The Season of Canaletto Light

A few years ago, a group of architects and painters from Savannah, Georgia, stayed with us in Venice for a week in autumn. Unusually long for most visitors just stay a couple of days. Like the 1960s, when visitors remained for a week and longer in town. They came to Venice for a real vacation.

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Our American guests had come to Venice on a special mission. Having studied the luminous pictures of Venetian vedutisti painters, they wanted to experience the mystic light of the Venetian fall firsthand.

Vedutismo means “painting vedute”. Veduta can be translated as view. It’s a view of landscapes and cityscapes. The way a group of painters in the 17th century used to paint pictures full of light. How Antonio Canal – Canaletto expressed his views of Venice in stark and intense colors.  Just like October is clad in Canaletto colors.

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Canaletto – Bacino di San Marco – source of picture: Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

On this particularly sunny day at breakfast, our guests asked me where they could go in Venice to paint. They were looking for a quiet place with the bland morning sun bathing the view.

IMG_2061So while sipping coffee and eating a piece of autumn cake, my grandmother’s staple butter cake with mulberry jam filling, we decided I show them a few places where to paint and then pick them up two hours later to discover yet another place to paint.

Walking around in October means learning about light. Even though they used to work in their laboratories, Venetian vedutisti  loved walking around in Venice to take in the effects of light. Capturing these details was the core of their success.

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For in these first few days of October, the light is changing, leading us away from the illusion that summer is still around. It actually is summer – in the sun at noon.

So which were the special corners my American guests were visiting? It was the following four you’ll get to know in the next few pictures. Where you go to paint depends on the season. In my opinion, for painting, come to Venice in April or October. November and January will also be fine if you love misty secretive atmosphere and bland winter colors.

There’s one common advantage you can enjoy in every month of the year: By painting, or sketching views with a pencil and in watercolors, you really get to know every single brick and color shade of Venice :-)

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#1 Painting a unique urban feature I could stop on ponte storto next to La Fenice for hours on end. At night, this is probably the most quiet place in Venice. The only thing you can hear are your steps echoing on the pavement, the masegni. A ponte storto is a favorite Venetian feature of mine, it’s a complex bridge, a ponte obliquo, often spanning two or more canals and creating a platform, a tiny campiello.

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#2 Painting the view from a balcony on Campo della Bragora This is a quiet yet lived-in campo. It has its own little green oasis. With my favorite plants in town, the Persian silk tree. I have always loved them and they still boast a few blossoms in October. They make a fine backdrop if you want to paint details, like the vera da pozzo – drinking water well made of white Istrian stone. From this second-floor perspective, you can also view and paint the church San Giovanni in Bragora.

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#3 Painting the Grand Canal with a view of do bricole – two wooden poles I’ve always wondered what this picture would be like, with two fine bricole in the foreground. Paint it in the early morning. Then, walk off to Tragheto Santa Sofia, cross the Grand Canal and …

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#4 Now change perspectives and paint the same surroundings !! Walk over to Strada Nova to paint exactly the area you’ve just been to. Stopping on a bridge along Strada Nova but do it rather early in the morning, for later it is very crowded here.

Canaletto lightsThis place needs light, though, I’ve seen it as a landmark picture on Venice Connection. My pictures here were taken on a hazy October morning so the colors, the reddish pink of the house and the turquoise of the Grand Canal don’t show so much without the sun. Now look at the picture below – what a difference the sun, right season, and right time of day can make :-) The right angle of sun rays to bring out its full beauty.

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8 thoughts on “The Season of Canaletto Light

  • My first visit to Venice was for two weeks when I fell in love with your beautiful city. My second visit was only for five days on my way to meet friends in Rome but five days is better than none. Then in 2012 I came for a month….mid November to mid December…that was a frigid December. My most recent visit was for the entire month of December in 2013.
    Too bad I didn’t know you then, we could have shared “un cappuccino”.
    Ah, next time…it will be a few years but I would love to meet you (and visit what seems to be your shop) someday.
    And, yes, I’m a crazy American…but I prefer traveler to tourist. Or just Venice lover.
    Michelle

    1. Dear Michelle, I’ve read your blog posts on your winter visits to Venice. Staying for an entire month, even twice, means you’ve taken time to get to know Venice. That’s what I want to convey here and on La Venessiana, my main website. I refer to everyone coming to Venice as guest or visitor, I’m writing for them to prepare for a trip to Venice or continue getting to know her in a virtual manner back home. That’s what my Venice Project is about.I would have loved meeting you, and I look forward to your next visit here and enjoy cappuccino and cake with you!!
      I don’t have a shop as of now, but I’m currently creating a virtual one with e books on Venice. Have a nice Sunday!

      1. Dear Iris,
        If all goes well I should be living there in about four years. An eternity, I know but I also know it will go faster than I think it will.
        On one of your blogs there was a map that showed a spice shop….I may have misunderstood that it was yours or maybe it was and now it isn’t.
        I have bookmarked the gelato recipes you shared and hope to make some for my friends.
        Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts. I hope they showed my love for your city….which I now refer to as the “City of My Dreams”.
        Your Sunday is nearly over….I hope you have a beautiful week and I look forward to your continued posts.
        Michelle

      2. Dear Michelle, that’s great to hear!! I was reading in your Blog that you are planning to move to Venice!! But I also hope, you’ll be visiting soon again.
        Sorry I’m answering so late. I’m working very hard on my Venice Culinary Project and book series.
        Have a nice weekend, all the best!!
        Iris

      3. Ciao Iris,
        Finances do not permit my visiting any time soon.
        I know that you are busy so do not worry if you don’t get to answer right away.
        I’m looking forward to your culinary project and lots of recipes to try, I hope.
        Ciao, ciao,
        Michelle
        PS I have a friend (American/Italian) who lives in Venice….Karen Henderson.

      4. Dear Michelle, so we’ll write to each other in the meantime. Yes, there will be lots of recipes!! Also from my grandother’s recipe journal. I’m just looking at your friend Karen’s website – so beautiful! Thank you for giving me the contact. Ciao, I will write soon to you!

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