SAM: The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice

From the 17th to the 19th century, legions of young, upper-class British men traveled through Europe as a capstone to their educations. Venice was one of the standard stops on an Englishman's "grand tour" of the continent, and Luca Carlevariis' The Doge's Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice (circa 1710), found on SAM's fourth level, depicts a common scene. Day is breaking over freshly docked boats as the piazzetta begins to fill with traffic. The 3-by-6-foot painting is neither masterful nor particularly unique. But view paintings (vedute) such as Carlevariis' weren't intended to be chef d'ouevres. Rather, they were the postcards of the Renaissance, purchased by grand tour-ists who shipped the expensive pieces back home to display as signs of wealth and worldliness. In this context, it's only natural that the paintings show an embellished, idealized version of reality, thick with nostalgia. I like to imagine the original owner looking at this painting as an old man and remembering when he was young and everything seemed fresh and new, just like on that morning in Venice.

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