How We Picture a City: Venice and Google Maps

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How We Picture a City: Venice and Google Maps

In Street View mashups, we see not just clever Photoshopping, but two cultures’ ways of seeing a place.

College was boring, so, in the 18th century, young British nobles skipped it altogether. They went instead on The Grand Tour, a glitzy sojourn through Europe, the gap year to beat all gap years. On their tour, the juvenile gentleman might pass through Paris, dote on Dusseldorf, or reside in Rome. All that was nice. But they absolutely had to venture to Venice.

Because, Venice! It was the home of art, fashion, culture—and, crucially, other young men on their own Grand Tour.

“The greater part of them keep an inviolable fidelity to the language their nurses taught them,” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote of the bros in her diary. “Their whole business (as far as I can perceive) being to buy new clothes, in which they shine in some coffee-house where they are sure of only meeting one another.”

Travel to Venice and flaunt your Venice-ness, in other words. One way to parade Venice around long after the trip was to buy paintings by Giovanni Antonio Canal, who worked under the name Canaletto. A British agent named Joseph Smith hawked his work to British nobles passing through, and they bought them in the hundreds.

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