In the 18th century, a rite of passage for young European nobles was to take a Grand Tour though Italy to view the historic riches of Western civilisation.
One of the principal stops was Venice – or, to give it its formal title, the Most Serene Republic of Venice – a fabulous, floating city that enchanted all comers.
The majority of Grand Tourists longed to take a souvenir of the city back home with them, and it was in this context that one of art’s most recognisable subgenres developed: the Venetian veduta (topographical-view painting).
This autumn, four examples are going on a tour of their own. Drawn from the art collection of Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s largest bank, the paintings by a quartet of the finest vedutisti – Giovanni Antonio Canal (aka, Canaletto), Francesco Guardi, Michele Marieschi and Hendrik Frans van Lint – are being shown at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb until October 27. They are usually on display at the Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Intesa Sanpaolo’s gallery in Vicenza.
At the same time, another two of the bank’s art works from the same period – vedute of Rome by the Dutch master Gaspar van Wittel – are being exhibited at the Historical Museum of Serbia, in Belgrade, until October 29. This pair is usually on view at the Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Intesa Sanpaolo’s gallery in Naples.
Via its many subsidiary branches outside Italy, Intesa Sanpaolo has become the leading commercial bank in Serbia and ranks second in Croatia. Its Chairman of the Board of Directors, Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, who opened both exhibitions, sees them as an ideal opportunity to strengthen ties across geographic borders.
Miroslav Gasparovic, Director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Intesa Sanpaolo, Milan Bandic, Mayor of the city Zagreb, and Bozo Prka, CEO of Privredna banka Zagreb (from left to right).
“Intesa Sanpaolo operates in countries rich in culture and heritage and believes that cultural activities are a way to foster friendship across communities,” he says. “Investing in culture enhances quality of life, encourages social progress and supports economic growth.”
Intesa Sanpaolo’s art collection boasts around 20,000 pieces in total and spans the ages, from the Magna Grecian pottery of Ruvo di Puglia in the 4th century BC to work by the stars of Italian post-war art: Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni. Eighteenth-century Venetian painting by the likes of Canaletto and Guardi, however, is probably its area of particular strength.
“We’ve embraced this initiative with great enthusiasm,” says Božo Prka, CEO of Privredna Banka Zagreb, a member bank of the Intesa Sanpaolo Group, which helped organise the Croatian exhibition. “The four vedute now on display at the Museum of Arts and Crafts are major examples of Italian cultural heritage. We believe this is the beginning of a new form of co-operation in presenting Italy’s art and culture to our domestic public.
Via its many subsidiary branches outside Italy, Intesa Sanpaolo has become the leading commercial bank in Serbia and ranks second in Croatia.
“Since art has such a special power to connect people, the current exhibition will most certainly contribute to the further promotion of the already excellent relations between our two countries: Italy and Croatia.”
The four works on view are Marieschi’s Veduta of the Grand Canal with the Rive del Vin and del Carbon (1730-1735); van Lint’s Veduta of La Salute with the Punta della Dogana (1750); Guardi’s Piazza San Marco towards San Geminiano (1775-1780); and Canaletto’s Capriccio with Gothic Church and Lagoon (1720-1721).
Positive sentiments were also expressed in Belgrade. Speaking of the van Wittel show, Draginja Djuric, President of the Banca Intesa Executive Board in Serbia, says: “We are exceptionally proud to be able to share a part of Italy’s cultural inheritance with art connoisseurs in our country.
Draginja Djuric, CEO of Banca Intesa Belgrade, and Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Intesa Sanpaolo (from left to right)
Hendrik Frans Van Lint (Antwerp, 1684-Rome, 1763) Veduta of La Salute width the Punta della Dogana about 1750, oil on canvas.
“Banca Intesa is recognised in the market as the leading commercial bank in Serbia, while in the social context we are seen as an institution that demonstrates its commitment to community primarily through investment in arts and culture and the protection of cultural and historical heritage.”
The painter Gaspar van Wittel moved to Rome from his native Holland in his early twenties and remained there for the rest of his life, assuming the name Gaspare Vanvitelli to fit in more easily and becoming a hit with Grand Tourists for his pictures of the Eternal City.
It’s said by certain art historians that he was among the first painters to use an optical aid known as the camera obscura – a prototype of the modern camera – which enabled his compositions to look extra precise and accurate. His two works on show in Belgrade are vedute of the Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) Venice, 1697-1768, Capriccio with Gothic Church and Lagoon about 1720-1721, oil on canvas.
Intesa Sanpaolo Collection Galleria d’Italia- Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza.
Fast forward a few centuries and Gian Maria Gros-Pietro sees the exhibitions in Croatia and Serbia as part of a wider strategy to strengthen Intesa Sanpaolo’s roots in Eastern Europe. “In this area, we have come out of a severe recession, but growth is now between 2.8 per cent and 3 per cent, and reconstruction is under way,” he says.
“Our bank is one of the leading operators there and our subsidiaries are responding to the demand in each country for modernisation. I’d say there are good times ahead, both economic and cultural.”
Historical Museum of Serbia in Belgrade.
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