Giovanni Paolo Panini

While Canaletto and Guardi were painting in Venice, Giovanni Paolo Panini was painting in Rome, offering views of Roman monuments from the inside and out. In some ways, he is a perfect combination of Canaletto and Guardi, in that he produced both real and imaginary views of his city. He was even trained as an architect and a theater designer, combining the exacting detail, especially in his interiors, of Canaletto, with the fanciful capricci of Guardi. Even the painting style is a perfect blend, somewhere between the impossibly precise “rendering” of a Canaletto cityscape with the more improvisational pittura di tocco of Guardi.

Let’s take a look.

Interior of the Pantheon, Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini (c. 1734). The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).

Interior of the Pantheon, Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini (c. 1734). The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).

Here we are inside the Pantheon in Rome, as if inside a Canaletto. (Canaletto himself painted interiors, from the Doge’s Palace to Westminster Abbey, but not nearly with the same frequency as Panini.) Much like Canaletto’s work, Panini’s was gobbled up by Grand Tourists in the eighteenth-century making their way to Rome, essentially as pricey souvenirs. Imagine Canaletto’s paintings depicting the moment you enter the city (in his case Venice), with much of it in view, and Panini’s depicting what happens fifteen or so minutes later, when you’ve gotten closer to the city (in his case Rome), walking around and inside the buildings.

Now let’s try another.

Roman Capriccio: The Pantheon and Other Monuments (1735) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Indianapolis Museum of Art (Indianapolis, IN). 

Roman Capriccio: The Pantheon and Other Monuments (1735) by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Indianapolis Museum of Art (Indianapolis, IN). 

Architectural precision inside a Roman capriccio? Check!

It should not surprise you that Panini’s greatest pupil was Hubert Robert, who studied under Panini in Rome. They both loved themselves some sun-drenched ruins!