Venetian Artists-18th Century

Venetian Artists-18th Century. In contrast to political decline; Venetian painters were in remarkable demand all over Europe. Flourishing craftsmanship attracted people and buyers from all over the world and their art had become by the mid-18th century; a commodity primarily for export. 

In particular, Canaletto flourished in England and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in Würzburg and Madrid.

The 18th century in Venice, saw the transition from “Baroque” into the “Roccoco” styles in art and this post describes the most significant artists of that time. They produced a variety of work and subject matter: real and imaginary landscapes; history, mythological and genre scenes and in the  developing field of portraiture.

The end of this century brought great change and turmoil to Venice, for in 1797; the Republic fell at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte and Habsburg Austria.

  • Introduction: Decline of the maritime republic – The Role of Venice in 18th century Europe – The Development of Venetian Painting up to the 18th century
  • Essential differences between Baroque and Rococo Art
  • Significant  Venetian Artists of the 18th century
  • Links (internal – external)


Venetian Artists-18th Century – INTRODUCTION


Decline of the maritime republic.

La Serenissima, the “most serene” maritime republic of Venice, was among the great trading powers of medieval and Renaissance Europe and by the late twelfth century, a major economic force on the Italian peninsula.

The city’s prosperity, had been built upon a network of small islands situated in the lagoon at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. After 1400, the Venetian republic gradually occupied much of the plain of the Po River, including Vicenza, Padua, Verona, and Ravenna.

Venice’s mercantile power gradually declined, as a result of the fall of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire and as other states established alternative wide-ranging trade routes.

In the 18th century, her political dominion waned further, until the invasion by Napoleonic forces in 1797 and the fall of the Republic of Venice. The once proud, independent Venetian city-state collapsed and the city never recovered its former eminence.

The Role of Venice in 18th century Europe.

While her political status steadily declined, Venice became and has remained; a preeminent tourist destination.

The city’s architecture which is inflected by its geographic position and by the conditions of a maritime environment and the wealth and richness of its painting, sculpture and decoration; attracted ever larger numbers of visitors.

Venice excelled in creative talent. Special fairs were held to interest buyers in books, glass, lace and all manner of other locally manufactured and imported goods; that were offered for sale.

Many foreigners stopped in Venice on their so-called Grand Tour (international travel intended to enhance the education of prominent young adult males; particularly for the Carnival season and for the great Ascension Day festival). It was a time of excess in life. In addition, they were drawn to the fine arts, music and theatre, gambling and other less salubrious entertainments, such as prostitution; that were all readily available.

The Development of Venetian Painting up to the 18th century.

As early as the 10th century, Venice had established commercial links with Constantinople, and Venetian painting therefore emerged from the traditions of Byzantium.

In the last third of the 14th century wall painting and fresco were introduced from the mainland,

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the “Venetian School of Art”, refers to the distinctive style of art that developed in Renaissance Venice. A celebratory lust for life, a thriving commercial port linking the East to the West and the influence of High Renaissance ideals of beauty and grandeur; led artists to inject a bold new sumptuousness into the world of art.

The Venetian School, which arose during this thriving cultural moment, breathed fresh life into the worlds of oil painting and architecture by combining inspiration from classical-oriented forebears; with a new impetus toward lush colour and a distinctly Venetian adoration of embellishment.

Much of the artwork of this time, regardless of subject matter or content was woven with the underlying message; that the joyous act of being alive was to be considered with a sense of revelry and enjoyment.

Their style emphasised the particular properties of more saturated colour and atmosphere: Venetian “colore” (colour) as opposed to Florentine “disegno”, (properties of line and design). The guild system in Venice was strong and family partnerships were a common form of business association among artists and artisans, safeguarding local practices.

The 17th century was considered a low point in Venetian painting, especially in the first decades; when artists continued to turn out works essentially in the styles of the previous century. The most significant artists working in the city were all immigrants and all were aware of the Baroque painting of Rome or Genoa and in different ways developed styles reflecting and uniting these and traditional Venetian handling of paint and colour. The end of the 17th century, brought dramatic change. The city itself declined and was a significantly reduced market, particularly in large works.

