It was customary from the end of the sixteenth century for young English aristocrats to travel to the main cities of the Italian principalities. These journeys were the origin of the Grand Tour, a term coined by the writer Richard Lassels in his book The Voyage of Italy, published in 1670. Eager to bring back to the cloudy north a souvenir of Mediterranean light and architecture, these travelers would acquire vedute, or “views,” executed by local artists.
By the eighteenth century, the influence of the Enlightenment had led many Europeans to travel to foreign climes in a simultaneous quest for Romantic experience and scientific exploration.
The famous artist Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, initiated one of the most important schools of vedutisti of the Serenissima. The collection of the Fundación Carlos Slim bears witness to his followers’ mastery of perspective, color, and light. For the first time in Mexico, more than one hundred of their works have been gathered, including prints by the German engraver Martin Engelbrecht, a forerunner of the vedutisti, and paintings by Bernardo Canal, Michele Marieschi, Francesco Zanin, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Francesco, and Giacomo Guardi. These artists rendered in meticulous detail the splendid Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical buildings that have been reflected for centuries in the waters of the Grand Canal.
Even after the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, the city on the lagoon retained its appeal to travelers. The special light of the Veneto inspired the impressionist painters Henry Woods and Pierre Vignal. The city has also attracted artists of the twentieth-century avant-garde, from Giorgio de Chirico and Jean Dufy to the surrealist Salvador Dalí.
Four centuries of art and history in Venice are exemplified by figures of the stature of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the celebrated adventurer Giacomo Casanova, and modern art patroness Peggy Guggenheim, as well as the writer Ernest Hemingway and the composers Richard Wagner and Antonio Vivaldi…. Piazzas, churches, canals, bridges, gondolas, and unique customs proclaim: See Venice and die.