Antonio Joli was an Italian painter from the Neo-Classical movement, primarily known for his large-scale and highly detailed cityscape paintings. This form of art is known as vedute, and painters of such style are called vedutisti. Joli also created capricci - although similar to the vedute, it does not regard the topological fidelity but favored creating fantastic scenery with Classical architectural elements. Although his vedute displayed a high commitment to the original topography, Joli took liberty with light effects that would effectively enhance his compositions' sense of atmosphere.
Antonio Francesco Lodovico Joli was born in March 1700, in Modena, Italy. His first apprenticeship was under the perspective painter Raffaelo Rinaldi. Later, in Rome, he studied with Giovanni Paolo Panini, a vedute and capricci painter. He then began attending the Galli da Bibbiena studio, a distinguished family famous for their scene-painting tradition and theatre design. By 19 years old, he received a prestigious commission to decorate Villa Patrizi and became a member of the Accademia di San Luca.
Joli returned to Modena in around 1725, where he worked mainly for the Duke of Modena. Around his 32 years of age, Joli was first documented in Venice, where he designed several stage sets for theatres such as San Samuele and San Cassiano, and Carlo Goldoni, the leading Venetian playwriter at the time and who greatly admired Joli's artwork. During this period, Joli executed many cityscape paintings, inspired by the works of Marieschi, Canaletto, and Carlevarijs.
The style of cityscapes created by Joli is known as veduta, in the plural, vedute. These paintings were characterized by the artist's keen attention to the city's architectural elements combined with a strong sense of perspective. An early and essential example of this kind of artwork is Johannes Vermeer's View of Delft. During the 18th century, the style became especially known by the hands of members of the Venetian Guardi and Canal families, such as Francesco Guardi, Canaletto, and his nephew Bernardo Bellotto.
Indeed, Venice became one of the foremost centers of these productions, attracting a substantial number of foreign artists. Although his vedute favored topographical fidelity, and Joli was undoubtedly proficient in that matter, his more deliberate approach to light effects would create an overall richer sense of atmosphere on his compositions. The style would later branch into another, known as capricci. They were partly or entirely fictional landscapes with several architectural elements and archeological ruins arranged to create impactful and fantastic compositions.
Some beautiful examples of Joli's capriccio are Architectural Capriccio with Waterfalls, A Capriccio of the Courtyard of a Baroque Palace with Musicians and Other Figures, and Architectural Capriccio. They all display recurring elements in Joli's compositions; beautiful yet imposing Classical columns and arches.
In 1742, Joli left Venice for Dresden and then London, where he worked as a scenic painter and assistant manager at King's Theatre in Haymarket between 1744 and 1748. He also worked on decorative schemes and topographical overdoors for prestigious patrons like John James Heidegger in the Richmond mansion and famous impresarios.
By 1749, Joli left London and established himself in Madrid, where he stayed for five years working at the Buen Retiro's Royal Theater as a set designer. Joli worked mainly as a view painter and a scenographer. During this period, the artist also received several commissions to create vedute, which would render him the nickname of "Canaletto of Madrid". Upon his return to Venice in 1754, Joli was one of the 36 first members of the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts and began to work exclusively on his art. In 1756, Joli met Lord John Brudenell of England, whom he accompanied in his Grand Tour.
The Grand Tour was a common trip for young upper-class people, which consisted of an extensive trip through Europe to visit and explore elements of Classical antiquity. Alongside Lord Brudenell, Joli visited southern Italy, Sicily, and Ischia, regions not frequently explored at the time. Said trip resulted in several artworks for his patron, such as his series of six Views of the Temples of Paestum, a site discovered 13 years prior and largely neglected until 1760. During this period, Joli would create one of his most famous artworks, his View of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony at the Arch of Trajan in Benevento.
Joli finally settled when he established himself in Naples by 1762, where he was employed as a Painter to the King in the Court Bourbon Theatre. Among others, Joli had several distinguished patrons, such as Lord John Brudenell, Sir William Hamilton, Lord Spencer, and the Duke of Richmond.
Some of his most noteworthy artworks are surely Rome View of the Tiber, The Campo Vaccino Rome Looking Towards St Francesca Romana and the Arch of Titus from the Temple of Saturn, as well as Arrival of Charles III in Naples 2.
Antonio Joli died in Naples in April 1777.
Antonio Joli left an oeuvre notable for its vedute with keen attention to topographical detail and imaginative capricci elevated by his masterful composition and arranged with Classical architectural elements.
Today, Joli's paintings can be admired in distinguished museums such as the Spanish Museo del Prado; and his art eventually achieved a value of 600,000 dollars per image.