Giovanni Antonio Canal

Italian Rococo Painter and Etcher

1697 - 1768

(aka Canaletto)

Giovanni Antonio Canal better known as Canaletto, was a Venetian painter famous for his landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.

He was born in Venice as the son of the painter Bernardo Canal, hence his pseudonym Canaletto ("little Canal"), and Artemisia Barbieri. His nephew and pupil Bernardo Bellotto was also an accomplished landscape painter, with a similar painting style, and sometimes used the name "Canaletto" to advance his own career, particularly in countries-Germany and Poland-where his uncle was not active.

Canaletto served his apprenticeship with his father and his brother. He began in his father's occupation, that of a theatrical scene painter. Canaletto was inspired by the Roman vedutista Giovanni Paolo Pannini, and started painting the daily life of the city and its people.

After returning from Rome in 1719, he began painting in his famous topographical style. His first known signed and dated work is 'Architectural Capriccio' 1723. Studying with the older Luca Carlevaris, a moderately-talented painter of urban cityscapes, he rapidly became his master's equal.

In 1725, the painter Alessandro Marchesini, who was also the buyer for the Lucchese art collector Stefano Conti had inquired about buying two more 'Views of Venice', when the agent informed him to consider instead the work of "Antonio Canale... it is like Carlevaris, but you can see the sun shining in it."

Much of Canaletto's early artwork was painted 'from nature', differing from the then customary practice of completing paintings in the studio. Some of his later works do revert to this custom, as suggested by the tendency of distant figures to be painted as blobs of color - an effect produced by using a camera obscura, which blurs farther-away objects.

However, his paintings are always notable for their accuracy: he recorded the seasonal submerging of Venice in water and ice.

Canaletto's early works remain his most coveted and, according to many authorities, his best. One of his finest early pieces is 'The Stonemason's Yard' 1729 which depicts a humble working area of the city.

The Stonemason's Yard: 1726-30

Giovanni Antonio Canal's popularity with English Grand Tourists - mainly young noblemen completing their education with an extended trip to the Continent - has meant that many more of his pictures can be found in Britain than in his native Venice or even throughout Italy. Trained as a scene painter, by 1725 he was specializing in vedute - more or less topographically exact records of the city, its canals and churches, festivals and ceremonies. He visited England several times, but his English paintings did not please, and he returned home for good in about 1756.

Although we associate Canaletto for the most part with mass-produced, crystal-clear scenes of celebrated sights, the 'Stonemason's Yard', his masterpiece, is not of this kind. A comparatively early picture, and almost certainly made to order for a Venetian client, it presents an intimate view of the city, as if from a rear window. The site is not in fact a mason's yard, but the Campo San Vidal during re-building operations on the adjoining church of San Vidal or Vitale. Santa Maria della Carita, now the Accademia di Belle Arti, the main art gallery in Venice, is the church seen across the Grand Canal. The Church of Santa Maria della Carita is still flanked by the slender campanile that collapsed in 1741.

Canaletto's later works are painted rather tightly on a reflective white ground, but this picture was freely brushed over reddish brown, the technical reason for the warm tonality of the whole. Thundery clouds are gradually clearing, and the sun casts powerful shadows, whose steep diagonals help define the space and articulate the architecture. Not doges and dignitaries but the working people and children of Venice animate the scene and set the scale. In the left foreground a mother has propped up her broom to rush to the aid of her fallen and incontinent toddler, watched by a woman airing the bedding out of the window above and a serious little girl. Stonemasons kneel to their work. A woman sits spinning at her window. The city, weather-beaten, dilapidated, lives on, and below the high bell-tower of Santa Maria della Carita it is the little shabby house, with a brave red cloth hanging from the window, which catches the brightest of the sunlight.

The Stonemason's Yard
(Detail): 1726-30

In many of Canaletto's depictions of Venice he shows the public face of the city - the façades of its grandest buildings and civic pageants. But in this painting, which some consider his masterpiece, the intention is quite different and altogether more subtle. Here we are allowed a view of a quiet square where work continues and the small dramas of everyday life are enacted, far from the tourist spectacles of the great Piazza and San Marco.

The Campo San Vidal is in the foreground which is cluttered with pieces of Istrian stone, and blocked by a workman's hut - all evidence of the stonemasons' toil for the nearby, although unseen, church of San Vidal. Potted plants are carefully placed on balconies, washing is strung between buildings, wisps of smoke emerge from a chimney, and the tools of the workmen are all carefully denned.

All of this anecdote and informality is contained within a composition of lucid and almost monumental structure. It is, though, by no means too rigidly imposed; variation is provided by the slanting shadows and rhythm of the skyline, as well as the constantly shifting textures and hues of the buildings - crumbling russet plaster, dark brick and honeyed timber.

Later Canaletto became known for his grand scenes of the canals of Venice and the Doge's Palace. His large-scale landscapes portrayed the city's famed pageantry and waning traditions, making innovative use of atmospheric effects and strong local colors. For these qualities, his works may be said to have anticipated Impressionism.

The Grand Canal
(From Rialto Toward The North): 1725

Doge's Palace: 1725

Many of his pictures were sold to Englishmen on their Grand Tour, often through the agency of the merchant Joseph Smith (who was later appointed British Consul in Venice in 1744).

It was Smith who acted as an agent for Canaletto, first in requesting paintings of Venice from the painter in the early 1720's and helping him to sell his paintings to other Englishmen.

In the 1740's Canaletto's market was disrupted when the War of the Austrian Succession led to a reduction in the number of British visitors to Venice. Smith also arranged for the publication of a series of etchings of caprichios (or architectural fantasies) (capriccio Italian for fancy) in his vedute ideale, but the returns were not high enough, and in 1746 Canaletto moved to London, to be closer to his market.

He remained in England until 1755, producing views of London (including the 'New Westminster Bridge') and of his patrons' castles and houses. His 1754 painting of 'Old Walton Bridge' includes an image of Canaletto himself.

London: Westminster Bridge
(From the North on Lord Mayor's Day): 1746

Old Walton Bridge: 1754

He was often expected to paint England in the fashion with which he had painted his native city. Overall this period was not satisfactory, owing mostly to the declining quality of Canaletto's work. Canaletto's painting began to suffer from repetitiveness, losing its fluidity, and becoming mechanical to the point that the English art critic George Vertue suggested that the man painting under the name 'Canaletto' was an impostor.

The artist was compelled to give public painting demonstrations in order to refute this claim; however, his reputation never fully recovered in his lifetime.

After his return to Venice, Canaletto was elected to the Venetian Academy in 1763. He continued to paint until his death in 1768. In his later years he often worked from old sketches, but he sometimes produced surprising new compositions. He was willing to make subtle alternations to topography for artistic effect.

His pupils included his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, Francesco Guardi, Michele Marieschi, Gabriele Bella, and Giuseppe Moretti (painter). The painter, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison was a follower of his style.

Joseph Smith sold much of his collection to George III, creating the bulk of the large collection of Canaletto's owned by the Royal Collection. There are many examples of his work in other British collections, including several at the Wallace Collection and a set of 24 in the dining room at Woburn Abbey.

Canaletto's views always fetched high prices, and as early as the 18th century Catherine the Great and other European Monarchs vied for his grandest paintings. The record price paid at auction for a Canaletto is 18.6 Pounds million for 'View of the Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi to the Rialto', set at Sotheby's in London in July 2005.

From: Wikipedia

Additional Paintings of Giovanni Antonio Canal
(From the Web Gallery of Art)


Giovanni Antonio Canal, Venetian painter, the son of Bernardo Canal, a well-known scenery painter at the time. 'Canaletto' - or small canal - as he was soon called, received his training in the studio of his father and his brother, with whom he continued to collaborate for several years. He became the most famous view-painter of the 18th century.

He began his career as a theatrical scene painter (his father's profession), but he turned to topography during a visit to Rome in 1719-20, when he was influenced by the work of Giovanni Paolo Pannini. In Rome in his own words 'irritated by the immodesty of the playwrights, (he) formally abandoned the theatre,' to devote himself entirely to painting al naturale (from nature). It is not entirely clear what inspired him to this, but it was most likely his acquaintance with the work, and possibly also the person, of Caspar van Wittel.

By 1723 he was painting picturesque views of Venice, marked by strong contrasts of light and shade and free handling, this phase of his work culminating in the splendid Stone Mason's Yard. Meanwhile, partly under the influence of Luca Carlevaris, and largely in rivalry with him, Canaletto began to turn out views which were more topographically accurate, set in a higher key and with smoother, more precise handling - characteristics that mark most of his later work. At the same time he began painting the ceremonial and festival subjects which ultimately formed an important part of his work.

His patrons were chiefly English collectors, for whom he sometimes produced series of views in uniform size. Conspicuous among them was Joseph Smith, a merchant, appointed British Consul in Venice in 1744. It was perhaps at his instance that Canaletto enlarged his repertory in the 1740's to include subjects from the Venetian mainland and from Rome (probably based on drawings made during his visit as a young man), and by producing numerous capricci. He also gave increased attention to the graphic arts, making a remarkable series of etchings, and many drawings in pen, and pen and wash, as independent works of art and not as preparation for paintings. Meanwhile, in his painting there was an increase in an already well-established tendency to become stylized and mechanical in handling. He often used the camera obscura as an aid to composition. In 1746 he went to England, evidently at the suggestion of Jacopo Amigoni (the War of the Austrian Succession drastically curtailed foreign travel, and Canaletto's tourist trade in Venice had dried up).

For a time he was very successful painting views of London and of various country houses. Subsequently, his work became increasingly lifeless and mannered, so much so that rumors were put about, probably by rivals, that he was not in fact the famous Canaletto but an impostor. In 1755 he returned to Venice and continued active for the remainder of his life. Legends of his having amassed a fortune in Venice are disproved by the official inventory of his estate on his death. Before this, Joseph Smith had sold the major part of his paintings to George III, thus bringing into the royal collection an unrivalled group of Canaletto's paintings and drawings. Canaletto was highly influential in Italy and elsewhere. His nephew Bernardo Bellotto took his style to Central Europe and his followers in England included William Marlow and Samuel Scott.

Early paintings (1720-24)

Returning to Venice from Rome, where he was a theatrical scene painter, Canaletto soon received attractive commissions for large, decorative, topographical canvases, although he also continued to paint fantastic landscapes in the then very modern, pre-Romantic style of Marco Ricci. The earliest known 'vedute' by Canaletto's hand is a series of four, probably painted for a local patron to decorate the walls of a central hall of a palazzo. (Now two are in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid and two in the Museo del Settecento in Venice).

Rio Dei Mendicanti: 1723-24

This is one of a set of four paintings by Canaletto, usually regarded as his earliest surviving vedute (view paintings) of Venice. They may have been executed for a Venetian patron, possibly as decoration for the portego of a Venetian palazzo, but are first recorded in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein in 1806. It is a work of such extraordinary accomplishment that it is hard to believe it was not preceded by other, now lost, studies by the artist.

