These three large fantastic landscapes (capricci) were in the late nineteenth century in the castle of Colloredo di Monte Albano, in North-Eastern Italy, near Udine. It is unclear if the canvases were originally painted for the castle, which belonged to the Colloredo Mels family. The sizes and shapes of the paintings seem to have been adjusted by Guardi in the course of painting or immediately thereafter. The three compositions center around rocky outcroppings, slanting tree trunks and classical ruins. Small figures toiling and fishing are set against the vast expanse of delicately tinted sky and water.
The Guardis were a family of painters from the foothills of the Alps to the north who were active in Venice throughout the eighteenth century. Francesco Guardi’s father died in 1716, when he was a small boy, and his brother, Giovanni Antonio or Gianantonio Guardi (1699–1760), a figure painter and copyist, took over the family studio. Francesco worked there for decades. Only when he was in his forties, after Canaletto returned to Venice from England but before Gianantonio’s death, did he decide to become a view painter. He rarely dated his work, which was little mentioned by his contemporaries, and it has been difficult to establish a chronology, but the present painting and its companions (53.225.3, 53.225.4) may be from the middle of the 1760s.
In 1953, the Museum received as the gift of Julia A. Berwind a pair of shaped canvases by Francesco Guardi, imaginary views (capricci) of the lagoon with antique ruins and mountains. Previously, the pictures had belonged to Miss Berwind’s brother Edgar, and were photographed in the drawing room of The Elms, his mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Here they joined this even larger view (it is nearly nine feet wide), purchased in 1941, with which they form a set. All three had been brought to New York in 1912 by the dealers Gimpel & Wildenstein and came from the Castello di Colloredo di Monte Albano, north of Udine in the Friuli, where the Colloredo Mels family had lived for centuries and where the capricci were first recorded in 1894 (see Additional Images, fig. 1).
The imaginary landscapes seem to have been enlarged to their present arched shape; each of the pair of smaller paintings also has a wide strip added to the bottom edge. The changes are thought to have been made while Guardi was working on them or shortly thereafter. They were installed in plaster surrounds, each in the middle of a wall, in an eighteenth-century drawing room on the piano nobile of the castle of Colloredo, a medieval structure with later additions damaged in the 1976 earthquake and now much rebuilt. Photographs taken in situ, before the capricci were sold, reveal that they were not an integral part of the decorative scheme of the room from which they came. No documentation was ever found at Colloredo di Monte Albano, reports of a receipt acknowledging payment to the artist of three hundred gold pieces notwithstanding, and therefore it is not certain, though possible, that they were painted for the Colloredo family. The scale, broad handling, and shaped contours of the paintings suggest that they were designed as overdoors, in which case they necessarily would have been commissioned.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
by descent to conte Paolo di Colloredo Mels, marchese di Santa Sofia, Castello di Colloredo di Monte Albano, near Udine (by 1893–at least 1905; sold to Steinmeyer); [Steinmeyer, Cologne, until 1906; sold to Bourgeois]; [Stephan Bourgeois, Cologne, 1906–10; sold to Trotti]; [Trotti, Paris, from 1910; sold to Rothschild]; baron Maurice de Rothschild, Paris (sold to Gimpel & Wildenstein); [Gimpel & Wildenstein, Paris and New York, until 1912; sold to Alexander]; Mrs. Charles B. Alexander, New York (1912–d. 1935; her estate, 1935–41); her daughters, Mrs. Arnold Whitridge, Mrs. Winthrop W. Aldrich, and Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse, New York (1941; sold to MMA)
New York. Benjamin Altman Gallery. "Loan Exhibition of Fifty-Nine Masterpieces of Ancient and Modern Schools," March 24–April 4, 1915, no. 24 (as "A View along the Adriatic Coast," lent by Mr. C. B. Alexander).
Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "Mostra dei Guardi," June 5–October 10, 1965, no. 121 (as "Capriccio con molo arco e marina").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century," September 15–December 14, 1994, no. 218 (as "Capriccio with an Arch in Ruin").
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century," January 29–April 23, 1995, no. 218.
Dino Mantovani. Il castello di Colloredo. Rome, 1894, pp. 9–10, ill. [reprinted from "Italia artistica e industriale" I, no. 6 (1893–94)], attributes the paintings (41.80, 53.225.3, and 53.225.4) to Francesco Guardi; they are set into the walls of an eighteenth-century salotto in the castello di Colloredo.
"Art Supplement." New York Herald (November 25, 1906), ill. p. 7, (with 53.225.3 and 53.225.4), as in the collection of Steinmeyer, Cologne; states that the three works, for which Guardi received 300 livres, decorated a house near Udine.
Gino Damerini. L'arte di Francesco Guardi. Venice, 1912, p. 26 n. a, pl. XXIX, as in Cologne, then with Wildenstein in Paris, and now in America.
E. Gimpel & Wildenstein. Letter to Mrs. Charles B. Alexander. December 2, 1912, writes that Guardi painted the three pictures for a member of the Colloredo family, and that the archives of the castello di Colloredo contain documents pertaining to the commission, including a receipt from Guardi for three hundred gold pieces.
