Although Lear spent ten years in Italy from 1832 until 1842, largely based in Rome, he did not visit Venice until 1857, when, as he wrote to his sister Ann on 23 May 1857, 'I may as well shock you a good thumping shock at once by saying I don't care a bit for it. I never wish to see it again' (V. Noakes, ed., Edward Lear: Selected Letters, Oxford, 1988, p. 147).
However, Lear did revisit the city in November 1865 on a commission to paint an oil for Countess Waldegrave (Venice; see V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1828, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy, 1985, p. 152, no. 59, illustrated) and in a letter to Edward Drummond, wrote that 'this city of palaces, pigeons, poodles and pumpkins...is a wonder and a pleasure' (A. Davidson, Edward Lear, 2nd ed., Harmondworth, 1950, p. 159). Nevertheless, Lear's depictions of Venice are relatively few in number.
Lear's drawings executed on this visit date from between 10 and 24 November. Most are relatively small, but our example, on account of its size, can be seen as the pair to the early morning view of Santa Maria della Salute seen from the Riva degli Schiavoni executed a few days earlier and inscribed 'Venice 13. & 16th Novr 1865. 8.AM/(15)'; (see Noakes, 1985, op.cit., p. 116, no. 31, illustrated). A finished watercolour of the same view at sunset, 4¾ x 7 5/8 in., was sold in these Rooms, 5 June 2007, lot 132, illustrated, and two other related watercolours are known. Lear's work on the early morning sketch was interupted by the extreme cold (see Noakes, 1985, op.cit., Diary, 13 November 1865) and the artist was lucky to complete our drawing before the city was blotted out by 'Thikphoggs' (Noakes, 1985, loc.cit., Diary, 21 November 1865).