Unlike other pictures from the same set, it shows a part of the city not found on the itinerary of most visitors. This is an area where Venetians live and work, rather than a well-known site. At the left the footway runs along before the church of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti and the Scuola di San Marco. A wooden bridge spans the canal, while beyond it can be seen the Ponte del Cavallo. The artist has particularly exploited the colorful laundry hung out from the rooftops and windows at the right. There is a heavy, ponderous atmosphere, achieved through the dappled treatment of the silvery light and feathery brushstrokes. This approach, which in part anticipates the work of the Venetian painter Francesco Guardi (1712-93), is characteristic of Canaletto's earliest pictures.

Grand Canal
Looking Northeast from Palazo Balbi toward the Rialto Bridge): 1723-24

The painting is part of a series of four vedute (now two are in the Thyssen collection and two in the Museo del Settecento in Venice). The four paintings reveal the influence of Marco Ricci.

Grand Canal
(Looking East From The Campo San Vio): 1723-24

The painting is another one of a series of four vedute (now two are in the Thyssen collection and two in the Museo del Settecento in Venice). The four paintings reveal the influence of Marco Ricci.

Grand Canal
(Looking East From The Campo San Vio - Detail): 1723-24

Canaletto has included a curious detail: a depiction of a boat on the wall of the building in the right foreground. Whether this was simply sgraffito or some form of trade sign is not entirely clear. Above it a woman looks down from a small balcony; Canaletto placed similar figures at the edge of a number of his pictures, in order to close off the scene.

Piazza San Marco: 1723-24

'Piazza San Marco', looking toward the basilica of the same name, is undoubtedly the most popular and most frequently illustrated Venetian cityscape. San Marco is the main church of the city and the Piazza its central open space, on which the chief government buildings are located: on the left of the painting the Procuratie Vecchie and on the right the Procuratie Nuove, with the adjacent Campanile, the bell-tower of the basilica.

The exhibited canvas is one of Canaletto's earliest town views, but even in this youthful work his mastery of topography is manifest - all the more so since it involves in this case a most conventional scene, with an uncommonly modest figuration. Like his predecessors, Canaletto chose a central, fairly high point of view, as if the spectator were looking with him through the small hole of a peep-box. However, since the obviously accentuated gutters on the square are parallel to one another whereas the two Procuratie are not, there is a tension to the perspective that breaks the classic peep-box construction. The same can be said of the powerful vertical lines of the Campanile, which fastens, as it were, the entire composition securely on to the upper edge of the canvas. In the best baroque tradition, moreover, Canaletto manipulates the shadows in order to achieve a sense of depth and to arrange the composition, consciously omitting the shadow normally cast by the Campanile at this time of day.

From all this it is clear that Canaletto was trained in stage decoration in the tradition of baroque perspective painting. Nonetheless, the open construction, the loose but powerful handling of the brush and the warm colors make it clear that he was also inspired by the 'natural' stage decoration and paintings of Marco Ricci, which were considered the height of modernity at the time.

The painting is part of a series of four vedute, the earliest known vedute by Canaletto's hand. (Now two are in the Thyssen collection and two in the Museo del Settecento in Venice). Most likely the series was painted for a local patron, to decorate the walls of a portego, or central hall, in a palazzo.

This hypothesis is supported not only by the large size of the four canvases, the broad plan of their compositions and the rather loose brushwork, but also by the combination of the chosen subjects. The identity of the patron is not known.

The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge in the Background
(Detail): 1724-25

Directly in front of Palazzo Corner Spinelli lies a cluster of barges of various kinds, tied together for lack of space to dock.

Venice: The Grand Canal
(Looking North-East from Palazzo Balbi to the Rialto Bridge): ca 1624

The view is taken from the Palazzo Foscari on the sharp bend in the Grand Canal, known as the Volta de Canal, roughly equidistant from its entrance onto the Bacino di San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Looking North-East from there the whole of the longest straight stretch of the canal is visible, as far as the Rialto Bridge, part of which is shown in the far distance, with the roof and dome of the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo beyond.

Paintings (1725-29)

In 1725 Canaletto met two British residents, the art impresario Owen McSwiney and the merchant Joseph Smith. McSwiney invited him to participate in a project to furnish English houses with large, imaginary landscape paintings, and also ordered a number of small topographical paintings on copper, likewise for the English market. McSwiney, however, was soon supplanted as Canaletto's 'manager' by Joseph Smith. Besides small paintings for the market, Smith commissioned a series of six large canvases from the master showing freely conceived, theatrical views of Piazza San Marco and its surroundings intended for his own house, followed by a number of views of the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal Near The Ponte Di Rialto: 1725

This is one of the four paintings ordered in 1725 from Canaletto by Stefano Conti, a textile merchant and collector from Lucca. Canaletto described the first painting, saying that it showed "the Rialto Bridge from the side facing the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, across from the buildings where the magistrates of, for instance, the Camerlenghi work. These buildings border the market where all sorts of fruits and vegetables are unloaded for distribution to shops all over the city. Painted in the middle of the canal is a distinguished-looking sloop with figures in it being rowed swiftly across the water and, nearby, another gondola being rowed by the liveried servants of the imperial ambassador."

In these canvases Canaletto was apparently striving for the greatest verisimilitude, in which he succeeded by virtue of his great ingenuity and artistic sensibility. The curvature of the river is beautifully rendered in an arc flowing from the approaching sloop, under the dark bridge and on to the sunlit area beyond. This movement is effected by the curving roofline on the left and by the gondolas crossing the canal in the foreground, which binds the composition horizontally. As in so many other cases Canaletto was not the first to represent this particular cityscape; there is an early eighteenth-century print of the same subject by Filippo Vasconi which, in turn, is based on an etching by Israel Silvestre from the mid-seventeenth century.

Here, too, Canaletto must have planned his composition with the help of two, now lost, preparatory drawings covering an angle of approximately ninety degrees. The compositional sketch for the painting has survived and in it we can see how the master combined the two views, creating an effect similar to that of a photograph produced by a wide-angle lens.

The Grand Canal From Rialto Toward The North: 1725

This veduta is the pendant of the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge. Together they belong to the four paintings ordered by Stefano Conti. Taken from approximately the same vantage-point as its pendant, in this instance presumably at the corner of Palazzo Civran, it shows us the view to the north. On the left, next to the Fabbriche Vecchie, are the Fabbriche Nuove, with the campanile of San Cassiano behind them on the left; toward the middle of the composition the fish market and Cà Pesaro are silhouetted sharply against the sky. In the right foreground are the Palazzo Michiel, beyond them Cà d'Oro. In the distance, adjacent to Palazzo Vendramin Calergi in the middle of the scene, rises the campanile of San Marcuola.

It can be assumed that Canaletto painted the pendant while sitting on the adjacent terrace. This would mean that the two paintings together span one hundred and eighty degrees, a semi-circle. At the same time, they can stand as entirely independent compositions. In the veduta under discussion, the receding walls on the opposite sides of the canal form, as it were, a narrow pivot, anchored on the white cloud which fans out in all directions; this cloud is the main binding element in the composition. The tower of San Cassiano on the left and the terrace on the right mark the edges on both sides, and both point in turn to San Marcuola in the distance.

The composition sketch for this painting surfaced some years ago. Except for a few details in the arrangement of the ships, the drawing agrees completely with the painting. The shadows, too, are indicated precisely.

Rio dei Mendicanti Looking South: ca 1725

Canaletto was to return to paint this scene on no less than twelve occasions in the 1720's and 1730's. This is a view from beside the Campo San Vio, looking towards the Bacino San Marco, with the dome of Santa Maria della Salute above the palaces at the right.

Canaletto has included a curious detail: a depiction of a boat on the wall of the building in the right foreground. Whether this was simply sgraffito or some form of trade sign is not entirely clear. Above it a woman looks down from a small balcony; Canaletto placed similar figures at the edge of a number of his pictures, in order to close off the scene. He also perhaps was trying to convince us that there were in fact vantage points from which the panoramas he shows could be viewed.

This work is from a group of early pictures by Canaletto, now in Dresden, which were part of the Elector of Saxony's collection during Canaletto's lifetime.

Grand Canal Looking North-East toward the Rialto Bridge: ca 1725

This is one of the largest canvases Canaletto ever painted. It shows the view from the first floor of Palazzo Garzoni on the Grand Canal at the corner of Rio di Sant'Angelo. To the left, on the opposite side of the water, is the entrance to the Rio di San Polo, with Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza in the lefthand corner and behind it the steeple of San Polo. At the end of the row of façades in the distance is the Rialto Bridge and, on the far right, the corner of Palazzo Corner Spinelli and the entrance to the Rio di Sant'Angelo.

There are many gondolas on the water, busily crossing the Grand Canal and, in one case, nearly colliding with a rowboat. Directly in front of Palazzo Corner Spinelli lies a cluster of barges of various kinds, tied together for lack of space to dock; the narrow quay on the right is apparently reserved for gondolas. The northwestern light is pale and damp; the sky seems to be clearing after a rainy afternoon.

It would still be possible to enjoy this view, were it not for the fact that there are two views involved. The right half of the composition was taken from the northeastern corner window of Palazzo Garzoni, the left half from that in the northwestern one. Canaletto must have made two preparatory drawings and then combined them in one composition, with the result that the picture encompasses an angle of almost ninety degrees.

Various features of this picture are arranged like the lighting and props in an operatic production, in order to create a compelling rather than simply descriptive image. These features perhaps refer to Canaletto's early experience in the theatre. The ominous sky provides an element of menace and restlessness rare in his work, and the unlikely grouping of boats in the right foreground seem to have been placed for picturesque, rather than a realistic, effect.

Grand Canal Looking North-East toward the Rialto Bridge
(Detail): ca 1725

The grouping of boats in the right foreground of the painting seem to have been placed for picturesque, rather than a realistic, effect.

Entrance to the Grand Canal Looking East: ca 1725

The magnificent Baroque Church of Santa Maria della Salute, designed by Baldassare Longhena, dominates the scene at the right. To the left of center, in the middle distance, can be seen the Doge's Palace, and further over the Campanile of San Marco.

Canaletto was to return to paint this view on a number of occasions, and it is instructive to compare this, his first interpretation of it, with a later treatment (in the Royal Collection, Windsor). In this picture the agitated brushwork effectively evokes a stormy sky and blustery breeze. By contrast, in the later painting the scene is one of far greater serenity, with no sails billowing in the wind, and all the architectural details clearly described. The comparison illustrates more than simply a shift in style, however; it suggests Canaletto found a challenge in reworking a familiar subject, so creating a quite different experience for the viewer. The magnificent Baroque Church of Santa Maria della Salute, designed by Baldassare Longhena, dominates the scene at the right. To the left of center, in the middle distance, can be seen the Doge's Palace, and further over the Campanile of San Marco.

