View of Verona from the Ponte Nuovo
Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721 – Warsaw 1780)
This stunning view of the River Adige by Canaletto’s nephew was bought by Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725- 1774), ‘Clive of India’ by 1771 and was saved for Powis Castle, Wales in 1981. It remains inset in the oak-panelled niche in the Oak Drawing Room which was made for it over a hundred years ago.
Oil painting on canvas, View of Verona from the Ponte Nuovo by Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721 – Warsaw 1780), 1745-47. This view is from the Ponte Nuovo looking upstream over the Adige towards the north, the Castel San Pietro in the middle distance and the Tower of Sant'Anastasia on the left. At the far right, on the east bank, is the Palazzo della Seta decorated with sixteenth-century frescoes. Anchored in the river are floating mills for grinding corn. The pendant picture, The Adige at Verona with the Ponte delle Navi, looking downstream in the opposite direction, to the south, once in the collections of George Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover (1797-1833) and General Sir George Burns at North Mimms (where it was first recorded in 1895), sold at Christie's, 26 November 1971, lot 30, the buyer was 'Ray', is on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. There are two smaller versions in Germany.
Although Bellotto early on took the name of his teacher and maternal uncle, Canaletto, to help sell or secure commissions for his veduta paintings - with such success, that some time after Canaletto arrived in England in 1746, it was he who was regarded as the impostor - his strengths and weaknesses were very different from his older relative's. In his Venetian, Florentine, and Roman views, at the outset of his career, Bellotto mostly seems to have been inhibited by the way in which Canaletto, or previous vedutisti, had set their stamp upon the sites portrayed. It was, paradoxically, only when he had broken free from townscape, to paint views of villas and villages around Milan in 1744, that a new and individual tonality and a love of texture entered his work, and that he was able to give vent to his own ability to make striking and unexpected compositions out of sites and buildings, in the fashioning of which the choice of viewpoint was more important than his uncle's careful elaboration of perspective. It was also only after these, beginning with the pair of Views of Turin that he was invited to that city to paint by King Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy in 1745, on canvases of the same height, but three-quarters the breadth, of the present picture and its pendant, the view in the opposite direction, of the The Adige with the Ponte delle Navi that he emerged as an artist whose happiest effects - unlike his uncle's - were achieved on a large-scale. As J.G. Links has written: "From now on, seven feet was to be Bellotto's minimum width for his important townscapes [sic], in itself, surely a mark of self-confidence in a man not yet thirty years old" . Filled with self-confidence Bellotto may have been, but pictures of this size were not painted on spec (unlike the View of the Campidoglio at Petworth [NT], which is probably the picture that was included in the exhibition on the facade of the Scuola di San Rocco in 1743, in the hope of attracting a buyer). The pair of Views of Turin had been commissioned by one king, and Bellotto's celebrated later depictions of Dresden and of castles and palaces in Saxony were to be painted for another, Augustus III of Saxony-Poland, or for his powerful first minister, Heinrich, Count Brühl. The drawing from Bellotto's Nachlass now in Darmstadt recording the present picture, evidently with - as indeed resulted - its repetition in mind , is inscribed: "copia del quadro dela Vista stando sun il ponte novo verso il castelo di Verona a Verona di Bernard. Belotto detto il Canaletto per ingiltera" - and indeed, it was almost only english 'milords', or sovereign princes of the Holy Roman Empire, who were capable of patronage of pictures on such a scale. Regrettably, we have no idea of who this travelling Englishman, ordering two such views of Verona, rather than of the more fashionable Venice, might have been (it may well be, however, that the forthcoming publication of Sir Brinsley Ford's Dictionary of British Travellers in Italy in the 18th Century, edited by John Ingamells, may enable us to pinpoint a likely client whose movements took him through Verona at the same time as Bellotto) . Nor do we know how the pair came onto the market less than a generation later. The first record of the present one of the pair is as A View in Verona by "Cannalletti", in a list of the 1st Lord Clive's pictures taken at his house in Berkeley Square between 1771 and 1774; the first record of its pendant is in the collection of the great collector and connoisseur George Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover (1797-1833), with no indication as to its previous provenance. A later inventory of the pictures in Berkeley Square, taken in 1775, puts the price of £147 against the picture. This translates into 140 guineas, strongly suggesting a purchase in the salerooms, where guineas were the usual unit of bidding, but no sale of either picture has come to light. Another pair of pictures of Verona by 'Canaletti' did, however, appear in the salerooms at this very epoch, as lots 54 and 55 at Christie's, on the 2nd day of a miscellaneous sale of pictures held on 28th and 30th March 1771, and were sold for £280.10s and £260.10s to [?General] Grey and [Gilbert Fane] Fleming respectively. Less than a month later Horace Walpole wrote to Horace Mann: "two