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Bernardo Bellotto was born in Venice on 30 January 1721. He was the son of Canaletto’s sister and around 1735 he entered his uncle’s workshop from whom he inherited the name Canaletto, for which was best known in Germany, and he began to paint the views of the city. His younger brother Pietro Bellotto was also a painter.
Bellotto traveled to Rome in 1742 on his uncle’s advice, passing via Florence, Lucca and Livorno. In the following years he worked in Lombardy at the service of count Simonetta and Turin, where he started to paint views with his own style distinguishing himself from his uncle, with less sharp vision that was almost hazy and melancholic (such as Vaprio d’Adda, situated in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Vedute della Gazzada in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan, the view of Palazzo Reale of Turin and the Ancient Bridge over Po in the Pinacoteca Sabauda of Turin).
In 1747 he moved to Dresden, then to Vienna in 1758, and Munich in 1761, and once again to Dresden until 1767 and finally to Warsaw, where he spent the last years of his life. At first, he was at the service of Augustus III, elector of Saxony, then Maria Theresa of Austria, elector of Bavaria and finally Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski, king of Poland and he obtained an incredible success at European level. The Nordic protectors were fascinated by his work and his views of the northern cities, which were large and modern thanks to the investments and policies made by the latter.
The works of this period with wide skies, majestic palaces, bourgeois houses and rococo bell towers are characterized by melancholic atmosphere and his human figures with long shadows channel loneliness. This is visible in the Moat of the Zwinger (ca. 1754) View of Vienna from the Belvedere (1759-1760) or in Nymphenburg seen from Munich (1761). Thanks to particular details, he left an indelible trace on his paintings of all the cities he visited: the views he painted in Warsaw were used as models for the reconstruction of the city after the bombings of the World War II.
In the last years in Warsaw he worked on the decoration of the Royal Castle, never leaving his activity as a view painter and alongside his paintings he completed some fine engravings.
Bellotto died in October 1780 in Warsaw.