Canaletto was to return to paint this view on a number of occasions, and it is instructive to compare this, his first interpretation of it, with a later treatment (in the Royal Collection, Windsor). In this picture the agitated brushwork effectively evokes a stormy sky and blustery breeze. By contrast, in the later painting the scene is one of far greater serenity, with no sails billowing in the wind, and all the architectural details clearly described. The comparison illustrates more than simply a shift in style, however; it suggests Canaletto found a challenge in reworking a familiar subject, so creating a quite different experience for the viewer.

Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco: ca 1725

Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the most important Dominican church in Venice, is depicted at the right, with the equestrian monument to Bartolommeo Colleoni by the Italian sculptor Andrea Verrocchio in front of it. Beside the church and in the centre of the composition is the Scuola Grande di San Marco, the wealthiest of the six major philanthropic confraternities in the city. The square before it is teeming with a variety of figures: beggars, a mother and child, traders, elegant ladies and dogs.

It is probable that this work was acquired by the Ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire to Venice at the annual exhibition of paintings held outside the Scuola di San Rocco, which Canaletto later depicted. Works were displayed at such exhibitions by many leading painters of the time.

San Giacomo di Rialto: 1725-26

The colorful and picturesque 'San Giacomo di Rialto', also called San Giacometto, is considered by Venetians to be the city's oldest church. Though its present appearance dates from 1601, the original, small church was erected in the eleventh or twelfth century for the merchants trading on the market square near Rialto. The famous clock dates from 1401. The stucco and the medieval portico extend into the adjacent house, giving the church an unusually asymmetrical appearance.

To judge from the commercial success of Carlevaris's print series Le Fabriche, e vedute di Venetia of 1703, a lively interest existed in what might be described as portraits of actual buildings and in the more broadly conceived townscapes. However, Canaletto only began producing work in this genre in the 1730's, at the instigation of English patrons. Of his early work this painting comes closest to being an actual portrait of a building, although the church is set in a somewhat more spacious architectural scene. In this and other respects as well the painting is very reminiscent of the 'Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco' and the 'Grand Canal near Santa Maria delta Carita', made for Stefano Conti. For instance, the most important building is not centered. There is a strong contrast between the heavily shaded area on the right and the brightly lit facade of the small church, which is emphasized as a result.

Canaletto made a precise graphite or chalk drawing of the church using a ruler and compass in order to achieve as accurate a likeness as possible. The brushwork is loose but careful, with particular attention given to subtle nuances in the colored surfaces, such as the reddish-ochre stucco on the church façade.

It is remarkable that Canaletto devoted so much attention in his early work to Venetian ecclesiastical architecture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in particular, and so little to the more modern architecture of his own day. It was only in the 1730's that he turned to contemporary architecture, and this thematic shift runs parallel to and may also be connected with a fundamental change of style.

Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco: 1726

This painting belongs to the second pair of the four paintings ordered by Stefano Conti in 1725 from Canaletto. The first pair of waterscapes was joined by two views of church squares, compositions that Canaletto was to re-use frequently. The popularity of the subject is hardly surprising. The 'Scuola di San Marco', decorated with paintings by Gentile Bellini and Carpaccio, the large Dominican Church of SS Giovanni e Paolo, and Verrocchio's statue of the famous condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni, were among the best-known monuments of the city; the combination of the three in one composition therefore made perfect sense. Carlevaris had included a similar view in his series of etchings entitled Le Fabriche, e Vedute di Venetia of 1704.

As is often the case with Canaletto's compositions, the original idea was Carlevaris's, but the older master had lacked the talent to do much with it. Here Canaletto opted for the traditional vanishing point on the central axis, which irresistibly draws the eye into the depth of the composition. In the exhibited work the vanishing point lies just behind the left-hand corner of the 'Scuola di San Marco'; the massive structures that constitute the main subject of the picture are thus situated almost entirely to the right of the central axis. At first sight the facade of the Scuola seems to close off the scene in the distance, but the small bridges along its left flank guide the eye an astonishing distance from the city, as far as the trees on the island of San Michele.

To the left, the composition is balanced by the darkness of the 'Rio dei Mendicanti' and the heavy shadow which hangs over the area behind it; a cloud outside the perimeter of the painting provides a pattern of light and darkness in the sky. Again, the sunlight is sultry rather than radiant.

The Grand Canal near Santa Maria della Carita: 1726

This painting belongs to the second pair of the four paintings ordered by Stefano Conti in 1725 from Canaletto. In this painting a medieval church takes center stage. The view from the quay of the Rio della Carità (which has since been filled in) and over the bridge, shows the sturdy, fifteenth-century brick façade of Santa Maria della Carita, which now belongs to the Gallerie dell'Accademia. Barely visible, at the far right, is the facade of the monastery of the Lateran canons, to which the church belonged. The eye is led along the Grand Canal to its estuary in the Bacino near the Punta della Dogana. Beside the tower, which collapsed in 1741, the dome of the Salute rises a short distance above the small annex of the church.

Thematically, the present canvas and the 'Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco', also representing a medieval church, form a lovely pair next to the two views of the Grand Canal, but it is unclear to what extent this was actually intended.

In this painting as well, the field of vision covers an angle of approximately ninety degrees. We may assume that Canaletto again began by making at least two topographical drawings on the spot, combining them in a single composition back in his studio.

La punta della Dogana
(Custom Point): 1726-28

Riva degli Schiavoni - West Side: 1726-28

Grand Canal - The Rialto Bridge from the South: ca 1727

Canaletto generally favored painting on canvas, but he also executed nine small works with copper supports, of which this is a fine example. Beaten copper sheets provided a very smooth surface upon which to paint, and were usually used by artists concerned with depicting fine details. The companion picture to this work, also in the same collection, shows the Grand Canal Looking East.

The dominant hues and tones are warmer and lighter than in the artist's earlier paintings, and as such mark the direction his work was increasingly to take. The topography is accurate and the site a famous one - a combination particularly favored by English Grand Tourists.

The Grand Canal from Campo San Vio towards the Bacino: 1729-34

View of San Giovanni dei Battuti at Murano: 1725-28

Venice - The Piazzetta Looking South-West towards Santa Maria della Salute: 1725 - 30

The painting, together with five other views of the Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta, forms part of a series commissioned from Canaletto by Consul Joseph Smith, who was the artist's most loyal patron. Smith, a merchant who lived in Venice, was not only an avid collector of Canaletto's work, but also arranged for the artist's paintings to be engraved and introduced him to potential clients. His collection, which included an incomparable group of paintings, drawings and prints by Canaletto, was sold to George III in 1762.

The early views of the Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta, dating from before 1730, comprise four vertical compositions and two of horizontal format. Conceived as a series, it is almost certain that they were hung in one of the rooms in the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana on the Grand Canal where Smith lived. Only two of the paintings look out from the Piazzetta. The present example shows the view across the entrance to the Grand Canal with the Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute, designed by Baldassare Longhena, and the Dogana in the background.

Canaletto has made several major adjustments in the disposition of the proportions of the buildings and other architectural motifs. The placing of the column of San Teodoro has been altered and its height has been increased. The steps of the bridge, the Ponte della Pescheria, by the Biblioteca Marciana have been brought forward. Similarly, on the other side of the Grand Canal, the Dogana is positioned in too close proximity to the Salute. Comparison with the preparatory drawing shows that Canaletto originally included the column of San Marco on the left of the composition, but in the painting he omitted this in favor of a boat and instead inserted the column of San Teodoro by the Biblioteca Marciana. The balance of the composition is, therefore, heavily weighted to the right. These alterations to the spatial intervals and the amalgamation of viewpoints are highly characteristic of Canaletto's working methods. Such shifts of emphasis also confirm the likelihood that the paintings were made for a specific setting and that the compositions were closely discussed with the patron. Several changes are visible to the naked eye. The paint is freely handled throughout, especially with regard to the figures in the lower right comer. The use made of mathematical instruments, mainly for drawing the outlines of buildings, is also apparent. The chiaroscural treatment of the light and the silhouetting of the buildings against the sky are the basis of the drama that characterizes Canaletto's early style, especially in the paintings done for Consul Smith.

The Piazzetta Looking toward the Clock Tower: 1726 - 28

The painting forms part of a series of six views of the Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta, commissioned by Canaletto's most important patron, Consul Joseph Smith. The series was the first commission that Smith gave Canaletto and is fairly early in date, pre-1730. The scale of the six paintings is large and the style notable for the bold treatment of the light; the free handling of the figures, and the dramatic viewpoint. Presumably Smith ordered the paintings for a specific room in the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana on the Grand Canal where he lived, but exactly how they were displayed is not known. The collection formed by Consul Smith was sold to George III in 1762.

The buildings in this view of the Piazzetta can be readily identified. The Biblioteca Marciana designed by Jacopo Sansovino is on the left with the Campanile and Loggetta visible immediately behind. Across the Piazza is the Torre dell'Orologio with the east end of the Procuratie Vecchie extending to the left and the beginning of the Campo San Basso to the right. The façade of the Basilica di San Marco dominates the right side of the picture together with the column of San Teodoro. The figure in red, gesticulating in the foreground just to the left of centre, is a Procurator who appears to be attended by a secretary or notary. Once the buildings are identified, the degree to which Canaletto has conflated two separate viewpoints and altered the proportions in order to achieve a unified composition becomes apparent. Thus, the height of the Campanile is exaggerated and the projected distance between the viewer and the Torre dell'Orologio lengthened. Other changes include the positioning of the flagpoles and the column of San Teodoro. Most of these topographical adjustments (but not the positioning of the flagpoles) are apparent in the preparatory drawing, which may have been made by the artist for discussion with his patron.

The Piazzetta towards San Giorgio Maggiore: ca 1724

Grand Canal - Looking North from Near the Rialto Bridge: ca 1726

In Canaletto's day, the only crossing that spanned the largest waterway in Venice was the imposing Rialto Bridge, which consequently became the hub of both business life and traffic and a point of orientation amid the confusion of Venice's smaller canals and alleys.

Grand Canal - Looking from Palazzo Balbi: ca 1726

The artist shows the bridge in the veduta that looks out to the north-east from Palazzo Balbi.

Canaletto shows on the far left a section of the Palazzo Balbi, to the right the Palazzo Contarini dalle Figure and the four palazzi of the Mocenigo family. In the distance we can see the Rialto Bridge, and beyond that to the right the roof of the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. In none of his other vedute has Canaletto placed such a curiously manned gondola in the foreground: the vessel, decorated with green twigs, contains two figures in Commedia dell'Arte costumes who seem to have escaped from the stage. The gondola, readied for a delightful picnic trip, is the scene of a marital drama, for the ugly old woman is clearly beating the man over his pointed hat with her oar, as he holds a tightly bundled infant out to her imploringly.

