To the English travellers visiting Venice, the paintings of Antonio Canal must have seemed like splendid souvenirs. Thus, Canaletto-mania broke out across the Channel. In a few years, thanks to the art merchant and theatre impresario Owen Swiny, British aristocrats could embellish their estates with spectacular visions of the Serenissima. With the aid of an optical device, Canaletto offered his demanding public postcards of the Lagoon long before the invention of photography - from Piazza San Marco to the Canal Grande to the Palazzo Ducale, his brush turned out vivid and indelible depictions of the marvels of the Grand Tour. Then, the banker, collector and British Consul to Venice, Joseph Smith, took the artist under his wing. The canvases flowed copiously into the kingdom of George III who, in 1763, bought the entire collection of Smith. Approximately 50 paintings, 150 drawings and 15 rare engravings by Canaletto entered Britain’s Royal Collection where they can be found today. From the walls of the Queen’s Gallery, they invite visitors to Buckingham Palace to travel through the Venice of the 1700s, among gondolas bobbing upon the water, unmistakable architecture and masterfully depicted perspectives.
The dining halls of the V&A are over 150 years old. Designed by stars of interior design of the 1800s, it transformed the experience of visiting the museum and was well ahead of its time in respect to the rest of the world.