Bernardo Bellotto (1721–1780) began
his career in Venice, where he probably studied with his uncle,
Canaletto (Antonio Canal), one of the best-known Italian view painters.
By the age of twenty-five, Bellotto had achieved considerable success,
having been commissioned to paint views of such cities as Venice,
Florence, and Rome for Italian and other European patrons. His best
view paintings combine precise topographical detail with a dramatic
use of light and shade, all infused with a vivid sense of atmosphere.
As well as accurate depictions of existing buildings, he also produced
imaginary landscapes, called capricci, both on commission and to sell
on the open art market. In 1747 Augustus III, King of Poland, invited
Bellotto to move to Dresden, then part of Poland, where the artist was
soon named court painter. Bellotto traveled to several other central
European cities in subsequent years and painted cityscapes in each one;
he lived in Vienna from 1759 to 1761, in Munich in 1761, and returned
to Dresden in 1762. In 1767 he took up residence in Warsaw, where he
became court painter to Stanislaw II, the last King of Poland, and
remained in the city for the rest of his life.