views of Verona by Canaletti have been sold by auction for 550 [sic] guineas - and what is worse, it is come out that they are copies by Marlow, a disciple of Scott" . Such was indeed the case, and the picture now in the Lee Collection at the Courtauld Institute must have been one of the two . General Grey (if it was he, who was noted as a connoisseur) must have become aware of the deception, because when it next reappeared, in the sale of the Tracy Park Heirlooms in 1929, held by Mrs Arthington-Davy, through Rogers, Chapman & Thomas, 17 July 1929, lot 164 it was under the proper name of Marlow. Gilbert Fane Fleming, by contrast, either remained unaware of, or suppressed knowledge of the fraud, because when his picture was included in his sale at Christie's on 22 March 1777, it was again sold as the chef d'oeuvre of 'Canaletti', and went for a very healthy 205 guineas to the Earl of Cadogan. It seems surprising that Marlow should have promoted, or at least have connived at, the passing off of his copies of Bellotto as the genuine article, when one at least of the originals was in the house of a great man within half a mile of the saleroom. It might prompt one to think that he had painted them whilst he was abroad, between 1765 and 1768, without thought for the consequences, were it not for the clear indication on Bellotto's drawing after the present painting that it was destined for England. He may, however, have encountered the pair on one of his summer tours spent delineating picturesque scenery and country houses, and have copied them then, little suspecting that one or both of the originals would shortly come to London. The lack of puffing or mention of size, and the low prices paid, for yet a further pair of Views of Verona by 'Canaletti', in the posthumous sale of the Edinburgh banker and collector, Robert Alexander, at Christie's, on the second day of the two-day sale, 31st March & 1st April 1775, strongly suggest that, if autograph Bellottos, these were on a greatly reduced scale (though no such pictures are known); unless it was that these were actually the copies by Marlow, knowledge of the existence of which had previously caused rumours to circulate, which had been picked up by Horace Walpole and falsely attached to the pair sold in 1771. But that would still fail to explain the existence of one purportedly genuine 'Canaletti' View of Verona sold at auction for £260.10s or £280.10s in 1771, when Clive had already bought the present picture for £147; whilst if the pair sold in 1775 had really been same-size copies by Marlow, one would expect them either to have been sold as such, or, if it was these that were being passed off as 'Canalettis' - for them to have been puffed as "capital pictures", or "chefs d'oeuvre", as those sold in 1771 and 1777 were. Bellotto made his own same-sized virtual replicas of the two Views, which he seems to have presented to the Royal Collection in Dresden in 1747/8, along with a third Italian picture, Capriccio of the Lock at Dolo, which is signed and dated 1748 . It has been elegantly suggested by Giorgio Marini that this presentation may have been a judicious act of flattery to the new director of the royal gallery in Dresden, the Veronese Pietro Guarienti (c.1700-1753), who already knew Bellotto, may have incited the King to invite him to Saxony (in default of Canaletto, who had gone to England), and who was shortly to publish an encomium on him in his updated edition of Orlandi's Abecedario pittorico 1753, p. 101, claiming (somewhat outdatedly) that only great connoisseurs could distinguish his work from his uncle's . Even though Bellotto had been invited by the King, and was in 1748 appointed Court Painter, with a higher salary than that ever given to any other artist, it may have been prudent for him to show his gratitude towards, and to continue to ingratiate himself with, Guarienti, just as he did with Count Brühl by executing for him full-size replicas of the Views of Dresden and Saxony that he had painted for the King, and tacitly allowing payment for them to fall into considerable arrears. As could recently be seen at the Royal Academy, there is little diminution in quality between the version painted for the Saxon Royal Collection and the present picture, and only slight differences of detail, essentially restricted to the boats: the main one being the addition of an extra boat, drawn up alongside the foremost of the floating mills. Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725-1774), alias 'Clive of India', is best known for his foundation of the British Empire in India, through his securing of the diwani of Bengal from the Mughal Emperor. He also accumulated enormous wealth in the process, though he himself famously said that: "I stand astonished at my own moderation". Much of this wealth went into the rebuilding of Walcot (by William Chambers), what is now 45 Berkeley Square (by Chambers), Claremont (by Capability Brown and Henry Holland), and Oakly Park (by J.H. Haycock), and to the creation of a formidable collection of pictures, in the very short space of time between 1771 and his suicide in 1774 . Without experience in the field of art, Clive was a classic instance of the man who "knows what he likes", and made many impetuous purchases and rejections. He might have made more, had he not been advised by the young Benjamin West - whom he also commissioned to paint an (uncompleted) series of huge canvases celebrating his Indian achievements for the Eating Room at Claremont - and by the gentleman-connoisseur William Patoun, whom he took with him to France and Italy over the winter of 1773-4. His major purchases to have stood the test of time were two Poussins - the Landscape with the Funeral