Paintings (1730-31)

Smith commissioned a series of six large canvases from Canaletto showing freely conceived, theatrical views of Piazza San Marco and its surroundings intended for his own house, followed by a number of views of the Grand Canal. This project was extended into a series of twelve views, which Canaletto had published between 1730 and 1735 under the title 'Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum'. A second edition followed in 1742, supplemented with twenty-four additional views.

The Molo Looking West: 1730

This work and its companion picture (Riva degli Schiavoni: Looking East, in the same collection) were painted for Samuel Hill, who came from Staffordshire. They are of considerable interest as accomplished view paintings of the early 1730's, but are also significant because in the correspondence related to their commission the agent Joseph Smith for the first time mentions Canaletto's name in a letter dated 17 July 1730 to Hill. In the letter Smith gives the impression that Canaletto was very popular and somewhat egotistical; his popularity should not be doubted, but the question of his character needs to be approached with caution.

Riva degli Schiavoni - Looking East: 1730

The compositions of this work and its companion picture (The Molo: Looking West, in the same collection) complement each other very effectively; they both show dominant buildings in the foreground to one side of the picture, from which the eye meanders both across the painting and into the distance. Their subjects are also complementary; they depict views of the waterfront on either side of the Molo, the seaward part of the Piazzetta. In this painting the view extends from the Doge's Palace right along the quay known as the 'Riva degli Schiavoni'. Boats of all sizes throng the water, and Venetians are shown either in the lofty pursuit of trade and politics, or the equally fascinating, although more down to earth business of begging and gossiping. The other painting shows the view from the Column of San Teodoro over towards Santa Maria della Salute on the far side of the Grand Canal.

These subjects became extremely popular and were rethought by Canaletto and his studio with small variations for a number of other clients. Canaletto executed related drawings which both he and his assistants could use as a guide when plotting these views.

The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute: 1730

Piazza San Marco: ca 1730

At the end of the 1720's Canaletto started to paint Venetian scenes flooded with sunlight, the details of the animated city were depicted with great care. The Piazza San Marco with the Basilica is an example.

View of the Ducal Palace: ca 1730

Piazza San Marco the Clocktower: ca 1730

In the center of the composition is the Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower) which was designed by Mauro Codussi (1496-99). Above the clock face is a sculpture of the Madonna, and on the very top of the tower are the two bronze figures, called the 'Mori', which strike the hours. On the left of the painting is the Loggetta at the base of the Campanile and at the right the façade of San Marco.

The buildings are depicted accurately and in some considerable detail. Such precision contrasts with the liquid freedom of the application of paint used to place the cloud forms above. The figures in the foreground include oriental traders, shoppers, vagrants, servants, children and a youth who reclines nonchalantly in the sunshine.

Reception of the Ambassador in the Doge's Palace: ca 1730

Canaletto executed some paintings for the Imperial ambassador to Venice, Count Bolagnos, recording the ceremony of the presentation of his credentials to the Doge in 1729. The resulting two paintings, the 'Reception of the Ambassador in the Doge's Palace' and the 'Bucintoro Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day', are now in private collection.

The Bucintoro Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day: ca 1730

Processions and festivals, ceremonies and regattas - even Gentile Bellini's 15th century paintings bear witness to the brilliant pageantry of La Serenissima. Canaletto not only continues in this tradition, but actually revives it, adding to it his own views and temperament and clothing it in the garb of his own era. Whether he portrays the city's Ascension Day celebrations, the symbolic marriage of Venice with the sea, or the arrival of the Doge: it is no longer with the grand choreography and dignified regularity that dominates Bellini's paintings.

Canaletto executed some paintings for the Imperial ambassador to Venice, Count Bolagnos, recording the ceremony of the presentation of his credentials to the Doge in 1729. The resulting two paintings, the 'Reception of the Ambassador in the Doge's Palace' and the 'Bucintoro Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day', are now in private collection. The latter is considered to be one of Canaletto's highest achievements.

The Fonteghetto della Farina: ca 1730

This painting was probably painted for the Venetian man of letters and bibliophile Giovan Battista Recanati. It depicts the Flour Warehouse, the building that in 1750 was to become the the first seat of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture.

The Riva Degli Schiavoni: 1730-31

This painting belongs to a group of seven views from the Harbor side of Venice, all of them in the neighborhood of the Molo or of the Punta della Dogana at the mouth of the Grand Canal. Nothing is known about the individual responsible for commissioning the series. All of the compositions are adaptations of somewhat older and more ambitious works. However, there is a strong stylistic unity.

At the end of the 1720's there was a demand for Canaletto's topographical work on the part of prosperous English tourists. In response to this situation Canaletto's work underwent great changes. The size of his paintings decreased, making them easier to ship. However, the atmosphere also changed. Well-bred tourists wanted to have a reminder of Venice not as a stage decoration with ghost-like shadows and sultry skies, but as the ideal Mediterranean city. They admired attractive, beautiful and above all recognizable buildings, harmoniously arranged and painted in soft colors under a bright blue sky with the merest hint of a white cloud.

Between 1727 and 1730 Canaletto became a master at this new genre, one he was largely responsible for creating. He no longer prepared the canvases with a reddish-brown but with a beige or a light grey ground. The paint was further diluted and more smoothly applied, with only a couple of perfectly measured, thickly applied strokes for clouds and figures. With the help of his assistants, Canaletto produced hundreds of paintings of this type, often in pairs, sometimes in series of twenty or more. Although the quality of the routine production slowly but surely declined in the course of the 1730's, Canaletto nevertheless also painted a number of works of very high quality in these years. The present painting is a good example of this kind of work made for the new tourist market.

This view is taken near San Biagio, looking toward the west along the Riva degli Schiavoni. From right to left we see the corner of the present-day Museo Storico Navale, a building on the corner of the Rio dell'Arsenale that has since been demolished, a warehouse, the campanili of San Giovanni in Bragora and San Giorgio dei Greci, the Molo with the Ducal Palace and the Campanile of San Marco and, behind the masts, Santa Maria della Salute. On the far left a small point of the island San Giorgio Maggiore can just be discerned. The Bacino di San Marco is filled with a variety of boats, including two with a lateen sail and a three-master. The lines directed toward the vanishing point of the footpath on the right invite the spectator to cross the bridge together with the pedestrians and to walk further along the quay. Thus the eye is led toward the horizon and back over the boats to the foreground.

Paintings (1732-34)

It was McSwiney and above all Smith who stimulated Canaletto to specialize in wieldy topographical views for the tourist market and Canaletto became a much sought-after artist in this genre. He was so successful in fact that in the course of the 1730's, assisted by his pupils, he must have produced hundreds and perhaps even more views, occasionally in series of twenty or more.

Grand Canal - From Santa Maria della Carita to the Bacino di San Marco: 1730-33

In the central distance can be seen the dome of the Salute and the masts of a number of large ships moored in the Bacino, while at the right is the Church of Santa Maria della Carita, which also features prominently in 'The Stonemason's Yard'. It was converted into the city's art gallery - the Accademia delle Belle Arti - in the nineteenth century. This view looks very different today because the foreground is dominated by the modern Accademia bridge and the bell tower no longer exists. The appearance of the impressive palace on the far side of the canal, the Palazzo Cavalli, has also been altered.

This painting is a good illustration of Canaletto's achievement as a subtle colorist; he has effectively contrasted the powder-blue sky with the green water and the tan and orange brickwork and roof-tiles. In addition he has created formal interest by carefully observing how the Scuola to the far right of the picture casts diagonal shadows across the facade of the church. This work was owned by Joseph Smith and while in his collection it was engraved by Visentini as part of the Prospectus Magni Canalis series of prints.

A Regatta on the Grand Canal: ca 1732

The picture showing traditional Venetian ceremony is from a series of fourteen views of the Grand Canal painted by Canaletto and engraved by Antonio Visentini (published in 1735).

Venice's reputation as a city of festivities was amply justified. This painting, along with its companion picture ('Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day', also in the Royal Collection), record two of the most spectacular. Here a gondola race which formed part of a Regatta held on the Grand Canal is depicted. Such events had been organized since the fourteenth century as part of the Carnival, and were also occasionally arranged to honor notable visitors to the city.

At the extreme left of the picture is the macchina (an ornate temporary structure) under which the winners of the races were presented with flags. It bears the coat of arms of Carlo Ruzzini who ruled as Doge of Venice from 1732 until 1735. Spectators fill boats along either side of the Grand Canal, and observe the race from the balconies of the palaces, many of which are decorated with hangings. The eight-oared barges have been specially decorated for the occasion, and a number of the figures, notably in the foreground, wear Carnival costumes, such as the tri-corn hat with a white mask and black cape.

An engraving of this work was included in Canaletto's Prospectus series of 1735. The composition was clearly popular - other similarly accomplished versions of it are in the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Gallery, London.

Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day: ca 1732

The historical power of the Venetian Republic was dependent upon its mastery of the sea, both for trading and military purposes. Such dominance had waned by the eighteenth century, but past glories were symbolically recalled in ceremonies, such as the one depicted in this work.

Here, a naval victory over Dalmatia which took place in 998 AD, apparently on Ascension Day, is commemorated. During the event the Doge travelled in the Bucintoro, the golden barge, out into the Lido, where he cast a ring into the sea, as a symbol of the marriage or union between Venice and the Adriatic. Such a ring had been given to a twelfth-century Doge by the Pope in gratitude for his peacemaking.

The massive barge, designed by Stefano Conti and the last to be built before the fall of the Republic, has just returned from the Lido. The spectacle it creates, with its huge, brilliant orange flag fluttering before the sky, was clearly one that appealed to Canaletto. It is perhaps the archetypal Venetian scene, combining as it does elements of beauty, showiness, symbolism, and sheer delight in the physical appearance of the city.

Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day (Detail): ca 1732

Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day (Detail): ca 1732

The massive barge, designed by Stefano Conti and the last to be built before the fall of the Republic, has just returned from the Lido. The spectacle it creates, with its huge, brilliant orange flag fluttering before the sky, was clearly one that appealed to Canaletto. It is perhaps the archetypal Venetian scene, combining as it does elements of beauty, showiness, symbolism, and sheer delight in the physical appearance of the city.

View of the Entrance to the Arsenal: ca 1732

In the 1730's Canaletto received many commissions from Great Britain, these included twenty four vedute for the Duke of Bedford. These depicted the most famous sights of Venice, though a few of them are devoted to less well-known location, like the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, the View of the Entrance to the Arsenal and the Campo San Rocco.

This painting is one of twenty four works by Canaletto bought by the 4th Duke of Bedford which remain together at Woburn Abbey.

The powerful Venetian fleets were built in the city's Arsenal, or naval boatyard, which had been established in the twelfth century. This view shows its water entrance, with dry docks and a ship inside, and to the left the Great Gateway which was built in 1460.

