over indeed before he gained complete independence for himself as a painter. For all the earlier part of his active life he was a mere assistant, generally anonymous for the outside world, working in the studio of his elder brother Giovanni Antonio, a studio engaged almost exclusively in producing figure paintings, either religious or historical, or employed on such humbler activities as making copies of the work of other masters. During the nineteenth century this aspect of the art of the Guardis was quite forgotten. Only Francesco's work as a painter of landscapes was remembered. 266 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Even the name of his elder brother fell into total oblivion. It was only in 1923 that a book by Professor Fiocco drew attention once again to the considerable numbers of surviving figure paintings from the hands of the two brothers Guardi. This excited a good deal more interest in Italy than in this country. Understandably so, for hardly any of Francesco's landscape paintings remained in his homeland; almost all of them were in foreign hands, mostly in this country, whilst a number of Gianantonio's altarpieces survive in churches in the Veneto. In England the general public which visits exhibitions and picture galleries probably only became aware of the Guardis as figure painters in the winter of i960, when five huge paintings of scenes from Tasso, discovered under somewhat sensational circumstances in an Irish country house, were included in the Royal Academy's exhibition 'Italian Art and Britain'. In the summer of last year, the city of Venice organized a great exhibition, dedicated to the brothers Guardi, in which a large number of the view paintings were displayed together for the first time beside a wide selection of the landscapes and Venetian views. It provided a unique opportunity, and one unlikely to recur, to take a conspectus of the work of the Guardi brothers and especially to examine the significance of the figure paintings of both brothers. It was for this reason that when I was invited to give the Fred Cook Memorial Lecture, I chose the work of these two brothers, one famous, one half forgotten until recently, as my theme. In the course of the lecture I shall place far greater emphasis on the figure paintings than on Francesco's Venetian views. Indeed, I might well have entitled it 'The Brothers Guardi as Figure Painters'. This is not because I consider the religious and historical paintings as better or more important than the landscapes. I do not think posterity would have so readily forgotten that the Guardis were figure painters if that had been the case. I must confess, however, that since seeing the full range of Giovanni Antonio Guardi's work at Venice last summer, I take a considerably higher view of his capabilities than I did before. But it is not for that reason alone I am concentrating on their subject paintings here. It is partly because the figure compositions are so much less familiar, in England at any rate, where a large number of Francesco's Venetian vedute survive, that it seemed to me more interesting to examine this aspect of their art. But there was another reason also. In recent years there have been some very sharp exchanges, particularly between Italian scholars, as to which of the figure paintings are by Francesco and which by his elder brother. The Venice exhibition, by displaying a very large number of the figure paintings side by side for the first time (and certainly the last for many years), seemed to me to clarify this problem in a way which had been totally impossible before. Having said that, I should add that, as soon as I actually began to write the lecture I regretted my decision to make it focus largely on this particular question. The stylistic problem of distinguishing the work of the two artists is of so purely visual a character that I quickly despaired of presenting it in verbal form. If there- fore I urge you to concentrate on my slides rather than on what I have to say this afternoon it is not so much to distract your attention from the matter of my lecture as to concentrate it on what I believe to be its more important side. 267 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 The main recorded facts about the Guardi family are comparatively scanty and quickly summarized: Gianantonio Guardi was born in Vienna on 27th May 1699, the son of Domenico Guardi, a painter from the Trentino. Francesco, their second son, was born on ist October 171 2, in Venice, where the family had transferred itself about a decade before and where Domenico had set up a studio near the SS. Apostoli. Three years later a third son, Nicol, was born. He, too, was to become a painter, but no single work by him is now identifiable; I shall have nothing to say of him today. Less than a year after this, Domenico Guardi died, leaving his seventeen-year-old son, Gianantonio, as head of the family studio to fend for himself, his widowed mother and the junior members of the family. A year later, Gianantonio produced his only signed and dated work. It is the feeblest sort of cult picture representing St. John Nepomuck and of no artistic significance whatever. Nevertheless, it gives some indication of the orientation of Gianantonio's artistic interests. He was a figure painter and not a landscape artist. After this, silence falls on the Guardi family for more than a decade, apart from the fact that in 171 9 the one sister Cecelia married the young Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, destined to become the greatest Venetian painter of the age. Then ten years later the will of a certain Conte Giovanni Benedetto Giovanelli, drawn up on 15th December 1731, mentions the disposition of certain copies of paintings executed ' dalli Fratelli Guardi '. That such menial activity was one of the principal activities of the family at this time seems clear. Matheus von Schulemburg, a German soldier of fortune, after his successful defence of the besieged Corf against the Turks found himself the flattered and richly rewarded darling of the Venetian public, and something of a nouveau riche. He proceeded to furnish himself with a picture gallery suitable to his newly- won position. It is characteristic of the artistic taste of a pre-photographic era that he unhesitatingly commissioned a series of copies to take their place in this gallery. Copiesof old masters like Titian, Tintoretto or Veronese or of contemporaries like Sebastiano Ricci and Piazzetta, copies of portraits of contemporary notabilities like the King and Queen of Spain, members of the Austrian Hapsburg family or of the Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia, and so on. For nearly twenty years, down, in fact, to 1747, Gianantonio Guardi was receiving modest payments, almost in the nature of salary rather than individual fees, for numerous productions of this type. The majority were not even based on an acquaintance with the originals but on engravings. With our nineteenth-century romantic views of the nature of artistic genius and originality such pictures inevitably appear as mere hack work. Even when Guardi produced a portrait of his patron (Figure 1) it is questionable if it can be regarded as an original production in the modern sense. It appears to have been inspired, like so many of his paintings, by the work of another artist and is, in fact, based on an engraving of Rigaud's portrait of Turenne. This matter of copying, of taking their compositions from the works of other artists remained, as we shall see, an undercurrent in the work of both Guardis throughout their careers. Religious paintings, however, were probably the most important productions of the Guardi studio during those years. But here the records were even more scanty. In 1738, three lunettes of sacred subjects were put 268 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure i. Gianantonio Guardi: Portrait of Marshal Matheus von Schulemburg ( Venice , Museo Correr) in position in the sacristy of the little church of Vigo d'Anaunia in the Trentino. They are not great works of art, and they are in a deplorable state of conservation. Nor do they display great artistic originality. One is copied, like so many of the Schulemburg paintings, from an engraving and one at least is signed P. A. Guardi , P. F., perhaps for Tinxit Antonius Guardi Pictor Venetus', but conceivably referring to the parish priest Pietro Guardi, a relation of the artist, who commissioned the paintings. Of superior quality (and in a superior state of preservation) is the small Virgin and Child with Saints , which must have been placed in position in the same church at about the same time, certainly by 1742 when the old picture previously above the altar was sold. Here again Guardi has sought inspiration in the work of another artist, an altarpiece by Solimena now at Dresden, but then in Venice. Secure documents about the elder Guardi are desperately few. There is one signed work, and only one, dating from his mature years : The Death of St. Joseph , now in the museum in East Berlin (Figure 2). We know from a contemporary ecclesiastical diarist that an altarpiece (Figure 3) of the Trinity as redeemers of Christian slaves, 269 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 2. Gianantonio Guardi {signed): The Death of St. Joseph ( Berlin, East German Zone , State Museums) ' opera del sig. Antonio Guardi di Venezia ', to which another hand has added 4 della scuola di Bastiano Ric , was painted for the parish church of Pasiano near Udine and the painter received 50 ducats in payment for it in October 1750. In February 1756 Gianantonio was elected a member of the recently founded Venetian Academy, of which his brother-in-law, G. B. Tiepolo, was the first president. This at least provides evidence that the elder Guardi must have been held in some esteem by his contemporaries and rivals. It was evidently a distinction of which he was proud, since he attended the Academy's sessions with considerable 270 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OP PAINTERS Figure 3. Gianantonio Guardi: The Vision of St. John of Matha (PasianOy parish church) assiduity in the less than four years of life which remained to him. He died on 22nd January 1760. Apart from a few insignificant references to his name in legal documents mostly concerning property and with no direct bearing on his art, the few facts I have rehearsed are literally all we know about Gianantonio Guardi. The rest is connoisseurship, intuition, attribution. Whatever you may care to call it, it remains no more than more or less informed guesswork. 271 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 4. Francesco Guardi (signed): A Saint in Ecstasy ( Trento , Museo Nazionale) Not, let me hasten to add, that it is necessarily the worse for this. Comparatively few of Francesco Guardi 's views of Venice are signed, yet we find no difficulty in accepting hundreds of views of Venice, unsigned and undocumented, as his work. His style as a view-painter is so distinctive that even the least sophisticated can quickly learn to recognize it and distinguish it from the work, for instance, of Canaletto or the lesser Venetian view-painters of the period such as Carlevaris, Richter or Marieschi. The documents about the early activities of Francesco Guardi are even more scanty than those about his older brother. Apart from the fact that he was presumably embraced in the phrase 4 fratelli Guardi ' mentioned in the Giovanelli will already quoted (although he was only nineteen years old at the time), as