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The capriccio

The term capriccio refers to landscape or architectural compositions that combine real elements such as recognisable buildings or monuments with elements of fantasy or imagination. Several Venetian artists, especially Canaletto, Marco Ricci and the painter Antonio Visentini made many paintings and drawings of capriccio subjects, and the genre became particularly associated with eighteenth century Venice.

Capricci were popular among Grand Tourists, conjuring romantic images of Italy, especially the picturesque decay of classical ruins, and were prized as a mark of the artist’s imaginative expression. Canaletto habitually moved and altered buildings in his ostensibly ‘accurate’ views to obtain a better composition, and the capriccio was a further extension of this creative interplay of reality and invention.

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

A Capriccio View with Ruins

Marco Ricci (Belluno 1676-Venice 1730)

Capriccio with Roman Ruins

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

A Capriccio View with a Pointed Arch

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Arco dei Pantani in a fanciful setting

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Arch of Titus in a fanciful setting

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

A house and fountain adjoining a ruined arch

Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

Capriccio with a monumental staircase