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Artists’ Different Takes On the ‘City of Canals’

Courtesy Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
The National Gallery of Art’s upcoming exhibition “Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals” includes more than 50 vibrant paintings of the famous city by Canaletto and his contemporaries.

The exhibition also addresses an early convergence of science and art with a display of two 18th-century camera obscuras, devices that projected images onto glass plates for tracing. Originally developed as a scientific instrument, the contraption appealed to artists seeking precision. Canaletto himself used a camera obscura, as did several of his rivals. Also on display is a first edition of one of the earliest and most accurate maps of Venice, likely created with the help of such a device.

Visitors to the exhibition can continue their Venetian education downstairs at the National Gallery’s Garden Café. Chef Fabio Trabocchi, the award-winning chef at New York City’s Fiamma, has transformed the cafe’s menu to feature signature Italian dishes in honor of the new exhibition. 

The exhibition is a cornerstone of this spring’s Italy@150, a series of activities throughout the U.S. celebrating the 150th anniversary of the reunification of Italy. This spring, the city will also host La Dolce DC, a festival timed to honor the anniversary as well as the Italian art shows at the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection. Both exhibitions are exclusive to D.C.

Like the festival, the exhibition aims to showcase the vibrancy of one of the world’s most famous and beautiful cities.

“Venice represents, for them all and for us, a true dream,” Italian ambassador Giulio Terzi said in a presentation introducing the exhibit to the media. The painters’ “approach is not only an intellectual stimulus, but it is also a manner of looking at the past to understand the present and the future.”

“Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals” will be on view from Sunday to May 30. The special cafe menu is available through March 20.

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