far as written documents are concerned he had no independent artistic existence in those early years. Anything produced in the Guardi studio was nominally the responsibility of the head of the studio according to the strictly professional attitude adopted by 272 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure 5. Francesco Guardi (signed): Hope ( Sarasota , Ringling Museum) members of the pre-Revolutionary painters' guilds, not only in Venice but elsewhere in Europe wherever the medieval system of crafts-guilds still prevailed. There are, however, a few signed or documented paintings by Francesco to give us some clue to his style as a painter of figure subjects. In the museum at Trento there is a Saint in Ecstasy before the Host (Figure 4) which is signed Franco . Guardi Fee . Then in the Ringling Museum at Sarasota there are two largish panels representing Hope (Figure 5) and Faith . The former is signed F. Guardi fecit and until 1950 apparently bore a date read as 1747. Unhappily this disappeared during a cleaning and the positive evidence for their date is gone for ever. Although none 27 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 6. Francesco Guardi: Miracle of a Dominican Saint (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) of these three paintings is a great work of art, they at least make it pretty clear that Francesco was engaged in figure painting in the years before his brother's death. He continued to do so at least occasionally even after that date. This painting of the Miracle of a Dominican Saint (Figure 6) was put up in the church of S. Pietro Martire at Murano in 1763, three years after Gianantonio's death, and must necessarily be by Francesco. There is also an altarpiece of SS. Peter and Paul in the parish church at the village of Roncegno in the Trentino. This not only corresponds to a drawing by Francesco but was put in position in the church in the decade 1772-82. So that, too, must be by Francesco also. There are one or two other minor religious paintings, small cult pictures for family use, like this Madonna (Figure 7) signed by Francesco but of somewhat indeterminate date. With this brief glance at these dozen or so paintings, we have really surveyed virtually all the documentary evidence for Gianantonio's and Francesco's activities as figure painters. Let us turn for a moment and examine rather more carefully one or two of the religious paintings I have mentioned. By no means all of them are such inferior creations as that early head and shoulders of St. John Nepomuck or one or two of the Schulemberg copies might have led one to suppose. Take, for instance, the Madonna in Glory with the Infant Christ and Saints from the little village church at Vigo d'Anaunia. Although based on an altarpiece by Solimena at Dresden, it is a work of distinct originality. The types, particularly of the Madonna, are sweet, with distinctive pointed chins, slant eyes, and long pointed noses. The poses of 274 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure 7. Francesco Guardi {signed): Madonna {Milan, Tecchio collection) many of the figures are mannered, the necks long and awkwardly inclined to the body. This is perhaps even more clearly seen in the drawing than in the painting. The colours are bright and harmonious and the brushwork flickering, staccato and nervous, the handling almost, it might be said, 'pre-impressionistic'. The style is individual and original. There is little attempt to draw with the brush. Forra is partially dissolved in a flashing display of painterly qualities. If we turn from this to the Death of St. Joseph (Figure 2) from Berlin, which is signed Gio. Antonio Guardi and is therefore a touchstone for his mature style, it is perfectly evident that they are by the same hand. Around these two works we may group a certain number of others which are neither signed nor documented. Let us look, for instance, at another religious painting, a scene from The Last Supper (Figure 8) in an Italian private collection. Here again the same characteristics can, I think, be seen - the soft, flickering near-impressionistic brushwork, the somewhat mannered, elegant pose, the sharply pointed noses, the awkwardly twisted neck of St. John, etc. Exactly these same characteristics are to be seen in two altarpieces in the Veneto, both later in date, I think, than The Last Supper. One (detail, Figure 9), perhaps slightly the earlier, comes from the parish church 275 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 8. Gianantonio Guardi: The Last Supper, Christ and St. John {Crema, S tramezzi collection) of St. Anthony Abbot at Belvedere di Aquileia, the other from the tiny hill village of Cerete Basso near Bergamo. The latter, which dates from 1754, is characteristically derived from the work of an earlier artist, an altarpiece by Veronese in the Venetian church of S. Francesco della Vigna, with which the Guardis must have been familiar, for it was to be seen not half a mile away from their Venetian studio at SS. Apostoli. Here, whilst the types are the same, the dissolution of form has gone even farther than in The Last Supper , especially in the Cerete Basso altarpiece. Having examined those figure paintings which are more or less certainly by the elder Guardi and having succeeded in isolating what appear to be some of the 276 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure 9. Gianantonio Guardi: Detail of St. Anthony Abbot from altarpiece of Madonna and Child with Saints {Belvedere di Aquileia , parish church) leading characteristics of his style, let us look for a moment at one or two more controversial works. When the series of large paintings from Tasso 's Gerusalemme Liberata (Figure ioa) was first shown at the Royal Academy just over five years ago they awoke a good deal of controversy amongst Guardi scholars. Some supposed them to be entirely by Francesco; others believed them to be the work of Gianantonio alone. Still others adhered to the view that they were works of collaboration, produced in the family studio by both Francesco and Gianantonio, possibly even with the assistance of the dim and shadowy third brother, Nicol. 