The 18th century, also called the “settocento”, saw the move into the Baroque and after around 1740, the Rococco (or Late Baroque) periods. Roccoco, is often described as the final expression of the Baroque movement.

In contrast to political decline, Venetian painters were in remarkable demand all over Europe.  It was Venice’s “Second Golden Age” in art. Flourishing craftsmanship attracted people and buyers from all over the world and their art had become by the mid-18th century; a commodity primarily for export.



Essential differences between Baroque and Rococo Art


Baroque and Rococo, each reflect the predominant philosophies of the times; in which each style flourished.

Baroque art emerged around the year 1600, the period lasting for about 150 years. Art reflected the strength of Catholicism and royalty; by embodying opulence and ornamentation.

The Baroque period grew out of an increased interest in naturalism, as advances were made in astronomy and science. Art of this period became increasingly active and dynamic, portraying motion through space and time, while retaining elements of Classicism and strongly religious themes.

Baroque began in Rome and was heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic church, which supported religious themes in painting and the arts; as a reaction to the advance of Protestantism (Counter-Reformation). It was a style characterised by grandeur and over-statement, movement, vivid contrast and emotional intensity; in which they used art to lure people back to the church. Baroque art was heavier, masculine, emotional, more serious and sometimes violent.

The origin of the term “Baroque” is uncertain. It is thought to have emerged from the Italian word “barocco”, which was used by Medieval philosophers to refer to an “obstacle in schematic logic.” Barocco, later became a term for any contorted idea, or complex thought process.

An alternative explanation, was that the term “Baroque”, may have been derived from the Portuguese word “barroco”; meaning a rough pearl with an irregular shape. It was meant as a derogatory term to describe what critics felt was an overly ornamental, theatrical perversion of the Classical style. There was an emphasis on the sensuous visual representation of intangible symbols; that some felt was garish and extreme.


This period can be considered as a “Late Baroque” style, arising in France after the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and spreading throughout Europe, towards the mid-century. It was embraced by the French monarchy and aristocracy, before spreading to most of the rest of Europe.

It was the dawn of a softer and more relaxed age, reflecting a “bold and joyous lust for life”; spreading into Italian art somewhat later, around 175O and lasting until around 1780.

The term “rococo” was first used by Jean Mondon in his “Premier Livre de forme rocquaille et cartel” (First book of Rococo Form and Setting, 1736), with illustrations that depicted the style used in architecture and interior design. The term was derived from the French “rocaille”, meaning “shell or pebble-work”; used to describe High Renaissance fountains or garden grottos; that used seashells and pebbles embedded in stucco, to create an elaborate decorative effect.

Rococo is a late-Baroque response that embodied light playfulness, frivolity and more intimacy and was reflected first in the decorative arts; as interior design became lighter and more decorative. Also, architecture and art carried a strong sense of theatricality and drama; influenced by stage design. The style moved and fully integrated into painting, as artists used asymmetry and playful whimsy, as an informal interpretation. Theatre’s influence could be seen in the innovative ways painting and decorative objects, were woven into various environments; creating fully immersive atmospheres.

Detail-work flourished in the Rococo period. Stucco reliefs as frames, asymmetrical patterns involving motifs and scrollwork, sculptural arabesque details, gilding, pastels, and tromp l’oeil; are the most noted methods, that were used to achieve a seamless integration of architecture and art.

Unlike Baroque, Rococo artists leaned away from religious themes.

Genre paintings were popular ways to represent the Rococo period’s bold and joyous lust for life. This included “fete galante”, or works denoting outdoor pastimes, erotic paintings alive with a sense of whimsical hedonism, Arcadian landscapes, and the “celebrity” portrait, which positioned ordinary people in the roles of notable historical or allegorical characters.

Subject matter often captured a bit of naughtiness, as in Fragonard’s “The Swing,” an asymmetrical rendering of a young lady kicking off her shoe at the statue of the god of discretion, while swinging high above her beau stretched out on the ground.



