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View of the “Ponte Rotto” in Rome
Caneva, Giacomo -Photographer- (Attributed to)
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Caneva, Giacomo (Attributed to)

Padua, Veneto, 1813 - Rome, 1865

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View of the “Ponte Rotto” in Rome

Ca. 1850. Albumen, Salt paper on photographic paper.
Not on display

The group of works on paper belonging to the Madrazo family, which the Museo del Prado acquired in 2006, includes an extraordinary collection of photographs. Most are calotypes by the Circle of Photographer-Painters from the Caffè Greco in Rome, and they were collected by Luis de Madrazo during his stay at the Roman Academy between 1848 and 1852. In the mid 19th century, Rome remained the preferred destination for all who sought to complete their cultural education, just as it had been in the previous century for those engaging in what was known as the Grand Tour. Rome also received innumerable artists eager for first-hand exposure to the great artworks of Antiquity that were considered referents as well as sources of inspiration. In that city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Caffè Greco on the Via Condotti had been a meeting point for artists and writers since the late 18th century, and there, artists of each nationality formed their separate groups to trade ideas and experiences and to aid each other. The group of French artists with scholarships to the French Academy in Rome, located in the nearby Villa Medici, was one of the most active, alongside similar groups of Danes, Germans and Spaniards. Since Antiquity, Italy had been home to an industry based on the manufacturing of reproductions and souvenirs for visitors and tourists, including all kinds of images on paper. Photography was quick to arrive in that country, and it soon made a place for itself in this business, bringing new possibilities that developed and took shape over time. In general, the early photographic experiments were carried out by amateurs who founded the Roman School of Photography. Considered the first photographic circle in Italy, it was created by artists who met regularly at the Caffè Greco. This varied group included Frenchmen such as Frédéric Flacheron, who was trained as a sculptor; and architect Alfred-Nicolas Normand—both scholarship holders at the French Academy in Rome—as well as genre painter Eugène Constant, who had been active in that city since 1848. Another member was British painter James Anderson, who later developed a solid professional career as a photographer. The group also included Giacomo Caneva, who defined himself as a “painter of perspectives,” and less-active amateur participants such as Prince Giron des Anglonnes and Englishmen Robinson and Richard W. Thomas. Its members’ artistic training is reflected in their decision to call themselves “photographer painters,” as well as their choice of the calotype as their main medium, and their concentration on urban views with archeological remains and baroque monuments, with no interest in modern Rome. The first widely employed photographic technique, the daguerrotype, was expensive and did not allow the production of copies. As a result it was unpopular among amateur groups with shared interests and objectives. They preferred the calotype, which was easier to handle, more versatile and lighter that the daguerrotype, although it produced less detailed images, as its positives bore the grainy texture transmitted by the paper on which the negatives were made. The most frequent method of creating positive images was the salted-paper system. However, the calotype did not become as widespread, internationally, as it might have, because its inventor, William Fox Talbot, had patented the process in 1841. Moreover, the invention of dry collodion plates in 1855 further threatened the calotype method, which was beginning to fall into disuse by the mid 1850s and had practically disappeared by the middle of the following decade. Of all the members of the Roman School of Photography, Giacomo Caneva is particularly relevant here because of his contact with the Spanish artist’s colony in Rome. He was also one of the few to actually write about photography, publishing his Della Fotografía. Trattato Pratico di giacomo Canvea pittore prospettico in 1855. He used paper negatives throughout his career, possibly because they seemed most suited to his artistic sensibilities. In the text mentioned above, he observed that, unlike the hard images obtained with glass negatives, the calotype “makes it possible to obtain the immense variety of tonalities of nature.” Caneva’s works were far more varied in their subject matter than those of his colleagues in the Roman School. He shared their interest in monumental architecture, but he also photographed subjects that could interest or be useful to artists, creating a repertoire of popular types, academic nudes and staged scenes to serve as models for painters. He was also the first to photograph the contents of the Vatican Museums, and of the Capitoline, Albani and Ludovisi Museums, thus providing artists and researchers access to images of the vast repertoire of artworks at those institutions. Another difference between his work and that of his colleagues in the group was his interest in making images of the landscapes on the outskirts of Rome, which he photographed meticulously.

Museo Nacional del Prado, No solo Goya. Adquisiciones para el Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas del Museo del Prado: 1997-2010, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, p.342, 349, nº 99

Technical data

Inventory number
Caneva, Giacomo -Photographer- (Attributed to)
View of the “Ponte Rotto” in Rome
Ca. 1850
Albumen; Salt paper
Photographic paper
Height: 217 mm; Width: 161 mm
Collection of Madrazo, Madrid; Acquired by Museo del Prado from Collection of Daza Campos, 2006

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, No solo Goya. Adquisiciones para el Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas del Museo del Prado: 1997-2010, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 342, 349, nº 99.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2756.

Exhibitions +

Goya and more
05.05.2011 - 28.08.2011

Update date: 27-01-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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