277 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 10a. Gianantonio Guardi: Scene from Tasso 's Gerusalemme Liberata ( London , private collection) Although superficially this last is a more plausible view and one fitting in nicely with what we know about the activities of Venetian studio practice generally, I must confess that after scrutinizing the Tasso paintings with great care at Venice, in the presence of other similar paintings, I can no longer believe that any theory of the collaboration of different hands on any single canvas from the series of eight paintings is tenable (whether certain components of the series are by different artists is another matter). And I think most of those who spent any length of time in the exhibition looking at these impressive paintings would probably agree with me. The individual pictures all present a perfectly unified surface effect. There is nowhere on any of the canvases to which one can point and say this tree, that flower, that crumbling building, is from a different hand to that head, this horse or that fragment of armour. Look, for instance, at this helmeted head of Erminia (Figure i ob) and compare it with a similar head from the Vigo d'Anaunia altarpiece or with one from the altarpiece at Cerete Basso. In all three, I think you can see 278 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure i ob. Gianantonio Guardi: Detail of head of Erminia from Figure 10a ( London , private collection) even in a monochrome repro- duction, just that dissolution of form I spoke of a moment ago, the same type of flickering, febrile, nervous, loosely painted 'impressionist' brushwork (I use the last word in its popular connotation, not in a sense that most historians of nineteenth- century French painting would accept). This type of handling of paint is found, too, throughout what is certainly the most controversial work produced in the Guardi workshop in the way of figure- painting - the scenes from the Story of Tobit (Figure 11) with which the long, narrow front of the organ-loft in the Church of the Angelo Raffaele at Venice is decorated. Here the staccato nervous touch is even more evident than in the Tasso painting and is even more brilliant. Form has almost completely melted in a shimmering pyrotechnical display of flashing colour. Recall once again the signed Death of St, Joseph (Figure 2) and I think you will readily see the similarity of style, even if in the Tobias paintings it is more mature. It can only be a work by Gianantonio Guardi. Since Francesco Guardi developed as a landscape painter it might well be thought he was employed in inserting the landscapes into his brother's compositions. Plausible as the idea is, I do not believe that this is what took place. If we isolate a section of the landscape from one of the Tasso series, The Fight between Tancred Figure ii. Gianantonio Guardi: Detail from The Story of Tobit (Venice y Church of Angelo Raffaele) 279 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Is .0 s s s S s O s e> -c> j jd Q < g 0 Q v s > S 1 N W p fi 280 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS Figure 13. Francesco Guardi: Abundance ( Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery) and Argente , and place it beside a not dissimilar detail from one of Francesco's views (Figure 12), it is immediately apparent that they are not the work of the same hand. The buildings and mountain landscape from the Tasso paintings are fleeting and evanescent things with hardly any solidity at all. They are as insubstantial as Prospero 's 'cloud capp'd towers', although painted with much verve and brio. There is nothing of the flash and glitter of Gianantonio's work in this detail from one of his views of the landscape on the Venetian mainland. The buildings are solid and firmly placed on the ground. The landscape is the work of a draughts- man more than a painter, and here it is not perhaps irrelevant to note that 281 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 14. Gianantonio Guardi: The Triumph of Aurelian ( Oslo , Villa di Bogstad) innumerable drawings by Francesco have survived, whilst many fewer of Gianantonio 's are known to us. It is time to examine Francesco's few certainly authentic figure paintings and see how they compare with those of his elder brother. Chief amongst these are the signed Saint from Trento (Figure 4) and the two Allegorical Figures from Sarasota (Figure 5). Compared with the ethereal creatures who participate in the Gerusalemme Liberata (Figure 10a, b) series or the Story of Tobit (Figure 11) with their glittering and sparkling costumes, these are solid, earthbound, realistic human beings. They are the creations of a draughtsman just like the buildings in Francesco's landscape which we examined a moment ago. The point can be made clear if we put the Miracle of a Dominican Saint (Figure 6) alongside a section of the Angelo Raffaele organ-loft, a painting on a similar scale and of a not dissimilar character, even if it was probably painted a few years later. The difference of artistic vision between the two styles becomes immediately evident. Armed with these touchstones it may perhaps be possible to distinguish between the hands responsible for some of the more controversial figure compositions which have proved a battle-ground between rival factions - the pan-antonists who regard all the figure paintings as by the elder brother, and