Significant  Venetian Artists of the 18th century

Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734). The first significant artist in the new style was Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734), from Belluno on the mainland, who trained in Venice before leaving under a cloud. He returned for a decade in 1698 and then again at the end of his life; after time in England, France and elsewhere. Drawing especially on Veronese, he developed a light, airy, Baroque style; that fore-shadowed the painting of most of the rest of the century and was a great influence on young Venetian painters.

Above: Sebastiano Ricci. “Triumph of the Marine Venus“. (c.1713)

Above: Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini. “Alexander with the Corpse of Darius”, 1708

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini was influenced by Ricci and worked with his nephew Marco Ricci; but also by the later Roman Baroque. His career was mostly spent away from the city, working in several countries north of the Alps; where the new Venetian style was greatly in demand for decorating houses. It was actually slower to be accepted in Venice itself.

Jacopo Amigoni (a. 1685–1752) was another travelling Venetian decorator of palaces, who was also popular for proto-Rococo portraits. He ended as a court painter in Madrid.

Rosalba Carriera (1675–1757), the most significant Venetian woman artist, was purely a portraitist, mostly in pastel; where she was an important technical innovator, preparing the way for this important 18th-century form. She achieved great international success, in particular in London, Paris and Vienna.

Above:Antoine Watteau. by Rosalba Carriera(1721)

Above: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, “The Banquet of Cleopatra”, (1743–44).

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) is the last great Venetian painter, who was also in demand all over Europe, and painted two of his largest fresco schemes in the Würzburg Residence in northern Bavaria (1750–53) and the Royal Palace of Madrid, where he died in 1770.

The final flourish in art, also included the varied talents of Giambattista Pittoni, Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto), Giovan Battista Piazzetta, and Francesco Guardi; as well as Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, the most distinguished of several of the family to train with and assist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Above: Giovanni Battista Pittoni. “The Sacrifice of Polyxena“.


Canaletto, his nephew and pupil Bernardo Bellotto, Michele Marieschi and Francesco Guardi; specialised in landscape painting of several distinct types:

  1. The first were “vedute”: detailed topographical panoramic views, usually of the city and lagoon. Many bought by wealthy northerners making the Grand Tour. Today few Canaletto’s remain in Venice; the largest collection bought by George III , is in the UK’s Royal Collection, featuring Canaletto and his contemporaries.

   Above: Canaletto. “The Stonemason’s Yard” 1735.


2. The other type was the “capriccio”, a fanciful imaginary scene, often of classical ruins with staffage figures (small scale people and boats).

Above: Francesco Guardi. “View of the Venetian Lagoon with the Tower of Maghera”. (1770’s) 

Marco Ricci was the first Venetian painter of capricci and the form received a final development by Guardi; who produced many freely painted scenes set in the lagoon, with land, water, people with their boats. They were paintings of great tonal delicacy, with a poetic mood tinged with nostalgia.

Pietro Longhi (c. 1702–1785) was Venetian painting’s most significant genre painter, turning early in his career to specialise in small scenes of contemporary Venetian life; mostly with an element of gentle satire. He was one of the first Italian painters to mine this vein and was also an early painter of conversation piece portraits. Unlike most Venetian artists, large numbers of lively sketches by him survive.

Above: “Ca’ Rezzonico – Il rinoceronte” (1751) – Pietro Longhi

The death of Guardi in 1793, soon followed by the fall of the Republic by Napoleon and his French Revolutionary armies in 1797; effectively brought the distinctive Venetian style to an end. At least, it had outlasted its rival Florence in that respect.


LINKS (internalexternal)

Please also see my comprehensive post, on the Venetian School of Art (15th-16th C) and its most significant artists.

The Venetian School of Art     

Foreign Artists working in Venice

Turner in Venice     

Whistler in Venice

Monet in Venice

John Ruskin – Writer and Artist

Canaletto and the Art of Venice: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Art UK: art in UK public collections accessible to everyone


Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.

Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.    Venetian Artists-18th Century.

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