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The Guardi family has been an important family of painters who for three generations has created artistic works between Veneto, Lombardy and Vienna, works of rococo and landscape painting, thanks to which they have left us an evocative image of Venice, a city that was their main residence.
Their pictorial activity covers a period of time that goes from the second half of the 17th century to the first half of the 18th century.
The family, originally from Commezzadura in the Val di Sole in the province of Trento, sees Guardo de Guardi as the progenitor, who sent his first son Domenico to Vienna from a canonical uncle of St. Stephen’s Cathedral to start his career in art. Of the five children, however, the best known are certainly Gianantonio (1699-1760) and especially Francesco (1712-1793), whose formation and much of his activity until 1760 took place together with his elder brother, Giannantonio, who led a family-run shop, where all were painters, from the father to the brothers. It is not known with certainty tas to when he began his work as a landscape painter, perhaps around 1755. Guardi begins to realize the first landscapes for foreign visitors during the time in which Canaletto had moved to England. The first works follow the compositions of Canaletto and Marieschi, the painting is still fluid and controlled, far from the sparkling and shorthand that will instead make it famous. With respect to his brother he manifests a different sensibility with a brushstroke that will become quick and broken with sparkling doughs of colour, which reveal a vivid chromatic tone that can make the link between figures and atmosphere. The interest in the landscape soon led him to approach the landscape painting of which he proposed a personal interpretation that eliminates the “photographic” and documentary component for an atmospheric rendering capable of making the particular vibration of the light of the lagoon. Thus masterpieces were born such as the two views of Ca ‘d’Oro or those preserved in museums all over the world. In 1782 he obtained the official task of performing the paintings in memory of the celebrations for the visits of Pope Pius VI and the Russian archduches Paolo Petrovic and Maria Teodorovna, works that testify to his ability to make life and the rhythm of his city.
Over time his personal style becomes increasingly free and allusive: the proportions between the various elements are freely altered, the perspective structure becomes elastic and deforms without any connection with reality. Finally the figures become simple spots of colour, a quick white scribble or a black dot traced with a flickering sign. In addition to the whims, he also paints some splendid images of villas immersed in the green of the Venetian countryside and the traditional Venetian shots alongside those of the lagoon, widening the horizons of eighteenth-century Venetian vedutism until it is dissolved in vast expanses of sky and water . After his death in 1793, Francesco Guardi falls into oblivion and his rediscovery is due to the twentieth century criticism.
Regarding his Brother Gianantonio there are few and fragmented data about the biography, especially regarding the private life and the youthful years. This is perhaps due to the fact that the personal and artistic story of Gianantonio took place in an era and in an environment that reserved him a lack of attention and an equally modest consideration. To this must be added the aggravating circumstance of a total oblivion that has engulfed the life and work of the artist for more than a century and a half, for a rediscovery, which began only in the second decade of the twentieth century, giving him a foremost place in the eighteenth-century artistic canon, not only Venetian, but also European, but also European, thanks to a more sensitive criticism of modernity that has been recognized in the major works of the painter, who contributed to his growing historical-artistic revaluation.
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GIANANTONIO GUARDI 1699 – 1760
The rococo painter of the Venetian school Gianantonio Guardi was born in Vienna in 1699 and his first training took place at his father’s workshop, Domenico Guardi. After his father’s death, Gianantonio, only seventeen years old, resumed his studies in Venice together with his two brothers, both artists, Francesco and Niccolò. His painting is based on paintings of religious subjects, genre scenes, and copies of previous masters. From 1730 he received commissions especially from the German Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg Graf, Marshal of the Venetian armies and painted for him numerous copies of Venetian masters, such as Titian, Tintoretto, Sebastiano Ricci and others, besides portraying many ruling families of Europe. In 1756 he became a founding member of the Academy of Venice and most of the scholars believe Gianantonio Guardi the main architect of the famous historical paintings depicting “Tobia on the pergamum” in the church of Raffaele Angelo in Venice in 1750. If you consider this work as his, it would be the ransom for Giantantonio, who could be considered one of the most important painters of the Venetian rococò. Giantantonio Guardi, after having traveled and operated throughout Europe, as was characteristic of the Venetian painters of the period, died in the lagoon city in 1760. The works of Gianantonio Guardi are placed here along the southern wall of the transept, on the right we observe “Mosè Bambino tramples the crown of the pharaoh”, while on the left “La verga di Aronne turned into a snake”. As for the artist’s life, even for these works few and few are the indications that are added to only some data of the Superintendency for Artistic and Historical Heritage of the Veneto, which would allow to reconstruct the recent history of the pictorial cycle of Selva. Like Francesco, Gianantonio also chooses this time, for his cycle dedicated to the patriarch Moses, rococo models of current events and international fashion in the Venice of the period. The paintings depicting Stories of Moses, compose a thematically narrative cycle and a vast monumental breath perhaps even more widespread, to which more authors have contributed. The original destination remains unknown; information on the various passages concerning the provenance of these works is lacking, while the way in which they were drilled was finally given to the parish church of Selva only during the nineteenth century. It should be considered that their paternity makes it highly probable that they originally belonged to Venice, where the iconographic themes related to the figure of Mosè find their first fortune in the Tintoretto cycles and, for what concerns them, they were renewed during the eighteenth century. In the paintings of Tiepolo and Ricci of 1720 for the church of Santissimi Cosma and Damiano alla Giudecca, and in the large paintings by Tiepolo for Verolanuova of the beginning of 1740. The importance of the cult of Moses in Venice is also underlined by the imposing monument like the church of San Mosè.
A special thanks to architect Alessandro Facchin and the Selva Nostra association for the texts elaboration
A special thanks to the voice of Giulia Zanetti and Roman Mandziy for the audio