of Phocion (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, on loan from the Earl of Plymouth) and The Finding of Moses (National Gallery, London & National Maritime Museum of Wales) - Claude's Landscape with the Reconciliation of Cephalus and Procris (The Earl of Plymouth), and Veronese's Visitation (The Barber Institute, Birmingham). Other than West and portrait-painters, the only other contemporary artist from whom he bought original works was Joseph Vernet, from whom he acquired a marine Calm and Storm originally commissioned by the King of Poland, through the mediation of Henry Hoare. The Clive collection came to Powis Castle through the marriage of his son, Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, 1st Earl of Powis of the third creation (1754-1839), with the Powis heiress, Lady Henrietta Herbert; and many of the pictures were hung in the recently constructed Ballroom when the 2nd Lord Clive went to India, as Governor of Madras, in 1798. After his return, he made Powis over to his son and took most of the pictures with him to Walcot. Thereafter, they were divided between his two sons, and the Powis portion led a somewhat peripatetic existence between the family's various houses. In this century, with Walcot demolished and the house in Berkeley Square given up, almost all of them have been sold, leaving only this, a huge Jan Weenix that deprived West of his sleep for excitement, a 'Tintoretto' since demoted to a L'Aliense, and a little Madonna and Child with Angels by Brescianino (but engraved by Volpato as by Fra Bartolomeo), as relics of these former glories at Powis. Notes: (i) See Vertue Notebooks, III (1934), pp.149 & 151. (ii) Private collection, ex-coll. Sir George Burns, North Mymms Park; on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland; Kozakiewicz, cat.101. (iii) J. G. Links 'Bellotto Problems', Apollo, vol.XCVI, June, 1973, p.108. (iv) Kozakiewicz, cat.no.100, implausibly describes this as the Vorzeichnung for the present picture but it and two similarly inscribed drawings for a pair of the Milanese picture are evidently ricordi. For a juster assessment by Penelope Brownell, and two large reproductions, one with superimposed perspectival lines, see exh.cat. Bernardo Bellotto: Verona e le città europee, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, 1990, cat.36, pp.128-29 & fig. on p.34. (v) The suggestion that the commission might have been mediated through Consul Smith does not hold water for all sorts of reasons - not least the absence of any avowed Bellottos in his own collection. (vi) The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence, vol.XXIII (Correspondence with Sir Horace Mann, vol. vii, 1967, pp.298-99, and n.11 (suggesting the wrong sale, but revealing that in [the 2nd volume of] his ms. 'Book of Materials' , on p.12, under 15th Feb., Horace Walpole reports Clive's buying a Madonna and Child by Carlo Dolci at auction for over £500, and "two views of Verona by Canalletti" for 500 gns., adding in a later note that it had come out that they were only copies by Marlow or - as he believed - Mortimer. (vii) Kozakiewicz, cat.no.369. (viii) Kozakiewicz, cat. nos.99, 102, & 107. (ix) In exh. cat. The Glory of Venice, Royal Academy of Arts, London & National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994-95, p.429, cat.254. See also his: 'Il finme e il castello: precisazioni sul viaggio romano di Bernardo Bellotto', artibus et historiae, no.24 (XII), 1991, p.161 for the early connection between Bellotto and Guarienti. (x) Orlandi's Abecedario pittorico 1753. (xi) See Mark Bence-Jones, 'The Taste of a Nabob: Clive of India as builder and collector', Country Life, 18 & 25 November 1971, pp.1366-68 & 1446-48.
Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725- 1774), by 1771 and recorded as hanging in Clive's London house, 45 Berkeley Square in 1775 and at Powis by 1798; by descent to his son, Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, 1st Earl of Powis of the 3rd creation (1754 - 1839), who married the Powis heiress, Lady Henrietta Herbert in 1784; thence by descent; when Powis and the majority of its contents were transferred to the Trust, it remained in the ownership of the family; when offered for sale in 1981, its acquisition by the Trust was made possible by grants from National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) (including from the Wolfson Foundation), and Grant-in-aid administered by the V&A (Purchase Fund)
Powis Castle, The Powis Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721 – Warsaw 1780), artist
Canaletto. Bernardo Bellotto paints Europe, Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, 2014 - 2015, no.30 In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.30 The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.193 Souvenirs of the Grand Tour, Wildenstein, London, 1982, no.6
Hadeln 1930 D. von Hadeln, Die Zeichnungen von Antonio Canal, 1930, pp. 20, 24 Fritzsche 1936 H.A. Fritzsche, Bernardo Bellotto genannt Canaletto, 1936, pp. 27-28, 106, No. (V.G.) 26 Kozakiewicz 1972 Stefan Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London 1972, II, p. 79, no. 98 Bernardo Bellotto: Verona e le città europee, exh. cat., Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, 1990, pp.124 - 27, no. 35 The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat. (co-eds. Jane Martineau and Andrew Robinson) Royal Academy, London, 15 September - 4 Deecember 1994 and National Gallery of Art, Washington,29 January - 23 April 1995, 1994 - 95, pp.362 - 65 & 429 Canaletto - Bernardo Bellotto paints Europe (ed. Andres Schumacher), Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, 17 Oct 2014 - 19 January 2015 , pp. 14-15, figs. 76, 80