Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Rome: View of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine
This painting is unusual in the body of work by Canaletto in two important ways. Firstly, its proportions are odd, and it can be argued that it was painted for Consul Smith, the artist’s friend and patron, as a form of decorative addendum to the five upright Roman views of the previous year (RCIN 401002, RCIN 400700, RCIN 400713, RCIN 400524, RCIN 400714). Secondly, this painting has always been considered to be of lesser quality than most of Canaletto’s work. The name of Bernardo Bellotto (1720-1780), Canaletto’s nephew and member of his studio from the mid-1730s, has often been attached to it, but as it is signed, it is more likely attributable to Canaletto with studio assistance.
The painting depicts, at left and centre, the bulk of the Colosseum, with both the Arch of Constantine and a pine tree at right. Between the Colosseum and the Arch are a church, adapted from SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and a building, based on S. Gregorio Magno. Beyond the Arch, at right, part of the aqueduct of Nero can just be made out. There are various onlookers in the foreground.
Signed on a stone fragment in the centre foreground: ANT. CANAL F. / ANNO MDCCXLIII.