Canaletto followed the preparatory composition he established on paper in the painting in most respects, although in the latter he placed the two towers either side of the entrance further apart. The diagonals of the wooden footbridge in the foreground effectively vary and break up what would otherwise be a very static composition based upon vertical and horizontal emphases.

View of the Entrance to the Arsenal (Detail): ca 1732

The Piazzetta: 1733 - 35

Dolo on the Brenta: ca 1730-35

Twenty kilometers to the west of Venice is Dolo, a village on the river Brenta, which flows from Padua into the Lagoon at Mestre. The friendly Brenta, with its many country houses, was a favorite destination for excursions by boat. Canaletto immortalized the Brenta in numerous drawings, etchings and paintings.

This is one of the earliest and most beautiful of these paintings. The subject is the mills built in the Brenta River near Dolo. Canaletto represented the view towards the east from a tall house located on the dam in the river. The sun shines from the west, as indicated by the shadow of the house where the artist sat, which falls to the right in the foreground. On the left the quay, lined with the most prominent houses, the inn and the campanile of San Rocco, makes a wide curve. On the other side of the Brenta are some free-standing buildings and a covered wharf. In front of these on the right, outside the image, begins the canal through which the traffic is led round the mill by way of the sluices. Arriving in the background is a 'burchiello' with a striped cover glides along the bend at the right, and a third boat with a red roof disappears just around the corner. Boats and small barges are moored to the banks on either side of the river.

In the foreground we see the mill complex with a couple of unused millstones on the left and the basin which powers the paddles; the gates have been lowered. It is late afternoon and the villagers seem to have finished their work for the day. They take their ease on a sack of flour, do a bit of fishing or chat with neighbors. A lady dressed in red is greeted by a couple whose servant protects them from the sun with a parasol. This group in particular attracts our attention. They are apparently prosperous towns-people out for a leisurely visit in the country.

The serenity of the scene is achieved by means of the composition; in a very restful and astonishingly well-ordered fashion all the anecdotal and topographical elements have been grouped round the Brenta, which occupies only a small portion of the entire painting. Most of the composition is reserved for the blue and white of the sky, which harmonize wonderfully well with the browns and greens of the foreground, enlivened by the contrasting touches of red, white and blue of the elegant burghers.

View of the Bacino di San Marco (St Mark's Basin): 1730-35

Canaletto is not only the main representative of Venetian view painting but also one of the major exponents of Enlightenment Views. There is obviously an active rationalism behind his orderly approach to the laying out of this scene, with every object observed from reality but arranged in an almost numerical sequence. This reaction to Baroque irrationalism is part of the neoclassical movement popular in England, where in fact Canaletto achieved great success.

Canaletto's vision of reality is constructed on a perspective system, with a highly dynamical balance marked by a complex "choral" harmony. His art transcends mere documentary; he is the inventor of a seemingly scientific visualization in which the content of the scene reveals its true nature. The best proof that his are works of controlled imagination identified with reality is to observe the townscape of Venice after having scanned Canaletto's paintings. The city appears under a new guise, with striking forms and rhythms. The stage-set perspective that served Canaletto as a point of departure was fundamentally a means of showing through illusions something that was not there. He reversed this process in his painting: instead of applying theoretical perspective to an object in order to simulate another, he rediscovered an object's natural perspective.

Capriccio - Ruins and Classic Buildings: 1730's

Capricci are paintings in which Canaletto drew on his studies of identifiable sites and buildings, but combined them in an imaginative form to create a very consciously fictional and poetic image. Here he has brought together different architectural elements which seem to be both Roman and Paduan in inspiration. The dome on the horizon is reminiscent of that of Saint Peter's in Rome.

Many versions of this composition exist and not all of them can be by Canaletto. The fact that such images were reproduced illustrates that there was a ready market for works of this type. In part they were inspired by the classical landscapes of the seventeenth century, but they also were conceived to appeal to the cult of ruins which developed during the eighteenth century - a trend fed by antiquarianism, archaeology and nostalgia.

Venice Viewed from the San Giorgio Maggiore

View of Campo Santi Apostoli: 1730's

This masterpiece is dominated by the tall seventeenth-century campanile that already has the elegant belfry built at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Molo - Seen from the Bacino di San Marco: 1730's

Canaletto's Paintings (1735-39)

Regatta on the Canale Grande: ca 1735

In this painting, Canaletto shows the Canale Grande teeming with boats, the gondolieri in their traditional costumes, the colorful decorations, the crowds lining the banks of the canal, the flags and pelmets on the windows and balconies. What is more, he conscientiously renders a specific location in Venice, seen from the Ca' Foscari, with its palatial façades, its simple houses, its stairways, rooftops, chimneys and terraces and between them all, the wide, azure expanse of the canal. He is fascinated by the contrast between the momentary pageantry with all its light and color, its exhilarating presence, and the city itself, steeped in tradition, in which celebration after celebration passes through its ancient walls down the centuries.

The Feast Day of Saint Roch: ca 1735

The painting depicts the scene when the Doge, accompanied by the senators, visits the church and Scuola di San Rocco on the occasion of the feast day of the Saint.

The Church of San Rocco at the right has housed the body of Saint Roch since 1485. In 1576 there was a very severe outbreak of the plague in Venice, and it was thought that his intercession prevented an even greater calamity, so from that year onwards his Feast day, 16 August, was celebrated by the Republic. Canaletto here depicts one aspect of the festivities - a procession of resplendent dignitaries emerging from the church after they have attended Mass.

The Scuola di San Rocco dominates the centre of the composition; its exterior is decorated with garlands and paintings, as was the custom on this occasion. Canaletto and his artist nephew Bellotto are recorded as having sold some of their works at one of these exhibitions. Many of the figures walking before it and beneath the awning can be identified because of their distinctive and colorful clothes. They are, from left to right: Secretaries, who wear mauve; the Doge's chair- and cushion-bearers; the Cancelliere Grande who wears scarlet; the Doge himself in gold and ermine; the Guardiano Grande di San Rocco; the bearer of the sword of state; the Senators; and finally the Ambassadors. A number of them carry nosegays, which were presented as reminders of the plague; they were carried during outbreaks of the disease because it was believed that their scent helped prevent its spread.

Canaletto shows an expansive view of this scene which could not, in fact, be observed, because the church of the Frari impinges too far on the near side of the square.

Campo Santa Maria Formosa: ca 1735

In the 1730's Canaletto received many commissions from Great Britain, these included twenty two vedute for the Duke of Bedford. These depicted the most famous sights of Venice, though a few of them are devoted to less well-known location, like the; Campo Santa Maria Formosa', the 'View of the Entrance to the Arsenal' and the 'Campo San Rocco'.

Campo San Rocco: ca 1735

Piazza San Marco - Looking toward San Geminiano: ca 1735

The Rialto Bridge from the South: ca 1735

View of the Grand Canal: ca 1735

Piazza San Marco - Looking South-East: 1735-40

Together with the 'Entrance to the Grand Canal: from the West End of the Molo', this view of the Piazza San Marco is thought to have been bought by the Earl of Carlisle, directly from Canaletto himself. Both works hung in Castle Howard in Yorkshire, one of the homes of the Carlisle family, until they were sold and presented to the National Gallery in Washington by Barbara Hutton in 1945.

The Piazza is here shown as a lively center of commerce; stallholders cluster round the flag staffs and are protected from the sun by large colorful parasols. From left to right an impressive view of the San Marco, the Doge's Palace and a view of the Bacino, forms a backdrop to their activity. From this vantage point the artist shows a clear view of horses of San Marco which are set above the main door of the church; they were later to become the subject of one of Canaletto's most inventive capricci ('The Horses of San Marco in the Piazzetta', Royal Collection, Windsor).

Entrance to the Grand Canal: from the West End of the Molo: 1735-40

This is one of the relatively few works that Canaletto signed; he has inscribed the initials A.C.F. on the low wall in the foreground. They stand for Antonio Canal Fecit (Antonio Canal made this). Close to the inscription are various traders selling seafood, and beyond it, to the right, is a neat row of gondolas.

The Molo is the busy area of waterfront on the seaward side of the Piazzetta. From this section of it is possible to get a splendid view of the church of Santa Maria della Salute and the customs house on the far side of the Grand Canal. Further to the left can be seen Palladio's church of the Redentore, which dominates the Giudecca.

The Brenta Canal at Padua: 1735-40

Grand Canal - Looking South-West: ca 1738

The painting presents the view of the Grand Canal from the Chiesa degli Scalzi to the Fondamenta della Croce, with San Simeone Piccolo.

The Church of San Simeone Piccolo, at the left, was rebuilt between 1718 and 1738 after a design by the architect Scalfarotto. It is depicted here completed, hence the dating of the painting to about 1738. Canaletto had earlier painted other versions of the same composition, including a picture in the Royal Collection which was engraved by Visentini as part of the Prospectus Magni Canalis series of prints.

This view of the upper reaches of the Grand Canal is now considerably altered by the city's modern railway station which dominates and disrupts its right side. The artist has depicted some craft plying their way across the canal, including a passenger barge at the left, but the scene is a relatively peaceful one. He seems to have been particularly preoccupied with the gently distorted mirror-image of the buildings reflected on the surface of the water.

Bacino di San Marco (Saint Mark's Basin): 1738-40

This is one of Canaletto's most famous works and would be considered a masterpiece for its complexity and dimensions alone. Here Canaletto started to "dilate" space as if he were viewing it through a wide-angled lens. He obtained the panoramic effect by lowering the line of the horizon, something he was to repeat during his stay in England. Over half the canvas is taken up by the sky. This helps to increase the sense of solemn spectacle that the painting engenders.

The Grand Canal at the Salute Church: 1738-42

Venice - The Grand Canal from Palazzo Flangini to the Church of San Marcuola: ca1738

This picture is a supreme example of a distinct phase within Canaletto's production that lasted from the late 1730's until circa 1742, in which the warm sunshine so characteristic of his early maturity gives way to a cool, clear light, bringing with it a greater clarity and precision.

Venice - The Bacino from the Giudecca: ca 1740

This is one, perhaps the finest, of the six Canaletto's in the Wallace Collection.

Canaletto's Paintings in England (1740-45)

The situation changed around 1740. The lucrative tourist market collapsed as a result of the outbreak of war throughout Europe. Smith continued his efforts to help Canaletto secure commissions for idealized views in a classical style and also published a series of etchings of capriccios, but the returns were not high enough. In 1746 Canaletto left for his clients' homeland, England.

The Molo and the Riva degli Schiavoni from the Bacino di San Marco: 1740

This painting is an example of Canaletto's mature style, with its extraordinary brilliance of color and superb clarity. It was part of a group of thirteen vedute.

