VERONA (Caspar A. Van Wittel, 18th Century)

Verona. Lucía Plaza Suarez

This work of art belongs to the city of Verona. Its author was the Dutch painter, Caspar Van Wittel, commonly known as Vanvitelli (1653-1736). Van Wittel moved abroad form the Nederland’s to Rome with his family and spent all his life there. This is the reason why most of his artworks represent Italian sites, like the one we are going to work on. The picture entitled A View of the River Adige at San Giorgio in Braida, was made during the first decade of the 18th Century, and as we can appreciate, it represents the Adige River next to the church of San Giorgio in Braida. Nowadays, the picture owns to a private collection.

The image portrays some details, with pastel colours, about a typical day in the city of Verona in the 18th Century. The first thing we can appreciate is the Adige River and its two shores. Both riversides are plenty of diverse types of buildings from dissimilar periods which show the variety of art styles that have influenced Verona. According to the proximity between the buildings and also, the way they are surrounding the river, we can say that the city follows a nucleated pattern. We can not see very well the urban layout, but having into account some details, like the presence of some monuments such us the Medieval City Wall, we can guess that it was an irregular morphology. The structure of the city is divided in three parts: the left one is very compact and the buildings are clustered; the opposite side is older so the types of buildings are more degraded; finally, in the background there is a strategic place, which is in the hill of the mountain to control the river.

Broadly, we can distinguish between Medieval monuments, as the City Wall, Romanesque style in San Piettro´s Castle and some Renaissance impacts like San Giorgio in Braida´s Cathedral. Probably, the part that we are going to analyse belongs to the primitive settlement of Verona, but, as every city, it has been growing distinguishing between the left side, which belongs to the newest part of the city, whereas the opposite one owns to the oldest in those years. However, when we look at the picture, the Adige River catch our attention. It is important to stand out that point, because it entails a fundamental aspect of the location of Verona. Since the Ancient Ages, human settlements were stablished close to the rivers to provides people water and food. That’s the reason why the houses are along the riverside.

This painting also allows us to talk about the characteristics of the environment. We can see some people in the foreground, very useful to know about the typical clothes and the social activities of the 18th Century. Finally, we can talk about the means of transportation. The common one was the horses and the carriages, but it is important to highlight the gondolas, which are the main transport in certain Italian cities. This kind of ships were used to transport people in general, but it also was applied to services such as the trade. This is connected to the economic sectors: the first sector is present in activities such as fishing in the river or agriculture probably done in the fields of the background, the second sector is linked to the construction of the buildings and the third one concerns trade and transport. Another curious fact to note is the proximity between the City Wall and the buildings, which indicates that the city has been growing. Its function was to ensure protection and security to the citizens. The location of San Piettro´s Castle, also, fulfilled a very relevant task related to this issue. The high of the hill where it is situated, allowed the inhabitants to control the Adige river  and avoid possible attacks.

Lucía Plaza Suárez



VERONA (Bernardo Belloto, 18th Century)


This work of art is an artistic painting of the Italian urban landscape painter Bernardo Belloto. Bernardo Belloto was an apprentice in his uncle’s workshop. In 1738 he was enrolled in the guild of painters. Along his life he represented many cities until being recognized as a master of perspective. This masterpiece was taken over the Adige River of Verona between 1745-1746 and shows several places of the Italian city of Verona. This work of art is painted with oil on canvas and it is currently in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Verona is located in the North of Italy over the Veneto region. It is the biggest and most prosperous city of the region. It is bordered by Adige River and it is strategically connected with Central Europe due to Brenner Pass through the Alps. Besides being an important crossroad, its history has been highlighted because of knitting, paper, machinery and footwear production. At least, its economic sources have been —besides previously named— the craftwork and trade. Cause of the benefit of these communication roads, Verona turned into a Roman township loved by politician and general Julius Caesar, as well as the architect, writer, engineer and treatise writer Marcus Vitruvius, the historian Gaius Valerius Catullus, and many others. The city construction was focused around this stretch of the river and it turned out in an important source of economic activities like fishing. In the 18th Century there were a lot of fish population, especially, the trout. Moreover, as the painting shows, in the right side appears not building areas in which Verona citizens performed these economic activities but, nowadays, this area has been built and its natural zones have been changed by other buildings.

Previously called San Martin Castle, in the centre of the painting we could find the Corso Castelvecchio. Because of Verona was a strategical city and it received so many attacks, Castelvecchio was built in 1354-55 by Cangrande II della Scala for internal and external protection —especially on the west side—. Years later Napoleon built a fort in the Castelvecchio’s courtyard. Of a time to this part, Castelvecchio has been restored. The first restoration was among 1923 and 1926 when Napoleonic fort acquired a new architectonical aspect. The next restoration was among 1958 and 1964 when the castle recovered its original form in several places. And the last and very recent restoration was finished in 2007. This restoration has improved the capacity of touring the castle through its 27 artistic rooms.

