The Painting "The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal". A Visual Analysis

Essay, 2012

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The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice

The painting by Luca Carlevariis, The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal, Venice, composed around 1710 with oil on canvas, depicts a bustling waterfront city square. This piece of Renaissance art vividly reflects the cultural enlightenment of this period. The setting is southern Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and more specifically Venice, a location known even today for preserving its artistic elegance and grandeur. The Renaissance was a period during which scholars from all disciplines attempted to rediscover and reproduce the skill and knowledge of the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. This was a time of discovery, and conscious cultural polishing, with a social mindset that believed rediscoveries from the past would drive society towards a bright and exciting future. In this painting, through an ultra-realistic depiction of the scene, a carefully chosen color scheme, and the use of linear perspective, Luca Carlevariss conveys a sense of optimism, discovery, and progress, all of which are reflective of the general cultural atmosphere during the Renaissance.

To begin our analysis of this painting we must first describe its content and composition. The painting is large, approximately 38 inches tall and 76 inches wide, necessitating a distance of about six feet between the viewer and itself in order to be able to fully behold the image. The right side of the painting is dominated by the slanted view of a large palace, which stretches from the bottom to the very top. The palace itself is divided into two visual sections, the bottom two floors are composed of a large array of stone colored columns and arches, while the top floor consists of bright colors and large windows. Spanning the ground level of the palace is a multitude of short fat columns connected at the top by arches. The second floor has an open terrace along its entirety, with a chest level stone railing that allows one to lean over and look out on the square and river below. The columns of the second level outnumber the ones on the ground floor, and are thinner and taller. They are topped off by large stone circular disks that face outward, have equidistant rounded cross shaped holes cut out of the center, and lie next to each other without space in-between. The top portion of the palace is brightly colored with large bullet-shaped windows and a central stone façade that evenly divides in two the upper portion of the building. The color of the upper level of the building is a subdued yellow with a subtle overlay of large reddish clay colored diamond shapes encasing smaller blue diamonds. The palace oozes classical influence, from the Roman looking columns and arches on the bottom two floors to the geometric overlay of the bright yellow color of the top level with red and blue diamonds of varying shape, which is reminiscent of the geometric pottery of early Greek civilization.

The palace almost points to a smaller forward facing white building, which is exactly the height of the bottom portion of the palace and extends to a little shorter than the middle of the painting. The white building comes directly into view after the palace ends in the distance, boxing in the sight of the viewer and pushing it back toward the now apparent city square and its inhabitants. The first object you see after you are edged back toward the front of the painting is the towering monument in front of the white building with a winged lion poised on its top. The monument consists of a large white column slightly taller than the white building, which widens to create a stand for the mythical creature. At the foot of the column you see a gathering of men, which are encircling a man standing next to a poster of the profile of an important looking official in formal dress and a hat both of which are red in color. They seem to be attentively listening to the speech of the man in the center, who we can see clearly because there is a space left just wide enough in the front of the circle. He is not only receiving the attention of those directly encompassing him, but also of a vast majority of the people in the entire square. From the circle of men we are drawn even further forward where we spot two women dressed fully in white with their backs turned observing the gathering taking place directly in front of them. To the right of the women are two groups of men engaged in vibrant conversations at the foot of the palace. You begin to realize that almost all of the people in the painting have their backs facing away from the viewer, are well-dressed in coats and hats, and are actively engaged in conversing with one another. This fact adds to the realism and humanism of the painting, there is no indication in the painting that features are exaggerated or that the people are aware of the painters presence.

Next to the group of men closest to the right of the women, you observe a thin greyhound looking dog that is staring left at another dog of the same breed. The second dog is to the left of the women, almost equidistant from them as the dog to the right; it is also facing left and appears to be barking at the groups of men to its left. The men to the left are more numerous than the men to the right, and are also grouped in conversations. At the leftmost bottom corner of the painting there is a man sitting on a grey barrel smoking a pipe is solitude, next to him stand two men looking at the canal next to one another. In the canal there are many vessels of varying size and purpose full of men and cargo or enclosed. The canal stretches out into the horizon on the left, but narrows and weaves toward the center of the painting where it is enclosed by the white building on the right and a domed structure on the right until it disappears from view between the buildings in the center of the painting. As the canal disappears from view you are drawn upward toward a break in the clouds directly above the winged lion monument. From there, you gaze left at the sky that opens up above the canal and you see the sails on the horizon, creating a moment of calm reflection. The sky in the right is a cloudy grey but fails to damper your spirits because of the bright palace standing next to it. Upon resolving your examination of the painting you are left with a feeling of optimism and wonder at the development of human civilization.

Carlevariis conveys feelings of optimism, progress and pending discovery in this scene of the Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal in Venice through his use of bright colors, his depiction of classical forms of architecture and realist painting. The figures in this painting look alive and vibrant, excited with their lives and engaged in its progression. Every detail is composed to ensure the painting is less of a manufactured image and more of a photograph of a typical day in the square. Every figure has a shadow, every cloud appears to move gently with the breeze and every expression is natural. The lines in the painting direct the viewer toward the streams of conversing people and into the canal which flows into the distant never-ending horizon. Linear perspective is used to present the grandeur of the palace, the three-dimensionality of all the buildings, ships, and monuments, and reinforce the general theme of realism in the painting. The color tones used are both bright and vibrant, but they are slightly subdued so as to not convey a sense of artificiality. The floor of the square is fleshy toned with light blue smudges, the buildings and monuments are stone colored, and the clothing on the figures is different shades of white, blue, black, brown, yellow, and orange. All of these factors placed together form an image that leaves us with positive feelings, a similar painting using different techniques would present a wildly different image and induce contrasting emotions, for the viewer of this painting life is vibrant, exciting, and full in the most fundamental sense with unending possibilities.

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The Painting "The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal". A Visual Analysis
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painting, doge’s, palace, grand, canal, visual, analysis
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Zach von Naumann (Author), 2012, The Painting "The Doge’s Palace and the Grand Canal". A Visual Analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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