the rival pan- francescists (they might more appropriately be named anti-antonists) who consider 282 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS that all the good figure paintings are by Francesco and all the bad ones are the work of his brother, whom they condemn as a grossly inferior artist. Let us take for a start two paintings, allegorical figures representing Merit and Abundance (Figure 13) recently acquired by the Walker Gallery at Liverpool, which have been variously claimed for both artists. If we put them alongside this scene from Roman history, The Triumph of Aurelian (Figure 14), one of a set of four such large compositions discovered not long since in Norway, it is impossible to avoid seeing that they represent different types of artistic vision altogether. The Norwegian painting falls into the same category as the Tasso and the Tobit paintings, whilst the Liverpool figures with their firmly outlined draperies, their solidly described forms, the emphasis on linear rather than pictorial surface effects, find their affinities in the Sarasota Allegories (Figure 5) or the Vienna Miracle (Figure 6). To put the matter somewhat crudely, the Liverpool pictures are painted drawings; the Oslo scenes from Roman history, pure painting. The contrast becomes even more evident in a detail from another of the Oslo paintings, The Continence of Scipio . Turn now to two of the most striking of all Guardi subject paintings: the Ridotto and the Nun's Parlour in the Correr Museum, both of them inspired by Pietro Longhi. In spite of an inscription 'Anto. Guardi ' said to be on the back of the drawing for this picture, there can, I think, be little doubt that all its affinities are with Francesco's linear manner rather than with the painterly one of the Tasso pictures. With the Liverpool Allegories in mind, one has only to look at the solidly drawn draperies of the elegant masked lady toying with a fan who is seated at the right of the picture. If further evidence is needed, I think no more is required than to put beside it a detail from a scene of a not dissimilar character showing the Ante-room to the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge's Palace. And this work is signed in full Tranco. Guardi'. The two paintings, the Ridotto and the Parlatorio , agree so closely in style with a small signboard painted for the Arte dei Coroneri or jewellers' guild, that, here again, I think we can be sure that this is by Francesco also. As there is evidence that the signboard was executed around 1750 or soon after, it perhaps provides a key to the dating of this group of paintings in the manner of Longhi. I have spent so much time discussing the difference in style between the work of Gianantonio Guardi and his younger brother Francesco as figure painters that you will suppose I am not going to say anything at all about his more familiar rle as a landscape artist. Although I declared at the beginning of this lecture that I should speak less about the Venetian views than about the subject pictures, it would be somewhat ridiculous to discuss the work of the Guardi brothers without reference to that aspect of their art by which alone posterity has remembered the name of Guardi until quite recent times. Nevertheless time only permits me just to touch on this matter to-day. There seem to me to be two points of particular relevance to what I have been discussing this afternoon. Why did Francesco spend time on figure painting at all when the natural bias of his genius was evidently towards landscape? And when did he abandon historical and religious painting for view painting? The two questions are, of course, linked, but the first is easier to answer than the second. 283 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 In Venice, as in many other places in Europe, most noticeably perhaps in Paris, the medieval system of craft guilds or corporations persisted almost unchanged down to the last decade of the eighteenth century. Anyone familiar with this system will know that it imposed a discipline on artists so rigorous as to seem utterly intolerable to-day in an age which regards individual talent as the sole criterion of artistic genius. In Venice, for instance, only a limited number of painters were permitted to practise their art and sell it within the confines of the city at all. These were the Masters whose names were registered in the Mariegola {Madre Regola or Register) of the guild and appear on its Fraglia or official list. Each of these was allowed to set up a studio or workshop in which he could train apprentices and employ assistants. Within these workshops everyone was subordinated to the master or head of the studio. The assistants counted for nothing; they were of little more importance than the man at the conveyor belt who inserts a few rivets into a modern car. All work coming out from the studio was (in theory at any rate) sold under the master's name whatever individual member of the workshop had actually painted it. In the eyes of the world it was his work. If it bore a signature it would be his and nobody's else's. Only when the head of the studio died was it possible for one of his assistants, however competent, to become a Master and succeed him. Only then did he become what we should regard to-day as an artistic personage. Before that he was a mere 'ghost' for his master. As a consequence, we find that Francesco's name appears in the Fraglia for the first time only in the 176 1-3 list of masters, exactly a year after his brother's death. From this it follows that Francesco before 1760 must have had to subordinate himself to a considerable degree to his elder brother and work in the general manner imposed by the practice of the workshop, a studio specializing in figure painting. This was the