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Antonio Baratta

(1724 Belluno – 1787 Venice)

Celebrations in Honour of the Russian Grand Duke and Duchess in the Teatro San Benedetto. Etching and engraving after Giovanni Battista Canal. 54 x 68.6 cm. 1782. Not in Nagler or Le Blanc, Meyer Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, vol. II, no. 23.

Grand Duke Paul Petrovich of Russia (Tsar from 1796 to 1801) and his wife, Maria Feodorovna, née Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, began a tour of Western Europe in September 1781 and stayed in Venice from 18 to 25 January 1782 under the pseudonym of ‘Conti del Nord’. Here the Grand Ducal couple were able to admire the colourful goings-on at the Venetian Carnival and to take part in the various cultural festivities organised in their honour. On the evening of 22 January they were invited to a banquet in the sumptuously decorated Teatro San Benedetto, where a splendid dining table in the shape of a horseshoe was placed on the stage. The guests of honour were reportedly so enthused by the opulent appointments and the court ceremonial that they requested a design of the arrangement so that they could have a copy made in St. Petersburg.

The present rare engraving by the Venetian printmaker, Antonio Baratta, provides a realistic impression of the pomp of this Baroque celebration. It is based on a preliminary drawing by Giambattista Canal, a painter who also hailed from the Serenissima. Part of a series of four engravings the artist made on the occasion of the Grand Duke’s visit, the work later served as the design for a painting by Francesco Guardi (Christie’s London, Sale 5317, December 1994, lot 62). Demonstrating a keen eye for anecdotal detail, the artist has accurately portrayed the gestures and different reactions of the guests in the boxes. The engraving’s meticulous attention to detail also makes it an important work in terms of cultural history.

A very fine, harmo­nious impression with narrow margins around the platemark. In mint condition.

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