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Ashmolean Museum acquires Venice: the Fondamenta Nuove by Francesco Guardi

The Ashmolean announce the acquisition of an enchanting early view-painting by Francesco Guardi (1712–1793): Venice: the Fondamenta Nuove with the Lagoon and the Island of San Michele. Dated 1758 and made for a British Grand Tourist, the painting is a masterpiece by Guardi, previously unpublished.

Fondamenta Nuove by Francesco GuardiThe acquisition has been made possible by the Arts Council England under the Acceptance in Lieu of Inheritance scheme, together with a generous grant from the Art Fund, and, amongst other donations, contributions in memory of Jo Wilson and from the Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust.

Born into a family of painters in Venice, Francesco Guardi painted altar-pieces, devotional works and genre subjects, but is best known for his views (vedute) of Venice, which had become his main activity by about 1760. He was praised in his lifetime for his ‘magical effects’ in paint.

Guardi’s views of Venice became especially popular with British visitors to Italy, and this view of the Fondamenta Nuove was made for a Grand Tourist in about 1758 when the artist was establishing his reputation in a new market. Rather than painting familiar scenes of Venice’s splendid architecture and festivities, Guardi captured its magical character as a city rising from the water.

This ambitious painting is one of a group of Guardi’s early lagoon views that are entirely original. The brushwork is brilliantly fresh and fluid, with dabs of pigment building up a sense of form, and adding animation to the small figures. The treatment of the glassy, rippling waters with their reflections is especially beautiful. The distant snow-capped mountains, rarely visible owing to Venice’s hazy atmosphere, close off the shimmering lagoon vista.