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22 April 2019

Bernardo Bellotto, Architectural Capriccio with a Self-portrait in the Costume of a Venetian Nobleman, around 1762-65, Oil on canvas. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2016 (59-006). Photo: Bernard Clark

Agnes regularly loans works from its collection to other museums around the world. Recently, this stunning painting by Bernardo Bellotto travelled to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, for the exhibition The Lure of Dresden: Bellotto at the Court of Saxony.

Architectural Capriccio with a Self-portrait in the Costume of a Venetian Nobleman marks a dramatic turning point in Bellotto’s career. With the death of Augustus III in 1763, Bellotto lost his privileged income and status at the Dresden court. The painter was granted a teaching position at the newly established Academy of Fine Arts, but he was forced to search for new patrons. Consequently, at precisely the time that this painting was created, his almost topographical manner assumes the new form of the capriccio, one based on major architectural monuments from Venice and Rome. Bellotto depicts himself here in the red robes of the Venetian nobleman attended by his servant Checo, thereby indicating his elevated status as an artist. This neoclassical emphasis, inflected with a whimsical sense of fantasy, was in keeping with the Academy’s ideals of decorativeness and idealization that influenced the taste of patrons in this period.