"The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day" (detail) by Canaletto
Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture, and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.
In a grand, lavish ceremony, the Bucintoro—the enormous golden barge of the Doge of Venice—floats alongside the molo, the wharf just west of his palace, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers, gondolas, and other barges. We see all the glory of Venice as painted in 1760 by Canaletto, the grand master of scenes of the city.
The annual celebration reached back into the early days of Venice’s history in its rise to become one of the great city-states of Europe, wielding enormous political, military, and economic power. But when Canaletto painted the extravagant ceremony centuries later, Venice was in dramatic decline. Glenshaw explores Canaletto and his era—one that overlapped the time of Vivaldi and Tiepolo—and how the great city’s glory still shone but whose republic would soon fall.
Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 30 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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