While it is a small museum by Parisian standards, the Jacquemart-André has an interesting and diverse collection including a few Rembrandts, two Mantegnas, a Bellini, and two Chardins as well as other works from Van Dyck, Botticelli, and Civelli. I have been to this museum on at least 5 or 6 occasions for their temporary exhibits and today was no exception because the Canaletto-Guardi expo is drawing to a close. The crowds are HUGE so you MUST purchase your tix well in advance and you MUST be patient because the rooms are tiny and there are a TON of people crowded in to see all the works.
For those that are unfamiliar with these two 18c Venetian masters, they both are famous for painting almost exclusively landscapes of Venice and the surrounding area. As you learn in the expo, this style of painting was called “vedute” and was pioneered by Luca Carlevarijs who became Canaletto’s master before being eclipsed by him. The expo features paintings from Carlevarijs as well as Canaletto and his nephew and pupil Bellotto. Canaletto is famous for bringing painstaking perspective and a more expressive sky to the genre. Guardi started by imitating Canaletto and then developed his own style be playing on the expressions of the passers-by in the works as well as making the water itself more alive.
At first glance, these are all landscapes and may be considered a little boring. However, if one starts looking at the myriad of details here – the decay of the buildings, the costumes of the various characters, the gorgeous Venetian light – one starts to appreciate why these paintings all became immediately collectable and cherished primarily by rich British collectors and the Crown itself. There are three paintings which feature the Doge’s boat, the Bucintoro, but I learned that much to my dismay that it was destroyed by French troups when the conquered and sacked Venice in 1797.
I really love these paintings because, having visited Venice twice, I think that they accurately depict the unique beauty and wonder of the floating city in both the decay and the splendid architecture and – most importantly – the light reflecting off the water on the Grand Canal. The expo is worth fighting the crowds if you have the time. And, of course, if you have never visited Venice itself, it is an unforgettable experience all in itself.