guild practice in all its rigour. By the end of the eighteenth century this age-long tradition had begun to seem irksome everywhere. In Paris the guilds were almost abolished by the eighteenth-century economist Turgot in 1770, but he was unable to overcome prejudice and entrenched privilege so that, in the end, it took the Revolution to destroy them. Things were much the same at Venice. Constant complaints about the constricting results of the guild discipline have come down to us from the latter part of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, we cannot doubt that this was beginning to be relaxed some time before the guilds were finally dissolved, just as the strictest of the Parisian guild regulations were somewhat relaxed after Turgot 's attempted reforms of 1770. The very fact that the 1 fratelli Guard V are mentioned collectively in the Giovanelli will suggests something rather more than strict anonymity for Francesco. And the signed painting at Sarasota, if it was really dated 1747 (and there seems little reason to doubt that it was), points again a slight concession to individualism. So does the Trento painting, if, as seems certain, it was painted before Gianantonio's death. Concessions were no doubt easier in a family studio where master and assistants were brothers. There are, besides, two extant letters from Francesco Guardi to a certain Carlo Cordellina dated 1750 which refer to the delay in delivering certain modelli or sketches for paintings. Whether the modelli were for subject pictures or for Venetian 284 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS views does not emerge, but they imply that to some degree Francesco had his own outside contacts and even his own patrons by that date. Within the framework of the guild regulations Francesco would hardly be likely to have been encouraged to take up landscape painting except as something of a side-line whilst his brother was still alive. The earliest written reference to his having done so only occurs four years after Gianantonio 's death. On 25th April 1764, Pietro Gradenigo, an indefatigable chronicler of the artistic news of eighteenth-century Venice, noted in his diary that Francesco Guardi ' buon scolaro del rinomato Canaletto ' who had earned considerable fame by the use of the camera ottica , was exhibiting two largish canvases commissioned by an Englishman, the one representing the Piazza San Marco looking towards 4 a Chiesa e VOrlogio' the other a view looking up the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge. Thus by 1764 Francesco was certainly embarked on the career which was to preoccupy him (though, as we have seen, not exclusively so) for the rest of his life. For how long before this he had been painting landscapes is not very easy to say. Some scholars have suggested that he started as early as the late 1730s and began by putting figures into the landscape paintings of Marieschi, who died in 1743. But I confess that it seems to me that the reasons for associating Guardi and Marieschi at all are flimsy. That he based one of his paintings (at Philadelphia) on an etching by Marieschi means nothing. Copying other masters* work was common form in the Guardi studio throughout its existence. Nor can I think that much comfort is to be derived from the existence in the Buccleuch collection of a series of Venetian views, some signed by Francesco Guardi, others unquestionably by Marieschi, to which certain scholars have attached great importance. There is no tittle of evidence that the group was painted as a series nor that it was assembled before the nineteenth century. I cannot feel that they provide sufficient evidence for supposing that he was practising landscape-painting in his early twenties. If Francesco, on the other hand, started on this second career by becoming a pupil of Canaletto, as Gradenigo's words seem to imply, he can hardly have done this before the end of 1755 or 1756, when Canaletto returned finally to Venice from his nine-year sojourn in England. But do Gradenigo 's words necessarily mean this? or by ' buon scolaro ' did he really mean a 'follower or imitator' of Canaletto? Some highly indecisive arguments have arisen over the interpretation of these two simple words. I am inclined to favour the second interpretation. The annotator of 1750, whom I have already quoted as describing Gianantonio Guardi as 4 della scuola di Bastiano Ricci' certainly did not mean that the elder Guardi was Ricci 's pupil in any literal sense. Rather that Guardi was a follower or imitator of one who was perhaps the most revered Venetian artist of the period when Gianantonio was growing up. When Canaletto returned from England, he was old, ailing and reluctant to paint much. He was, moreover, rich, or should have been. That he should have taken a younger man as a pupil at this stage of his life seems to me rather unlikely. But that an artist with strong leanings towards landscape painting should see that the failing powers of the most successful Venetian landscape painter of the day were likely to leave vacant a place worth filling seems to me highly likely. Particularly with Canaletto 's dazzling material success as an added bait. And with 285 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 Figure 15. Francesco Guardi {signed): Landscape (. Leningrad , Hermitage Museum) the limited freedom of action implied by the Cordellina letters, that he should have tentatively struck out on a new line does not seem an unreasonable suggestion. But I think it more likely that Francesco first graduated to landscape painting by way of imitating Marco Ricci 's imaginative landscapes with ruins rather than Canaletto 's realistic views of Venetian architecture. There is a small group of works of this sort which seem to be amongst