George A. Simonson. "Some of Guardi's Paintings in America." Art in America 2 (1914), p. 99 n. 1.
G[iuseppe]. Fiocco inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme and Fred C. Willis. Vol. 15, Leipzig, 1922, p. 170.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Francesco Guardi. Florence, 1923, pp. 45, 68, 73–74, no. 93, pl. LXXX.
Mario Tinti. Guardi. Paris, 1930, pl. 56.
Victor Lasareff. "Francesco and Gianantonio Guardi. I.-Figure Compositions." Burlington Magazine 65 (August 1934), p. 68, states that the three works probably date to the 1760s.
Harry B. Wehle. "A Fantastic Landscape by Guardi." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 36 (July 1941), pp. 153–56, ill., dates them probably 1782.
Max Goering. Francesco Guardi. Vienna, 1944, p. 49, pl. 94, dates them between 1765 and 1776.
Vittorio Moschini. Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1952, pl. 116.
Carlo Donzelli. I pittori veneti del Settecento. Florence, 1957, p. 109.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. La pittura veneziana del Settecento. Venice, 1960, p. 245, fig. 641.
Francis Haskell. "Francesco Guardi as 'vedutista' and some of his Patrons." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 23 (July–December 1960), p. 265.
Pietro Zampetti. Mostra dei Guardi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi. Venice, 1965, p. 235, no. 121, ill.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. "Note alla mostra dei Guardi." Arte veneta 19 (1965), pp. 227, 234, dates them to the early 1770s.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 96, 499, 504, 607.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 29–30, pls. 30, 31 (detail), date them to the 1760s; state that they do not seem to have been designed for the room in the castello di Colloredo in which they were installed and that the circumstances of their commission are not known; add that changes were made to all three pictures during their execution or slightly later; note the existence of a much smaller version of this painting.
Antonio Morassi. Guardi: Antonio e Francesco Guardi. Venice, [1973?], vol. 1, pp. 272, 279, 480–81, no. 924; vol. 2, figs. 817, 818, 820, 822 (overall and details), dates them about 1775–80, or possibly 1782.
Luigina Rossi Bortolatto. L'opera completa di Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1974, p. 108, no. 320, ill. p. 107 and colorpls. XXXV, XXXVI (overall and detail).
Giuseppe M. Pilo. Francesco Guardi: i paliotti. Milan, 1983, pp. 16–18 nn. 25, 26, 30, dates them 1778 and discusses their function as overdoors.
Paolo Casadio inGuardi: metamorfosi dell'immagine. Exh. cat., Castello di Gorizia. Venice, 1987, pp. 139–42 n. 16, fig. 123, dates them probably mid-1770s.
Dario Succi. Francesco Guardi: itinerario dell'avventura artistica. [Milan], 1993, p. 93, fig. 90 (color), dates them 1778–80.
Mitchell Merling inThe Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Jane Martineau and Andrew Robison. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New Haven, 1994, pp. 319–21, 326, 460, no. 218, ill. (color), dates them to the late 1770s and suggests that Guardi designed the stucco surrounds into which they were set; believes Guardi derived this composition from Carlevaris's "Harbor View" (Elizabeth II, Queen of England), probably then in Consul Smith's possession.
Adriana Augusti inSplendori del Settecento veneziano. Ed. Giovanna Nepi Sciré and Giandomenico Romanelli. Exh. cat., Ca' Rezzonico, Venice. Milan, 1995, p. 328, under no. 81.
Alessandra Fregolent. I vedutisti: ritratti del mondo tra ragione e sentimento. Milan, 2000, pp. 122–23.
Gian Camillo Custoza. Colloredo: una famiglia e un castello nella storia europea. Udine, 2003, pp. 153, 155, ill. (color), dates them 1775–80; reproduces photographs from 1927 of the drawing room at the Castello di Colloredo showing copies by the painter Colavini replacing Guardi's originals.
Thérèse Burollet. Les peintures. Paris, 2004, p. 163, under no. 58.
Bozena Anna Kowalczyk inLa pittura di paesaggio in Italia. Ed. Anna Ottani Cavina and Emilia Calbi. Vol. 2, Il Settecento. Milan, 2005, p. 217.
Claudia Crosera inLa pittura nel Veneto: il Settecento di Terraferma. Ed. Giuseppe Pavanello. Milan, 2011, pp. 386, 404 n. 216.
Canaletto Guardi: Les deux maîtres de Venise. Ed. Bozena Anna Kowalczyk. Exh. cat., Musée Jacquemart-André. Brussels, 2012, p. 36, fig. 9 (color).
Mitchell Merling inFrancesco Guardi, 1712–1793. Ed. Alberto Craievich and Filippo Pedrocco. Exh. cat., Museo Correr, Venice. Milan, 2012, p. 175.
For capricci relating to this painting see Morassi 1973, vol. 1, pp. 481–82, nos. 926–31; vol. 2, figs. 823–29.