Nevertheless, on the left part we could find San Zeno in Oratorio Church. This church was made in Romanesque style but the facade represents a posterior type of architecture: the Gothic one. Also the painting represents a bridge which is a perfect masterpiece of medieval engineering. It is called Ponte Scaligero (Scaligero Bridge) and it was destroyed in some extension. This bridge is part of Castelvecchio and also was built with military objectives in the middle of fourteenth century (1355 A.D.).

As a Roman city, Verona is based on a regular morphology. Verona citizens took advantage of Adige River for better protection. In the 18th century, the current “historical centre” is the part compound of castles, churches, etc., where lived main powerful people and the poor and peripheral area was the right side of Adige River. In time, the old city of Verona has increase their urban areas so their structure has been enlarged. However, their small historical centre which has inspired so many dramatist, like William Shakespeare with his “Romeo and Juliet”, maintains the charm of centuries behind.

 Víctor Lizana Muñoz


VERONA (A. H. Payne, 1852)


This engraving, made in 1852 by A. H. Payne, shows the city of Verona in the 19th century. In the image we appreciate some buildings of the city of Verona, the Ponte delle Navi, which crossed the navigation channel of the river Adige and some rowboats. At the bottom right we can also see the church of Santa Anastasia.

Verona is a city located in Northern Italy and is the capital of the province of the same name, one of the seven ones in the Veneto region. The city is situated at the foot of the Lessini Mountains on the River Adige. It is surrounded by hills and trapped by a meander of the river Adige, about 30 kilometres east of Lake Garda. Its origin is very old, probably inhabited from the prehistoric times by a population which is difficult to be identified: they could be the Etruscans or the Paleovenetos. From that date, all the towns that alternated in the control of the zone, always did it by the presence of River Adige, that was considered like the best place for a settlement. Thus, Verona is an important geographical node. It has always been the nodal point of all the terrestrial and aquatic transport systems in Northwest Italy. In Roman times it was a meeting point for four consular routes: the Gallica road, the Via Augusta, the Vicum Veronensium and the via Postumia.

Regarding its urban structure and architecture, Verona is an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over 2,000 years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period. It represents an «outstanding example of a military fortress», emphasizing that it has preserved a remarkable number of monuments of Antiquity, Medieval and Renaissance periods.  The walls surrounding the city prevented the 19th century development such as industry and railroads within the historic city. As a result of this, the urban structure shows an exceptional coherence and a large degree of homogeneity. The original Roman urban form continues to be evident in the existing street pattern and the city historic fabric remained intact until World War II. Surviving evidence of the fortified town, such as Roman gates and Renaissance bastions, reflect this long military history. 

It is still possible to distinguish the medieval city centre, even though it contains more recent buildings (from the Renaissance and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), the Veronetta and San Zeno Districts, entirely composed of buildings from the low medieval period. On the other hand, some areas outside the walls are characterized by villas and buildings constructed in the Baroque era. Finally, there is an industrial area named Borgo Roma, built in the turn of the last century, and the modern city, which developed without effecting this urban structure inherited from previous periods.

Among the most important urban elements that we can find in the image we can highlight the Ponte delle Navi that appears in the centre of the engraving. This bridge of three arches covers the river Adige and possessed a fourth lower arch that covered the canale dell’Acqua Morta. This bridge was damaged and rebuilt several times due to the floods of the river Adige and the bombs dropped by the Germans in World War II. The bridge, with its three arches, covers 90 meters, and has a width of approximately 12 meters. Another very important element that we find is the river Adige that runs through the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto and flows into the Adriatic Sea. It has a length of 409 km that make it the 2nd longest river in Italy. To save the city of Verona from possible floods, in the first half of the twentieth century a tunnel was built connecting the Adige on its way through Mori and Lake Garda, in order to direct the surplus water from the river to the lake. The last of the most important elements that appear in the photo is the church of Santa Anastasia, which is a temple of Gothic style and is located in the historical centre of the city, near the river Adige. Its construction began in 1290, but never finished. It is thought that the project was carried out by Fra ‘Benvenuto da Bologna and Fra’ Nicola da Imola, but no documents have been found to confirm this. The church of Santa Anastasia was built on a pre-existing one dedicated to the same female saint, reason for which it was called thus, although in origin it was dedicated to San Pietro, a Dominican martyr assassinated 4 of April of 1252. The consecration Of the church took place only in the year 1471.

In the Renaissance the city was part of the Republic of Venice, sharing its splendour in art and social life. The great families of the nobility and the new mercantile bourgeoisie enrich the city with gardens, buildings, villas and churches,  promoting economic, social and artistic development. With the fall of the Republic of Venice and the arrival of Napoleon, Verona and its territory become strategic points in the international scene and in the scene of numerous battles. During the first half of the 19th century, Verona formed a military stronghold of the Austrian empire, and in 1866 it became an Italian city.

Miguel Martín-Gil