Francesco's earliest attempts at landscape. The most important is in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington. It copies a well known work by the two Riccis now in the Vicenza Museum. Another painting, possibly its pendant, is in an Italian private collection. A third is in the Hermitage (Figure 15) at Leningrad. All three are signed as though their author wished to lay especial claim to them. And is not this just what Francesco Guardi might be expected to do if he was attempting to launch himself into a new artistic field and abandon the figure painting in which he had been brought up? In the same way what appear on stylistic grounds to be Francesco's earliest views of Venice are for the most part signed as though to impress his name clearly on the minds of his patrons. They are likewise the views which come closest to Canaletto 's work, for I need hardly stress here the fact that Francesco's mature Venetian views in general share little in common with Canaletto save subject matter. His approach to this is as different from the elder artist's as it could well 286 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS be. For most of his career Canaletto was concerned almost exclusively with the accurate depiction of those architectural beauties of Venice which travellers found so impressive and of which they wished to carry away a record. Only in his very earliest phase was Canaletto deeply concerned to depict the picturesque aspects of the city. And it is not, I think, insignificant that it was from just this early type of Canaletto that Francesco seems to have derived these Canalettesque views which I have suggested were his earliest efforts as a painter of Venetian vedute . If I am right in supposing that Francesco Guardi, in turning to painting views of Venice, was hoping to fill the gap which was left at Venice by Canaletto 's approaching end (he in fact died in 1768), he was no doubt able to do so. For the latter part of the century he was the only view-painter of real importance working in Venice. But if he hoped that the mantle of Canaletto 's material success would fall upon him, he was wrong. The change of feeling which took place around 1760, and which we call neo- classicism, caused a shift of sensibility. Rome and the remains of classical antiquity became the focus of the foreign tourist's interest in Italy, and Venice took a third place, falling behind both Rome and Naples. There were still plenty of travellers to buy Francesco's Venetian views, but the wealthiest English milords no longer ordered his vedute in series of a dozen or more as Lord Carlisle and the Duke of Bedford had done from Canaletto. Such lords of creation visiting Italy after 1760 generally spent their money on Greek vases and Roman sculpture rather than on views of Venice. The English still patronized him in a small way, and in John Strange, English resident at Venice from 1773 to 1788, he found a patron and admirer not incomparable with Canaletto 's great patron, Consul Joseph Smith. But the difference in the climate of patronage which Guardi received and that which was showered on Canaletto is reflected in the differences between their rates of pay. Where Canaletto had received 94 sequins for four paintings as a young and unknown man at the beginning of his career, Guardi 's fame at the age of seventy was only sufficient to earn him less than half that sum for the state commission to paint four records of Pius VI's visit to Venice. And even then the commission was hedged about with conditions and restrictions which Canaletto would certainly have found humiliating. Francesco Guardi was essentially a romantic, and success came to him as it often came to romantic artists, after his death. To most of Canaletto 's patrons Guardi 's picturesque meditations on the decaying city would not have appeared 'like' enough. They wanted something more in the manner of a photograph. Although when Lady Georgiana Agar-Ellis and her husband were in Venice in 1817 and wanted to buy some cheap souvenirs of the city they managed to pick up nearly a hundred Guar dis, this was not the true beginning of Francesco's success with collectors. That came about in the middle of the nineteenth century in the full tide of Victorian romanticism. But since that time collectors and art-lovers have never flagged in their admiration for him. And by a curious paradox, as Francesco's fame grew, the reputation of his elder brother waned until he was totally forgotten. In the nineteenth century he hardly earns a single sentence in any history of Venetian art. And Francesco's figure paintings received even less attention. Their 287 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS MARCH 1 966 subject matter was partly responsible for this, for counter- Reformation religious art was as abhorrent to most nineteenth-century art collectors as landscape painting was to their taste. Gianantonio's posthumous fame came even later, with the revival of interest in settecento painting in the present century. But no one who visited the exhibition at Venice last summer can doubt that the immediate verdict of posterity was partial and unjust, and that the city where the two brothers Guardi spent the whole of their working life was right to pay homage to both artists, for both made distinguished contributions to the last great efflorescence of Italian painting. the chairman : I have very much enjoyed Mr. Watson's most interesting lecture. As you will appreciate, he was discussing not what is to us perhaps the most familiar Guardi, but the figure paintings, which have only quite lately come to the fore; perhaps it is even fair to say that it is only in the last forty years or so that this problem has emerged at all. During this time a vast literature on the subject