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A Caprice with a Ruined Arch

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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Small figures – traders returning home from market or a fishing trip – animate this little scene, but also serve as a measure of scale, alerting us to the size of the ruins. This is an imaginary scene known as a capriccio, but Guardi took inspiration from known buildings – the arch with a suspended lantern may be derived from the arcade of the Doge’s Palace in Venice (though it has been exaggerated, as is appropriate in a capriccio).

Guard has used fluid brushstrokes and thin paint layers, with pen-like details for the buildings. He produced these kinds of pictures in large numbers in his studio in Venice throughout the 1770s and 1780s as popular souvenirs for tourists.

The National Gallery, London



about 1775


Oil on wood


H 20.1 x W 15.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Salting Bequest, 1910

Work type


The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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