Luca Carlevarijs was the first of the great Venetian vedutisti, establishing his position in this field with the publication of his detailed survey of Venetian topography, Le fabbriche e vedute di Venezia disegnate, poste in prospettiva, in 1703. Unlike the artists that succeeded him in the production of these popular views -- Canaletto, Bellotto, Marieschi and Antonio Guardi -- the majority of Carlevarijs's commissions focused on the commercial and religious heart of Venice, concentrated in the Piazza San Marco, the Piazzetta and the Molo.
Constantly innovating on his most popular subjects, Carlevarijs turned to different corners of the Piazza San Marco to satisfy commissions. He focuses here on the Torre dell'Orologio, also known as Saint Mark's or the Moor's Clocktower, adjoining the Procuratie Vecchie in the north-east corner of the Piazza. The clocktower was designed by Mauro Codussi and constructed between 1496 and 1499. The central bay of the façade incorporates the clock - repleat with three consecutive dials marking the hour, the twelve signs of the zodiac and the phases of the sun and moon, respectively. The two-story tower atop the central bay shows the Lion of Saint Mark in relief, and above that the two blackened bronze figures, known as 'Moors', that ring the bell marking the hour. Later alterations to the building are limited to the addition of terraces by Giorgio Massari in 1755.
This View of Piazza San Marco with the Torre dell'Orologio, Venice is one of only two compositions by Carlevarijs of this particular perspective, neither of which was known to Rizzi when he published his monograph on the artist in 1967. The related view with almost identical measurements (69 x 85 cm.) appeared on the art market in 1986 (Sotheby's, London, 2 July 1986, lot 126; now Milan, private collection), and was subsequently published by Dario Succi as 'unique, never replicated by the artist', and dated to circa 1715 (D. Succi in the exhibition catalogue, Luca Carlevarijs e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, Milan, 1994, p. 231, no. 64). The emergence of the present painting counters Succi's assertion, constituting a second iteration of this view.
Preparatory figure studies for the present work form part of an album of fifty-three sketches in oil on paper and canvas, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. These lively individual musings of patricians, bystanders and street vendors attest to Carlevarijs's interest in staffage -- so often praised as a distinguishing feature of his work. The robed figure facing away and pointing into the Piazza (fig. 1), and the gentleman seen three-quarter profile, a bent knee, hat in one hand and stick in the other (fig. 2) are among eight studies that relate directly, and exclusively, to the present painting.