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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

Venetian, 1697 - 1768
Imaginary View of Padua
c. 1741–44
Etching, first of three states

Plate: 11 5/8 x 16 7/8 inches
Sheet: 15 x 21 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
Alice Pratt Brown Museum Fund and The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Arts of Europe

Born in Venice, Canaletto received his early training from his father, a theatrical-set designer. In the early 1740s, Canaletto turned to the previously unexplored medium of etching and produced a series of 30 works, the title of which states: "Views, some representing actual sites, others imaginary."

In fact, only five of these prints depict Venetian vistas. The remainder, such as this imaginary view of the city of Padua, are idealized illustrations of sites along the Brenta River. During his brief career as an etcher, Canaletto developed a unique and highly organic graphic style. He skillfully captured the play of light on buildings and the natural terrain, and he handled line with a finesse unseen in his paintings. The etchings comprising this series were sold individually or published in volumes. Imaginary View of Padua is a first-state impression with bold contrasts between the light and dark passages. Canaletto burnished the plate for the published editions, thus lessening the contrasts but ensuring consistency within a large edition. Early impressions such as this one are of greatest rarity.