Bella Italia--Canaletto Headlines La Dolce DC at The National Gallery of Art

Photo by The National Gallery of Art
'The Torre de Malghera about 1756' is among the Canaletto works on display
'The Torre de Malghera about 1756' is among the Canaletto works on display

Italy.  Among one of my favorite places in the world.  If you haven't been, I highly recommend you go.  If you have been, you probably know why I feel this way.  It is a place of amazing beauty, wondrous antiquity, incredible and diverse cuisine, picturesque land and seascapes, beautiful architecture and among its greatest treasures—masters of fine art.  

This year, Washington is celebrating from March 1st-July 31st by presenting La Dolce DC, a cultural celebration in honor of the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification.  Among the first forays into bella Italia and headlining this celebration is the exclusive North American presentation of  Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals, which features 20 of Canaletto's finest paintings of Venice with 33 by his most important contemporaries, including Gaspar Vanvitelli, Luca Carlevarijs, Michele Marieschi, Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Guardi.  The exhibit runs from February 20th-May 30th at The National Gallery of Art.  These works represent the best ‘view painters’ of Venice—each responding to the city in his own way, and each competing in a market driven largely by the British Grand Tour, at its height during the 18th century.

Among the oldest Gondolas in the world welcomes guests to the Canaletto exhibit (Photo by: The National Gallery of Art) Among the oldest Gondolas in the world welcomes guests to the Canaletto exhibit
Located on two floors of the museum, separated by a spiral staircase, this exhibit differs from those previous on Venice or Canaletto, in that it focuses on rivalries that pitted the artist against his fellow painters. The paintings are displayed with similar scenes side by side so that visitors will have the opportunity to compare their differing portrayals of the sites or monuments. 

A preview of these dazzling cityscapes was presented on Tuesday, along with a little Vivaldi and introduction and annotation by Earl A Powell III, Director of the National Gallery of Art, Diana Bracco of the Bracco Foundation, the major sponsor of the event, Charles Beddington, the exhibit’s guest curator and His Excellency Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Ambassador of Italy, who noted that the Canaletto exhibit is  “a unique perspective on how 18th century Italians looked at Venice that in Marco Polo’s legacy is seen as Europe’s door to the Orient: an Italian city calling towards the East.”   Each speaker also noted the contribution of rich culture Italy has made to the US and the long-standing association and good relationship of the two countries.

To visually ‘transport’ visitors to the sights and sounds of Venice, The entrance to the exhibition is highlighted by one of the world’s oldest gondolas, a 35-foot-long black and gold watercraft that once belonged to the American painter Thomas Moran.  It is currently part of the collection of the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.

Prosciutto San Daniele (Prosciutto, marinated eggplant, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar), created by Chef Fabio Trabocchi for Garden Café Italia at the National Gallery of Art (Photo by: The National Gallery of Art) Prosciutto San Daniele (Prosciutto, marinated eggplant, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar), created by Chef Fabio Trabocchi for Garden Café Italia at the National Gallery of Art

Along with the incredible array of Venetian artwork is a menu at the Gallery’s Garden Café, dubbed Garden Café Italia for the duration of the Canaletto exhibit, which has been specially created by DC’s culinary prodigal son, Chef Fabio Trabocchi, who will open his anxiously awaited new restaurant Fiola in Penn Quarter this spring.  Delizioso. 

The exhibition is part of ITALY@150, a series of events organized by the Embassy of Italy under the Auspices of the President of the Republic of Italy to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Italy’s Unification throughout the United States.  The program debuted last fall 2010 with an exhibition on Arcimboldo at the National Gallery of Art. It includes a very rich agenda – culture, art, architecture, history, philosophy, music, Italian language, cinema, science – to make 2011 a veritable year of Italian culture in the US.

On March 17, 2011 – exactly 150 years after Italy’s Unification – the Embassy of Italy will host a concert with music by Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini with a performance by Orchestra of the Fondazione Lirico Sinfonica Petruzzelli e Teatri di Bari directed by Maestro Lorin Maazel.