Recently some friends sent me a card with this picture on it, and it now sits on my desk, a happy distraction from work.
Canaletto's The Thames and The City shows London in the middle 18th Century when St Paul's had been completed and looms high over a city that had fully recovered from the infamous fire.
I've spent far too long admiring how much detail can be seen. A panorama of church spires, red tiled roofs above a maze of street, with the odd tree signalling a square. It makes you want to stride out and explore the London of King George II where Samuel Johnson was about to start work on his "Dictionary".
But... but.... there's something wrong.
Firstly lets look at the river - check out the water close up. Basically Canaletto painted a sort of light blue and then did those wiggly lines that even I do in the odd doodle. The river actually doesn't look like that as there are patterns in the ripples and lines from hidden vortices of wind.
Canaletto's lines are like those theatre props in which a series of wiggly card outlines moved up and down to give a feeling of waves. But in reality waves are not two dimensional but three - just looks at the lovely rollers here courtesy of Turner:
I get the feeling that there's something else wrong with the Canaletto but I can't put my finger on it exactly what it is apart from some of the boats just don't look right.
They might well be sufficiently detailed that you can believe the artist was painting exactly what he saw but the perspective feels "odd". Maybe its hard to get the scale right when all the boats are different types, sizes and orientations.
Lovely picture though: just a shame it's in Prague