Category Archives: Eye Candy for Today

Eye Candy for Today: Canaletto’s Porta Portello, Padua

The Porta Portello, Padua; Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)
The Porta Portello, Padua; Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)

Another architectural tour-de-force by the 18th century Italian master Canaletto – times two. The painting above in the top six images is in the National Gallery of Art, DC.

In the bottom four images is another version, with the same perspective but with different figures and harsher light, that is in the Museo Thussen – Bornemisza in Madrid.

There’s some question about the dating of the paintings; both could have been painted around the time of his documented trip to the city of Padua around 1740 or 1741, but some put the second painting almost twenty years later — perhaps as a “greatest hits” request from a patron. The Porta Portello is the main entrance to Padua for those traveling, like Canaletto, from Venice.

Even more visually entrancing than either painting is a preliminary ink and wash drawing that was a subject of a previous Lines and Colors post. It has been reliably dated around the time of the first painting, but presumably could have been used for both.

In both paintings, I love the contrast between Canaletto’s masterful painting of the architectural elements and his abbreviated shorthand notation for figures and things like grass texture and the surface of water. (Gotta love those little water squiggles!)

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Antonio Mauro Perspective Design for a Stage Set

Perspective Design for a Stage Set of an Italian Cityscape, Antonio Mauro II, drawing in pen and ink and leadpoint with wash
Perspective Design for a Stage Set of an Italian Cityscape, Antonio Mauro II

Pen and black ink, brown and gray wash and leadpoint layout lines, roughly 10 x 14 in. (27 x 36 cm). In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, use the Enlarge or Download links under their image.

This beautifully crafted 18th century design for a stage set, with its complex perspective view of a city street, also works as a drawing.

The artist’s use of wash — both in the heavily shadowed wall on the left and the lighter applications that add dimensionality to the architectural details on the right — give the composition solidity and enhance remarkable feeling of depth created by Mauro’s command of linear perspective.

If you look closely (the high-resolution image on the Met’s site is considerably larger than my detail crops above), you can see some of the artist’s perspective construction lines.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Andrew Way still life

Bunch of Grapes, Andrew Way still life painting
Bunch of Grapes, Andrew Way

In the Walters Art Museum. Use “Explore Object” line in upper left of image for zoomable version, or Download link to right. Image can also be viewed in a zoomable version on Google Art Project.

I haven’t seen the original, but my instincts tell me this image may be overly dark (as many museum website photos of artwork seem to be). I’ve taken the liberty of lightening the images above a bit to bring out the underlying red color of the grapes, which is not obvious in the museum’s version of the image.

Way was a Baltimore native who switched his specialty from portraiture to still life. Many of his subjects were of grapes, rendered faithfully as recognizable varieties — in a way, “portraits” of grapes.

I love his sensitive rendering of the grape leaves, especially the one turning brown, and the subtle edges of the shadow that it so integral to his composition.

See my previous Eye Candy post on another still life of grapes in the collection of the Walters Museum.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Pissarro’s Autumn, Poplars, Éragny

Autumn, Poplars, &Eaute;ragny, Camille Pissarro
Autumn, Poplars, Eragny; Camille Pissarro

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Denver Art Museum which also has a zoomable version (and, oddly, has another, somewhat different looking version of the image).

This is Pissarro at the height of his classically Impressionist style. The painting is composed of individual dabs of intense color, intended to be blended optically when viewed from the proper distance.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Winslow Homer’s At the Window

At the Window, Winslow Homer
At the Window, Winslow Homer

Link is to zoomable file on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Princeton University Art Museum, which has background on the painting on their website.

Almost like a 17th century Dutch portrait, this much more casual image of a young woman at a window — one of four related paintings of the same model — allows the subject to gradually emerge from darkness into gentle illumination from the window.

Homer’s painterly, seemingly casual brush marks define the elements in the painting with confidence and economy. There is something especially appealing to me about the simplicity of the plants on the windowsill and the suggestion of landscape beyond.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Edward Poynter’s Lesbia and Her Sparrow

Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter
Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter

Link is to downloadable high-res file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in a private collection; information on the painting can be found in the Bonham’s auction page for its last sale.

The painting is a reference to accounts by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus of his affair with the wife of a prominent Roman statesman — for whom he uses the pseudonym “Lesbia” — and her pet sparrow, on which she lavishes affection that the poet wishes were turned to him.

There is background on Lesbia on this Wikipedia page, including other artists’ interpretations, and additional background on Lesbia and Catullus here.

I find this painting fascinating for the semi-stippled textural paint application that provides the soft edges on the face, hands and grapes in particular. The painting is in oil, but the technique reminds me of an approach often taken in Victorian watercolors.

 
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