The Bucintore Returning to the Molo on Ascension Day: ca 1740

The painting is presumably a replica, painted by Canaletto himself, of the painting executed for the Count of Gergy in 1726 and subsequently lost. The painting was executed on the occasion of the reception of the French Ambassador, Jacques Vincent Languet, Count of Gergy in Venice.

The Molo with the Library and the Entrance to the Grand Canal: ca 1740

Rome - The Arch of Constantine: 1742

This is one of a series of five impressive paintings of Roman subjects that Canaletto executed for Joseph Smith. It is not entirely clear whether they were based on a new visit to Rome, or sketches the artist had made there in 1720. It is possible that he could additionally have been inspired by prints of Roman subjects in Smith's collection.

The arch was built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, to commemorate his victory over Maxentius. The view is playfully manipulated; the friezes and inscriptions he chose to depict are those which can be seen on the north side, but it is painted as though looked at from the south. Through it can be seen the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and to the right the edge of the Coliseum. The main group of figures in the foreground, one of whom points with his stick, are probably Grand Tourists who have come to admire the ancient glories of the city.

The seated figure at the left, who has beside him a portfolio and ruler and is either writing or drawing, may well be intended as a self-portrait. This is particularly suggested by the figure's proximity to Canaletto's rather grand inscription asserting his authorship and the date of the painting, in a manner that replicates the carvings on the arch.

Rome - The Arch of Constantine (Detail): 1742

The seated figure at the left, who has beside him a portfolio and ruler and is either writing or drawing, may well be intended as a self-portrait. This is particularly suggested by the figure's proximity to Canaletto's rather grand inscription asserting his authorship and the date of the painting, in a manner that replicates the carvings on the arch.

Rome - Ruins of the Forum Looking towards the Capitol: 1742

This attractive view of the Forum comes from the same series of paintings as 'The Arch of Constantine'. Like the other three works from the group it is prominently signed and dated.

The Forum was the site of the political and religious center of ancient Rome; attempts to excavate it were made throughout the eighteenth century, and the ruins revealed were consistently revered by visitors to the city. The tourists shown here mainly scrutinize the remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux which dominates the foreground. One man, at the right, is so intent upon the ruin that he appears to be ignoring the cleric in black who is attempting to converse with him. Further back, at the left, between the columns can be seen a knife grinder, and over towards the right, the Temple of Saturn. Rising up above it is the Palazzo Senatorio which dominates the Capitoline Hill. These topographical elements have been depicted with considerable care, but elsewhere the artist has taken liberties with his subject - some of the houses at the left are invented, and their chimneys appear characteristically Venetian, rather than Roman.

Capriccio - The Ponte della Pescaria and Buildings on the Quay: 1742-44

In the early 1740's Canaletto painted a series of thirteen canvases which were described in early inventories as 'overdoors', in other words pictures intended to be set above doorways as part of a decorative scheme. They placed a particular emphasis on the works of the architect Palladio. Joseph Smith, for whom they may have been made, is known to have particularly favored Palladian themes.

This austere capriccio is actually one of weakest of the 'overdoors' in terms of quality, but nonetheless of interest. The very fact that it is poorly executed is a useful reminder of Canaletto's practice of employing assistants; he would probably have planned the composition, and then perhaps because of a need to finish the commission quickly allowed a member of his studio to carry out most of the work.

The view is shown as though seen from the Bacino: at the left are the state granaries, and to the right the Zecca, or Mint. Between them is the Ponte della Pescaria, and beyond, the rear of the Procuratie Nuove. The artist has made the little bridge look more theatrical and impressive by depicting on it statues by Aspetti and Campagna which are in reality at the entrance to the Biblioteca Marciana.

Capriccio - The Horses of San Marco in the Piazzetta: 1743

The gilded bronze horses of San Marco are one of the great treasures of Venice. They are thought to be ancient, although their precise origin and date remains a matter of scholarly debate. It appears they were taken from Constantinople when the city was sacked by the Venetians in 1204.

In the 1740's the horses were above the loggia at the entrance to San Marco. They were only removed from this position in 1798 when Napoleon's troops overtook the city and were then taken to Paris, but returned to Venice in 1815.

The dramatic arrangement of these horses on pedestals is entirely fictional. It is possible that it is intended to convey the frustration felt by many at not being able to study the horses properly above the loggia. For example, the Neo-classical sculptor, Antonio Canova (1757-1822), suggested that they should be set either side of the entrance to the Doge's palace so that they could be seen to better advantage.

Entrance to the Grand Canal Looking East: 1744

Scale appears to be the dominant preoccupation in this work. The painting is one of Canaletto's largest, and his intention seems to have been to convey a sense of the immensity of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, at the right.

In his earlier interpretation of the subject (ca 1725) the artist included the whole of the great church, but in this work made the bold decision to crop it at the top, as though to imply that the building could not be contained within one picture. Its enormous size is contrasted with the groups of figures by the waterside: ladies and gentlemen enter the church through one doorway, while a senator, dressed in red, emerges from another.

Capriccio with Venetian Motifs: 1740-45

Toward the end of the 1730's fewer and fewer tourists came to Venice as a result of the increasing threat of war throughout Europe. That also spelled the end of the blossoming production of topographical souvenirs, which was the mainstay of Canaletto's studio. Joseph Smith, the artist's agent and protector, tried for several more years to attract commissions for painted series of ancient Roman monuments or so-called 'vedute ideate'. A veduta ideata, or idealized view was based on an actual situation. This kind of veduta was beautified, however, or rather improved, by adding buildings from elsewhere or even entirely fictive architectural elements. Such land - and cityscapes illustrated the 'ideal' architecture practiced by the ancients and, in their footsteps, by the sixteenth-century architect Andrea Palladio.

In about 1740, besides vedute ideate, Canaletto began to invent much more fantastic variations on the buildings and landscapes he had long painted 'al reale' in the form of 'capricci'. Nor was he alone in this. Tiepolo and Piranesi also published series of fantasy prints called caprices in the 1740's. A contemporary dictionary of art defined a capriccio as 'an artificial and bizarre composition which opposes the rules and beautiful models of nature and art, but which pleases through a certain lively particularity and a free and bold execution.' Conceived in that sense, the capriccio is the opposite of a veduta ideata, and both the etched and the painted caprices that Canaletto made during the early 1740's meet that description. The present canvas is one of the most beautiful examples.

Across two islands or peninsulas, connected by an impossibly fragile arched bridge, the eye is led toward a third, distant island in the Lagoon, behind which others appear. From the bridge a path leads to the right over a second, small bridge to a gate in Renaissance forms with a curious passageway placed crosswise, with a tiled roof crowned by a stone statue standing guard. To the right are the remains of a wall and a tower, like the gate partly decorated with stone facings. To the left of the bridge a path runs to a chapel with an asymmetrical roof, a tall aisle with a balcony and a loggia on the right side. Behind the campanile rises a façade with a sign indicating that it is an inn. On the third island stands a heavy, square tower. The time is about sunset; on the left, a pale moon rises. A washerwoman, travellers and fishermen populate the scene.

On closer inspection it appears that, with his supposedly randomly selected elements, Canaletto actually ordered his composition entirely in accordance with traditional practice. The placement of the elements in space and the manner in which the eye is led into the distance along the imaginary buildings in leaps is harmonious rather than abrupt. The appealing melancholy evoked by the scene is new; it is the result of the ostensible purposelessness of these friendly structures which are arranged haphazardly in the quiet light of the setting sun and the rising moon.

In Canaletto's art, a strict distinction between veduta ideata and capriccio seems difficult to maintain. No wonder he referred to his own series of etched landscapes as 'views partly taken from life, partly imagined.'

View of San Giuseppe di Castello: 1740's

This view shows the buildings, including the old church dedicated to Saint Nicholas that stood on the site where the Napoleonic Gardens were created in the early nineteenth century.

Arrival of the French Ambassador in Venice: 1740's

The painting depicts the reception of the French Ambassador, Jacques Vincent Languet, Count of Gergy (1667-1734) in front of the Ducal Palace in Venice. The event took place on November 4, 1726 but the painting was executed later.

Capriccio - The Grand Canal with an Imaginary Rialto Bridge and Other Buildings: 1740's

In this work and its companion picture ('Capriccio: A Palladian Design for the Rialto Bridge, also in Parma') Canaletto created two of his most complex and intriguing capricci. He had already depicted an unrealized scheme for the Rialto Bridge, but in these works went one stage further and painted alternatives to the actual bridge surrounded by a sophisticated and extensive group of invented buildings.

The bridge and extraordinary circular temple at the left appear to be almost entirely imaginary. Such spectacular flights of fancy may at root be based on reminiscences of details in works by Claude Lorraine (1600-82) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78), but Canaletto has transformed possible sources of this type into a decorative creation all of his own.

Capriccio - A Palladian Design for the Rialto Bridge, with Buildings at Vicenza: 1740's

In this work and its companion picture ('Capriccio: The Grand Canal, with an Imaginary Rialto Bridge and Other Buildings, also in Parma') Canaletto created two of his most complex and intriguing capricci. He had already depicted an un-realized scheme for the Rialto Bridge, but in these works went one stage further and painted alternatives to the actual bridge surrounded by a sophisticated and extensive group of invented buildings.

While the bridge and the buildings appearing on the companion piece are almost entirely imaginary, in this picture it is possible to locate the origin of a number of the buildings. The bridge is the same in both pictures, and the large structure to the right of it is copied from Andrea Palladio's 'Palazzo della Ragione in Vicenza'. Part of the attraction of these works was clearly spotting such borrowings and in doing so displaying one's knowledge.

The Bucintoro, Venice: 1745-50

This painting records one of the most important festivals of the Venetian Republic, that of Ascension, which commemorates the symbolic marriage of the Doge (the head of State) with the Sea. The ceremony took place on the Bucintoro, the official barge which is shown here decorated for the occasion.

Canaletto's Paintings in England (1746-54)

In 1746 Canaletto left for his clients' homeland, England, where he remained with one short interruption until 1755. Once in London he initially received several good commissions, but all things considered business proved to be disappointing; too many people already owned his paintings. More serious were the complaints about the declining quality of his work.

London - Westminster Bridge from the North on Lord Mayor's Day: 1746

Canaletto is first recorded in England in spring 1746, and his earliest paintings of London are depictions of the New Westminster Bridge, a subject he was to portray from various vantage points. The bridge was not actually completed until four years after this work was painted.

In this picture he combines a view of its whole span with a depiction of festivities, which, although tamer than the Venetian spectacles he generally painted, partially recall them. The celebrations accompanied the appointment of the new Lord Mayor of London. The largest City Barge is shown taking him to Westminster Hall, by the Abbey at the right, where he will be sworn in. The prominent building on the horizon to the left of it is Saint John's Church, Smith Square, and over on the other side of the river is Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. All the other spectacular barges are those of the different city guilds (Skinners, Goldsmiths, Fishmongers, Cloth workers, Vinters, Merchant Taylors, Mercers and Dyers); a number of them are firing salutes to honor the Mayor. In order to encapsulate all of this activity within such a broad panorama Canaletto has adopted an imaginary vantage point high above the Thames.

London - Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge: 1746-47

This very bold composition, with a view of the Thames framed by an arch of the bridge, influenced the work of a number of native English artists. It may have been inspired by a print by Piranesi, published in the early 1740's.

The arch has been used carefully so that it does not flatten the image. It is placed just off center, looked through at a slight angle, and the uniformity of its shape is broken by the simple device of a bucket being lowered on a rope. It acts like a giant eye or lens and focuses attention on the cityscape beyond, which includes the Water Tower and York Water Gate at the left, and Saint Paul's Cathedral at the right. In the center can be seen the spire of the church of Saint Clement Danes. The delicate peach coloration of the clouds above, suggests this is a rare instance of Canaletto attempting to depict dusk.

The painting is thought to have been commissioned by Sir Hugh Smithson, who was to become the Duke of Northumberland. He was one of those responsible for overseeing the construction of the new bridge.

The Thames and the City: 1746-47

The success of Canaletto's work with English clients resulted in the artist's travelling to London, where he remained for ten years from 1746 to 1755, during which time he painted numerous views of the city and its surroundings. Canaletto's work was highly influential upon 18th-century English landscape painting.

London - Whitehall and the Privy Garden from Richmond House: 1747

This work and its companion picture ('The Thames and the City of London from Richmond House'), have become the most widely admired paintings executed by Canaletto during his stay in England. They were painted for the Duke of Richmond, and probably based upon sketches made from views from the upper windows of his London home, Richmond House. The Duke himself is depicted with a servant in the courtyard at the lower right.

Whitehall is shown as an open space surrounded by small buildings, unfamiliar to modern Londoners accustomed to vast government offices covering the area. The Tudor Treasury Gate at the left was demolished in 1759 to ease the flow of traffic, but the Banqueting House, left of centre in the middle-distance, and Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields beyond and to the right of it, remain.

A sense of order has been imposed on the urban sprawl; the main buildings lie parallel to the picture plane, and the perspective is conveniently established by the walls and pathways which run towards the centre of the composition. Everything - from the chickens in the foreground to the houses half a mile away - is observed with a crispness of equal insistence, so creating a vivid record of this unexpected view of the capital during the reign of George II.

Canaletto later reinterpreted the scene from a lower viewpoint, and produced an even wider panorama (one of his most spectacular), which includes a view of the Thames at the left.

London - The Thames and the City of London from Richmond House: 1747

The majestic sweep of the river, leading to a skyline dominated by Saint Paul's Cathedral, forms the focus of this canvas, which was made as a companion picture for 'The Whitehall and the Privy Garden from Richmond House'. Canaletto has succeeded in creating an extraordinary sense of spaciousness: with the combination of calm water, bright clear morning light and an untroubled sky, he has brought to the London scene some of that clarity of vision, and pleasure in celebrating the attractions of a great city that he had earlier applied to Venice.

The terraces in the foreground belong to Richmond House and, at the left, Montagu House. The figures on them parade, converse, and in a leisurely manner watch the spectacle of the river in the sunshine. While a number of smaller boats skull about on it, two larger decorated barges belonging to the City of London, make their way upstream. A related drawing of the scene shows a broader view, with far more traffic on the Thames.

The vertical emphases of the church spires, chimneys at the left, and mooring posts in the foreground, all carefully anchor and balance the composition, which is principally ordered by the horizon and gentle diagonals of the river bank.

London Seen from an Arch of Westminster Bridge: 1747

This picture was painted for the Duke of Richmond.

Warwick Castle - The South Front: 1748

Canaletto made five paintings of Warwick Castle, more than he was to paint of any other English building. He was commissioned to depict the subject by its owner Francis Greville, Lord Brooke, who became Earl of Warwick in 1759. The dates of payments suggest that Canaletto journeyed at least twice to Warwick, in 1748-9 and 1752. This work, probably painted in London, seems to be related to the earlier visit.

The building is viewed from Castle Meadow, with the Castle Mound at the left and at the right a view of the town. On the River Avon in the foreground is a Venetian-style pleasure boat: this apparently incongruous detail may be explained by the fact that Lord Brooke had visited Venice and is known to have owned a decorated boat.

London - The Old Horse Guards from Saint James's Park: 1749

The Old Horse Guards building at the centre of this work was demolished shortly after Canaletto painted it, and replaced by the New Horse Guards, which was completed in 1753. It has convincingly been suggested that part of Canaletto's motivation in producing the picture was to record the view of a historic site prior to its alteration. He was to display similar instincts on other occasions.

This is, however, far from simply being a work of antiquarian interest. The painter has filled the scene with a variety of figures ranging from the regiment of the King's Life Guard's who drill in the background to the footmen at the right who beat a carpet, near to the entrance to Downing Street.

London - The Old Horse Guards and Banqueting Hall from Saint James's Park: 1749

This work shows the same subject as the Old Horse Guards from Saint James's Park in the Tate Gallery, but from a closer and more frontal viewpoint. To the right, behind Old Horse Guards on the far side of Whitehall, is Inigo Jones' Banqueting Hall. Near to it and almost hidden by the screen of trees can be seen part of the Holbein Gate.

The painting is related to a working drawing in Canaletto's Accademia sketchbook (Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice).

London - Westminster Abbey with a Procession of Knights of the Bath: 1749

The Order of the Bath is one of the oldest English chivalric orders; it is thought to have been founded in 1399. Canaletto here has painted the procession of newly installed Knights of the Order from Westminster Abbey to the House of Lords which took place on 20 June 1749. He was commissioned to paint the picture by Joseph Wilcocks, Dean of Westminster, and it has remained since it was executed in the Deanery.

The knights have emerged from the west end of the Abbey and walk round past Saint Margaret's Church, beyond which can be seen the roof of Westminster Hall. The Abbey is shown after its recent restoration and the construction of the two west towers, an undertaking which was carried out by the architects Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir Christopher Wren, and the picture in many ways acts as much as a commemoration of their achievements, as of the ceremony.

Canaletto may have based his depiction of the event on descriptions, rather than actually having witnessed it: the resplendent knights are impressive, but they are rather stilted in arrangement, and their scale in relation to the architecture is not completely convincing.

Warwick Castle - The East Front: 1752

This view was commissioned by Lord Brooke, and until relatively recently remained in Warwick Castle. Canaletto contrasts the towering medieval battlements with a view of a few of the houses in the town at the left. The brilliant blue sky seems to be based on his experience of a southern climate, rather than English conditions. The visitors, servants and dogs in the foreground, effectively provide anecdotal interest, while the bright colors of their clothes act as a foil for the dull stonework of the building.

Canaletto also made a companion picture for the painting (also in the Birmingham museum), which perfectly complements it, as a depiction of the same side of the castle from the interior lawn. He has filled this canvas, from left to right, with Guy's Tower, the Clock Tower over the entrance gate, and Caesar's Tower.

London - Northumberland House: 1752

Northumberland House at Charing Cross was the London residence of the Earl of Northumberland, who commissioned Canaletto to paint this picture. The house had recently been inherited and refashioned, and Canaletto concentrated his attention on its elegant and mellow façade. The impressive appearance of the building is enhanced by its towers which are surmounted by gilt weather vanes, and the row of obelisks that support lamps on the pavement before it. The house was eventually demolished in 1873, making way for Northumberland Avenue, and the lion above the doorway was then moved to Syon House in Isleworth, Middlesex, where it can still be seen.

Canaletto created far more than just a celebration of a particular building, however; he also provides us with an invaluable record of its surroundings, and a vivid impression of the capital coming to life early in the morning. To the right is the statue of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur (ca 1595 - 1650) that now stands at the entrance of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square, and at the left is the entrance to the Strand and the Golden Cross Inn, which has a sign standing in front of it.

The painting was much copied and engravings were made after it; as a result of the distribution of these copies, it was to have a significant influence on the work of English artists who depicted urban scenes.

London - Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames: ca 1753

The Royal Hospital at Greenwich was completed in 1752, over half a century after it was begun. Canaletto painted this depiction of it soon afterwards. It shows the view, which has altered little, through the centre of the hospital complex to the Queen's House, and on towards the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill beyond.

Canaletto has created a slightly 'wide angle' effect by combining what can be seen of the hospital from two separate viewpoints which are set a little way apart on the near side of the Thames. He has slightly broken the potential symmetry of the composition by studying the buildings from a little left of centre. In addition, the monotony of the river is relieved by the considerable variety of craft that is travelling up and down it, and also by the unrelenting verticals and horizontals of the design which are countered by the bold diagonal of the mast of the ship grounded at the right.

The river and architecture were established first by the artist, and the boats then painted over the top; it is just possible to see the buildings through the sails of the boat to the left of the centre of the picture.

London - Ranelagh Interior of the Rotunda: 1754

In the eighteenth century there were two main pleasure gardens in London - at Vauxhall and Ranelagh. The latter, which was situated in Chelsea, was regarded as the more respectable. Among its attractions was this Rotunda, which served as a public venue for various forms of entertainment. It became a fashionable place to dine, converse and listen to music, and Mozart performed there in 1764. Canaletto shows numerous groups of elegantly dressed figures either gossiping and creating their own amusement, or concentrating on the orchestra at the left.

This picture was painted for Thomas Hollis, a significant patron of Canaletto, who owned nine works by him. On the reverse it bears an inscription, which when translated from the Italian reads 'Made in the year 1754 in London for the first and last time with the utmost care at the request of Mr. Hollis, my most esteemed patron - Antonio del Canal, called Canaletto.' It may well be the case that Hollis requested that the canvas be inscribed in this way in order to certify its authenticity.

Eton College Chapel: ca 1754

The college and its chapel are depicted as though seen from the east, across the river Thames. A number of the buildings near to them seem to have been invented by Canaletto, and the scene as a whole, which follows a composition established in a drawing by the artist, therefore appears to be a subtle capriccio. Canaletto had visited and painted nearby Windsor Castle in 1747, and could then have made a study of the college which he later chose to integrate with other features.

The view may not be an accurate record, but it is carefully composed, with the tree framing it at the left and a darkened foreground leading the eye of the viewer on into the middle-distance. The figures who fish, punt and stroll by the water effectively animate the scene.

Capriccio - River Landscape with a Column: ca 1754

This is another fine example of the type of capricci Canaletto executed during his sojourn in England. It is one of a group of paintings known as the 'Lovelace Canalettos', so-called because they were sold in 1937 by the Earl of Lovelace. He had inherited them from Lord King who probably acquired them in the eighteenth century for his home, Ockham Place in Surrey.