has accumulated, with various distinguished authorities arguing on opposite sides regarding the relative merits of the two, Gianantonio and Francesco, as figure painters. I would remind you that there were in fact three brothers, and of the youngest one we know nothing whatever. There was also, of course, Francesco's son, Giacomo, who was active chiefly as an imitator of his father's landscape painting, and whose work therefore does not enter much into this controversy. I should like to raise two points. First, to emphasize one fact which I think should be constantly borne in mind in this controversy: that all the reconstructions of Gianantonio's work, however persuasive they may be - and I think that those of various scholars, particularly of Dr. Fernanda De'MafFei, of Professor Morassi, and of Professor Zampeti (in the catalogue of the recent exhibition in Venice) are in many respects very persuasive - are based on rather sandy foundations, as Mr. Watson suggested. Very little survives of the documented or signed work of Gianantonio Guardi, and therefore, although one may be prepared to believe that a considerable number of paintings is rightly now attributed to him, we may still be wrong. There are some very striking differences in quality (as I am sure you realized in looking at Mr. Watson's slides) between the various paintings which are now included in Gianantonio's oeuvre . The gap in quality between the first slide, that rather poor saint, dated 1717, which emerged only for the recent exhibition, and those miraculous paintings on the organ-lift of the Church of the Angelo Raffaele, is surprising, to say the least. In my second point I am venturing to differ from the lecturer to some extent. I think the idea of an extensive system of collaboration in the Guardi studio should not be entirely discounted. It was, after all (as Mr. Watson indeed said), the regular method in Venetian studios from the fifteenth century onwards. Many of those studios - for instance those of the Bellini and the Vivarini in the fifteenth century, of Bassano, Tintoretto and Veronese in the sixteenth century and, particularly significant, of Tiepolo in the eighteenth century - were essentially family studios. All Italians are devoted to their own families, and these artists worked in great harmony with one another. The younger members of the family were quite prepared to suppress their own personalities in working for the family good ; and that sons actually collaborated on the same painting with their fathers and brothers, is an accepted fact of art history. The actual method of collaboration is a studio secret which we can only guess at; but I don't think it need be supposed that one member of the family at certain points would snatch the brush from the hands of another and continue where he left off. One member might rather be responsible, for instance, for the design, another for the laying-in of the paint, and a third, or the first one again, for finishing. That is all a matter of speculation, but I suggest that it need not be absolutely evident on the 288 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1966 THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS surface of a painting that one part is by one man and one by another, as for instance it is evident in the collaborations known to have been done in English studios of the eighteenth century, where the portrait painter painted the face and then enlisted the services of the drapery painter. I think if one accepts that there was such a system of collaboration in the Venetian studios, we may eventually in some cases come to the conclusion that it is impossible to say, with any certainty, that a picture is entirely by Gianantonio Guardi or entirely by Francesco Guardi; all that we may feel ourselves entitled to say is that this is 'a Guardi'. The lecturer will, I hope, forgive me for differing slightly from him in saying all this. With his general thesis I agree, and in most cases I entirely agree with his separation of the two hands. I should now like to propose a vote of thanks to Mr. Watson for an extremely stimulating and valuable lecture. The vote of thanks to the Lecturer was carried with acclamation and , another having been proposed to the Chairman by Sir Trenchard Coxy a Vice-President of the Society , the meeting then ended. 289 This content downloaded from on Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:01:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Contentsp. 266p. 267p. 268p. 269p. 270p. 271p. 272p. 273p. 274p. 275p. 276p. 277p. 278p. 279p. 280p. 281p. 282p. 283p. 284p. 285p. 286p. 287p. 288p. 289Issue Table of ContentsJournal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 114, No. 5116 (MARCH 1966), pp. 245-338FORTHCOMING MEETINGS [pp. 245-246]FILM EVENING [pp. 246-247]FORTHCOMING MIDLANDS CENTRE MEETING [pp. 247-247]FORTHCOMING NORTH-WEST CENTRE MEETING [pp. 247-248]NORTH-EAST CENTRE INAUGURAL DINNER [pp. 248-248]THE ALBERT MEDAL [pp. 248-248]DRAWINGS PRESENTED TO THE SOCIETY [pp. 249-250]PAXTON MEMORIAL TRUST BURSARY [pp. 250-250]MEETING OF COUNCIL [pp. 251-253]THE SAFETY ASPECTS OF MOTOR CAR DESIGN [pp. 254-265]THE GUARDI FAMILY OF PAINTERS [pp. 266-289]THE RLE OF SUGARS AS ENERGY RESERVES IN NATURE [pp. 290-307]EDUCATION AND LIFE: SOME RE-THINKING FOR COMMONWEALTH WOMEN [pp. 308-318]GENERAL NOTES [pp. 319-326]OBITUARY [pp. 326-327]CORRESPONDENCEBRITAIN'S VANISHING COASTLINE [pp. 327-327]THE NATURE OF HUMAN COMMUNICATION [pp. 327-328]NOTES ON BOOKSReview: untitled [pp. 328-330]Review: untitled [pp. 330-331]Review: untitled [pp. 331-331]Review: untitled [pp. 332-333]Review: untitled [pp. 333-334]LIBRARY ADDITIONS [pp. 334-336]FROM THE JOURNAL OF 1865 [pp. 337-337]Back Matter


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