You like Warsaw? Thank an Italian! Posted by Anna on May 18, 2008 in History
Bernardo was not a happy guy. His life stunk, but then again, so did the lives of all the other court painters in his days. Kissing up to the local princelings to get a new contract every few years wasn’t exactly all fun and games. And then, there was his uncle – Canaletto – also an artist. More famous. More esteemed. And more in demand.
Bernardo started to sign his paintings with the uncle’s name, and finally saw his career move forward. And “Bernardo Bellotto Canaletto” sounded so more artistic and refined, anyway. So much in fact, that it caught the eye of that crazy empress in Russia, who invited him to come over.
The way from Dresden to St. Petersburg led through Poland. Bernardo stopped by in Warsaw and met with the local king. That king, Stanisław II August Poniatowski was a total loser when it came to politics, and couldn’t care less that Poland was about to be partitioned among her neighbors, but he did love art, fine music, and theater. And he was known for supporting starving Italian artists, like that other fellow – Bacciarelli.
And so, instead of Russia, Bernardo stayed in Warsaw with king Stanisław, and spent his days painting the city with the excruciating realism for which he was known. For him, it was all about the details. He used the camera obscura to achieve the super-precision that his artistic vision (or was it OCD?) demanded.
He died in Warsaw in 1780.
Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe, and eventually reappeared a hundred something odd years later. A couple of world wars happened. Millions of people died, and a lot of cities were destroyed. Including the once beautiful capital city of Warsaw, which was razed to the ground. The destruction was so thorough that rebuilding it seemed an impossible task.
Fortunately, a faceless government automaton remembered the old Bellotto Canaletto paintings. The artwork was retrieved from the Germans, who looted it during the war, and then used by Polish architects to bring the city of Warsaw back to its former glory. The super-precise paintings proved invaluable as a blueprint in reconstructing the Old Town. And the Castle. And the entire Warsaw panorama.
After WW2, Warsaw wasn’t merely restored, simply because there was nothing left to restore, it was recreated from scratch, building by building. All thanks to a long-dead Italian painter with a bad case of OCD.