This work is an ingenious combination of Italian and English influences - a fitting project for Canaletto to work on prior to his final return to Venice, after having spent nearly a decade in England. The general disposition of the hilly landscape and the vegetation appear English, and a bridge inspired by Westminster Bridge has been placed in the middle distance. The Corinthian column, however, decorated with an escutcheon and surmounted by a statue of a saint, and the triumphal arch, are clearly Italianate. The juxtaposition of these two sets of references cleverly and subtly encourages you to question what is real, and what is imagined.

Old Walton Bridge: 1754

This bridge was paid for in 1747 by the Member of Parliament, Samuel Dicker, whose house is among the buildings on the far bank of the Thames, at the left. The view Canaletto has chosen shows the river from the Middlesex, or north side, looking upstream. He has peppered the scene with naturalistic details and human incident: a storm cloud with sheeting rain effectively contrasts with the white latticed wood of the bridge, over which an impressive carriage is drawn; in the foreground the mast of a boat has been lowered so it can travel beneath its arches, and a seated artist, who must be Canaletto himself, is depicted.

Old Walton Bridge was painted for Thomas Hollis; it bears the inscription on the reverse 'Made in the year 1754 in London for the first and last time with the utmost care at the request of Mr. Hollis, my most esteemed patron - Antonio del Canal, called Canaletto.' According to an old catalogue of the Hollis collection the three standing figures to the right of the artist are Hollis himself, his friend Thomas Brand who inherited the painting, and his Italian servant Francesco Giovannini; the little animal between them is Hollis's pet dog, Malta.

Canaletto's Late works (1755-68)

From 1756 until his death in 1768 Canaletto continued working with varying degrees of success. Though often relying on old sketches, he occasionally invented surprising new subjects and compositions. With the possible exception of an interruption in the 1730's, Canaletto continued painting free compositions in the form of 'vedute ideate' or capriccios as well as the accurate town views. Canaletto's fame, however, was based on the 'veduta esatta'. Like Van Wittel, Canaletto won official recognition only in old age with his admission to the Venetian Accademia in 1763 for the genre he had made popular in Venice and throughout Europe. Apparently, in keeping with tradition, his colleagues continued to view this specialty as one of modest artistic importance.

Palazzo Ducale and the Piazza di San Marco: ca 1755

This view of the Wharf and the Riva degli Schiavoni taken from the Docks of San Marco, which from the Zecca and the Libreria Vecchia embraces the Ducal Palace and the Prisons as far as the Palazzo Dandolo (now the Albergo Danieli), is one which Canaletto repeated many times. Today we know of more than ten autograph versions, the most important of which are those showing the departure or arrival of the Bucintaur in the foreground instead of the ordinary plying of boats, as here.

It is highly likely that for this composition Canaletto used the "optical camera", an instrument which facilitated the control of perspective in such a wide and "unnatural" field of vision. The stamp of naturalness is produced in any case by the immediacy of the boatmen's movements and by the temporary balance created by the boats crossing.

San Marco - The Interior: ca 1755

Canaletto rarely depicted interiors; this is one of only two paintings by him of the inside of San Marco. It was probably executed soon after he returned from England to Venice, and was painted as a companion picture for a depiction of the Scala dei Giganti in the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.

Canaletto painted a view looking towards the rood screen, decorated with garlands at the east end of the church, from a point near to the entrance. Beneath the arcade to the left of the nave a priest can be seen officiating at a small altar. Canaletto has effectively captured that most elusive of effects - the way the little light which enters the building plays upon the extensive mosaic decoration above. Many people are shown at prayer, and two small dogs cower in the right foreground.

Piazza San Marco - Looking South-West: 1755-59

Even in his later works Canaletto did not tire of ceaselessly experimenting and innovating. Here he shows a 'fish-eye' view of the Piazza San Marco, which may well have been plotted with the help of a lens. The distortion is such that we are allowed to see an impossibly wide panorama that stretches from the end of the Procuratie Vecchie at the right to the Palazzo Ducale and San Marco at the left.

It has been suggested that the artist was consciously displaying his ingenuity in such works, in order to impress the Venetian Academy of Fine Art which he was seeking to join at the time.

Grand Canal: Looking South-East from the Campo Santa Sophia to the Rialto Bridge: ca 1756

This is one of four paintings, executed for Sigmund Streit, a German merchant who lived in Venice and Padua, and dates from Canaletto's return to Italy. Streit made a gift of much of his property to his old school in Berlin, and in 1763 compiled a catalogue of it which includes a description of the four Canalettos. He noted that the Palazzo Foscari which dominates the scene at the left was his home in Venice, and proceeded to discuss it in some detail, pointing out which rooms he used as his study and office, as well drawing attention to the presence of the chimney-sweep on the roof. Streit also described the ferry which crossed the canal, and the toll office for fish at the extreme right. Details such as these would have been of greater interest to residents of Venice than to visitors; the same could be said of the Campo di Rialto, a centre of commerce, which was the subject of another painting in the same group.

Piazza San Marco - Looking East from the North West Corner: ca 1760

Canaletto had earlier employed an arch to internally 'frame' a view in London ('London: Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge', 1746-47). He here uses such a device in a Venetian context, and effectively contrasts the darkened foreground with the brilliantly lit Piazza, so drawing the viewer into the scene. The flagstaffs before San Marco have been omitted, allowing an uninterrupted view of its facade.

The viewpoint complements that of the painting's companion picture ('Piazza San Marco: Looking East from the South West Corner'), which is also in the National Gallery, London. Both pictures are painted in what has been called Canaletto's late 'calligraphic' style, in which he employs a shorthand of dots and curved lines in order to place details such as highlights on figures.

Piazza San Marco - Looking East from the South West Corner: ca 1760

The Campanile and San Marco are here seen from beneath the colonnade of the Procuratie Nuove, but it is not these architectural features which first draw your attention to the picture; it is more likely to be the figures in the foreground. Two seated men converse, while a third who stands to the right of them, holding a coffee cup, listens. He has presumably wandered from the nearby, although unseen, Cafe Florian, a famous centre of social life, which had been founded in 1720, and is still open.

A particularly attractive contemporary drawing, which can be associated with the composition, shows the view extending some way towards the left, so that it is possible to see the Torre dell'Orologio. This worked up sketch probably preceded the painting and a group of other related works by Canaletto.

La Vigilia di Santa Marta: ca 1760

This night view - one of two Canaletto is known to have made - represents the Feast of Saint Martha, a popular festival celebrated every year on the eve of the saints feast day (29 July) in the poor fishing neighborhood around the church by the same name, situated on the extreme southwestern point of the city on the Canale della Giudecca. What made the festival unique was that here, for one evening of gorging and dancing, the strict distinction between the nobility, the burghers and the poor fisher-folk was suspended.

From the bank between the water and the houses the view is toward the west, where the church of Santa Marta closes off the buildings. To the left of the church the silhouette of the island of San Giorgo in Alga appears on the horizon, in the left corner is a house on another small island. Fishing boats decorated with balloons sail about, while tents and windscreens for the many musicians and cooks are spread over the grounds. A gondolier's assistant and his lady dance the furlana to the accompaniment of violin, guitar and tambourine, while a distinguished- looking foreigner is cajoled into dancing by a woman of the working class.

The multitude of diverse visual elements has been neatly arranged by Canaletto along two crossing diagonals, with the church at the point of intersection. The artist chose a somewhat elevated vantage point, making it possible to survey a wide variety of individual scenes at the same time. It is not clear whether such a point of view was indeed possible on the spot. What is certain is that Canaletto first drew the various parts separately on several sheets; of these, two have survived with fragments of the houses in the background, which the artist must have sketched from different spots. With the help of these he built up the composition, according to a scheme identical to that of the diplomatic receptions painted on various different occasions. The painting is something of a humorous commentary on this: the people's festival supplants the public one, just as the moon does the sun.

Canaletto painted the canvas for the merchant Sigismund Streit, who was originally from Berlin. Streit had made his fortune in Venice after settling there as a young man in 1705. When he retired from business in 1750, he devoted himself to study and to the accumulation of a modest collection of paintings. Part of his painting collection has been preserved, including four canvases by Canaletto among them the 'Vigilia di Santa Marta and the Vigilia di San Pietro', another night view..

Perspective: 1765

If the attention of Rosalba Carriera and Pietro Longhi was drawn to the life and customs of their own day, Canaletto left for posterity a panorama of the colorfully spectacular public life of Venice, all registered in his precisely drawn and prospectively accurate scenes. He soon turned his back on the confident virtuoso displays of scenery painting and designing which he had been given a start in by his father Bernardo. And after a period in Rome where he was struck more by the objective reporting of reality by Viviano Coduzzi and painters from the Netherlands like Berkheyde than the decorative vivacity of Pannini and Van Wittel, Canaletto applied himself to setting onto canvas scenes from Venice as later he was to paint views of London and the English countryside. In these paintings he conceded nothing to the episodic and the picturesque and concentrated his clear-sighted vision instead on creating a space-light synthesis of extraordinary truthfulness.

The Perspective - donated by Canaletto to the Accademia in 1765 for his admission in the capacity of a painter of perspective in September, 1763 - is a fine example of his extraordinary recreation of real data in prodigiously stylized form. Even though here the subject is drawn from the imagination, each architectural detail is a fascinating concentration of images.

Scala dei Giganti: 1765

This painting, painted from life, is probably one of the artist's last pictures in Venice.

The Vigilia di San Pietro: After 1755

This painting is the pendant of Canaletto's 'Vigilia di Santa Marta' thus representing two of Venice's four local, annual, evening festivities - rare subjects for Venetian vedutisti.

This painting records the 'Vigilia di San Pietro' on June 28, the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. San Pietro de Castello, the Church shown was the residence of the Republic's Patriarch and of great local importance prior to his move to San Marco. Backlit by the moon, this romantic vista is among Canaletto's most arresting, painted after his return from England in 1755-56.

The Campo di Rialto: 1758-63

This austere, strikingly effective canvas, which belongs to the group of four paintings executed for Sigmund Streit, a German merchant who lived in Venice and Padua, depicts the Campo di Rialto. To the left is the goldsmiths' centre - the Ruga degli Orefici - and the Palazzo dei Dieci Savi, with the campanile of San Giovanni degli Elemosinario in the background. To the centre and at the right is the Fabbriche Vecchie di Rialto.

Capriccio with Classical Ruins and Buildings: 1750's

The painting shows a typically inventive view that highlights a taste for the depiction of ruins by mingling classical and Christian buildings. The painting met with a certain success and a number of copies were made.

Capriccio with Ruins and Porta Portello, Padua: 1750's

This painting is probably the companion piece of the Capriccio with Classical Ruins and Buildings with which it shares its use of light and color. The monument in the middle distance provides the greatest point of luminosity.

Source: Art Renewal Center

Source: Canaletto Online

This page is the work of Senex Magister

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