Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe is the first exhibition to exclusively examine view paintings—more or less faithful depictions of a given locale—that also depict contemporary historical events. Throughout the 1700s, rulers, princes, ambassadors, and religious dignitaries commissioned these extraordinary works to commemorate key moments in their personal and professional lives. Dramatically staged for the enjoyment of a wide range of spectators, and typically involving sumptuous costumes and elaborate temporary decorations, these events give us insight into the rituals and rare occurrences of a spectacular bygone era.
In richly detailed paintings that utilize the impressive monuments of Venice, Rome, Paris, Warsaw, and other European cities as a backdrop, artists such as Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, and Giovanni Paolo Panini vividly re-create what it was like to be present at these magnificent occasions. Whether depicting a triumphal procession, a festive celebration, or the catastrophic eruption of a volcano, the vibrant, colorful paintings in Eyewitness Views enable us to witness some of the most impressive spectacles and dramatic events of eighteenth-century Europe.
This exhibition is co-organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
(Photo: Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), The Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day , about 1745. Oil on canvas; 115 × 163 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The William L. Elkins Collection, E1924-3-48. Image © Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY)