Giovanni Anton Canal, il Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768)
Giovanni Anton Canal, il Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768)

A night festival at San Pietro di Castello, Venice

Giovanni Anton Canal, il Canaletto (Venice 1697-1768)
A night festival at San Pietro di Castello, Venice
oil on canvas
35½ x 58½ in. (97.7 x 130.3 cm.)
Private collection, England.
with Koetser, New York, by 1947.
Private collection, Athens, by 1962.
'Scritti di storia dell’arte in onore di Lionello Venturi’, Rome, 1956.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, Oxford, 1962, II, p. 347, under no. 359.
L. Puppi, L’opera completa del Canaletto, Milan, 1968, p. 110, no. 230B.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, second edition, revised by J.G. Links, Oxford, 1976, II, p. 372.
A. Corboz, Canaletto: Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan, 1985, II, p. 655, no. P328.
E. Schleier, in Canaletto: disegni, dipinti, incisioni, exhibition catalogue, Venice, 1982, p. 86, under no. 113.
B.A. Kowalczyk, ‘The Venetian Veduta Canaletto and Guardi’, in Venice from Canaletto and Turner to Monet, exhibition catalogue, Basel, 2008, pp. 33, 36 (footnote 38) and p. 39, illustrated.
Bath, Victoria Art Gallery, A Venetian Republic:The First Hundred Years of Venetian View Painting, 16 May-27 June 1987, no. 20.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; London, Accademia Italiana delle Arti e delle Arti Applicate, Italia al chiaro di luna: La notte nella pittura italiana, 1550-1850, 1990-1991, no. 16.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Die Nacht, 11 November 1998-7 February 1999, no. 226.
Riehen/Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Venedig von Canaletto und Turner bis Monet, 28 September 2008-25 January 2009 (catalogue entry by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk).
Paris, Musée Maillol, Canaletto à Venise, 19 September 2012-10 February 2013, no. 35 (catalogue entry by Federica Fruttero).
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

Brought to you by

Abbie Barker
Abbie Barker

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

This impressive picture is one of only three known nocturnes by Canaletto. It shows the church and campanile of San Pietro di Castello, the former cathedral and from 1451 to 1807 seat of the patriarchate of Venice, on the Isola di San Pietro at the eastern extremity of the city, from the Fondamenta on the west side of the Canale di San Pietro behind the Arsenale. An ancient foundation, the church was progressively rebuilt: the campanile of 1474 – its status emphasised by the fact that it was the only one completely faced in marble in the city – was reconstructed in 1482-88 by the greatest Venetian architect of the time, Mauro Codussi, but the upper element was added in 1670. The façade of the church itself, work on which was begun in 1596 under the supervision of Francesco Smeraldi but was not finished until 1621, reflected an earlier project by Andrea Palladio, and echoes the façades of other churches designed by him in Venice, most obviously those of San Giorgio Maggiore, begun in 1566; San Francesco della Vigna, begun in 1568 but not finished until 1634; and the Redentore, begun in 1576. The low palace on the right, which housed the canons, was built for Patriarch Lorenzo Priuli (1591-1600) and transformed into a barracks in 1807, when the canons were transferred to Saint Mark’s. The festival took place on the vigil of the day of Saint Peter, 29 June, thus on the night of 28-9 June, and is shown here by the light of a waning moon.

The canvas is a somewhat smaller variant of a picture at Berlin (Constable, no. 359; measuring 119 by 185 cm.), which is one of a set of four views painted for the German merchant, Sigismund Streit (1687-1775), who was a long-time resident of Venice, but closed his establishment there and moved to Padua in 1750. Taken together, the Streit pictures are the grandest achievements of Canaletto’s final Venetian phase. The companion pictures are the Feast of Santa Marta (vigil of the saint’s day on 29 July), shown by the full moon, lit from the left and therefore perfectly balanced by the San Pietro composition, which is lit from the right; the Grand Canal from Santa Sofa to the Rialto, which shows Streit’s house, Ca’ Foscari; and the Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto, a subject particularly appropriate for a patron who was a successful merchant (Constable, nos. 360, 242 and 282): the latter two pictures are respectively lit from the right and the left. Streit had been painted by Amigoni in 1739 and subsequently acquired other pictures from the painter: he also owned works by Diziani, Nogari and Zuccarelli. Unmarried and without lineal heirs, Streit decided to leave his library and collections, as well as the substantial fortune he had amassed, to the Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster where he had studied at Berlin. The first part of his collection was sent to Berlin in 1757-8, the remainder including the four Canalettos in 1763, which is thus the terminus ante quem for their execution. A terminus post quem of 1751 is established, as Erich Schleier recognised in 1982 (op. cit., p. 85), by the depiction in the view of the Grand Canal of Consul Smith’s Ca’ Mangili-Valmarana with the façade designed by Smith’s protégé, Antonio Visentini, which was finished in that year; while Links (in Constable, op. cit., 1976, p. 336) noted that a terminus post quem of 1758 is fixed by the inclusion in the Campo di San Giacomo of the stone paving introduced in that year. Furthermore, although this does not seem to have been considered previously, the state of the moon in the two nocturnes is also relevant to the chronology of the Streit commission. The festa of Santa Marta (night of 28-9 July) is shown by a nearly full moon; in 1757 the moon was full on 30 July, but in the following years the discrepancy was appreciably wider: the festa at San Pietro (night of 28-9 June) in the picture at Berlin shows the waning moon roughly eight days after it had been full. In 1758, there was a new moon on 21 June, so that by the 28-9 June the moon would indeed have been in the state it is seen in the Berlin picture and that under discussion, and this would not have been the case in any subsequent year until after 1763. Thus if it is accepted that Canaletto was scrupulous in showing the moon relatively accurately, it seems likely that the Streit pictures were painted in 1757-8.

The Streit canvases, and indeed this picture which must have followed that from the series almost immediately, demonstrate that Canaletto, who had returned from his successful visit to London in 1756, had not lost any of his creative energy. He no longer ran a large studio and, because the Seven Years’ War (1757-63) meant that there were far fewer visitors from north of the Alps in Venice, the demand for his work was diminished. But it would have been completely out of character for the painter not to exploit the compositions he had prepared for Streit. This picture of the festa at San Pietro corresponds very closely with the prototype. The most obvious differences are in the cloud behind the campanile and the positions of some of the stars: the shadows cast by the pilasters of the campanile are less intense than in the Berlin picture and Canaletto sharpened the highlights cast by the moon on the pilasters and capitals of the façade; the boat in the middle distance on the right is brought closer to that in the foreground; and the ripples on the water do not follow those of the Streit picture. A reduced version of comparable scale (94 by 127.5 cm.) of the Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto was correctly regarded as autograph by Constable (under his no. 282). A reduction of the Grand Canal view, formerly at Batsford (98 x 131 cm.), was regarded by Constable as of ‘replica quality at best’ (under his no. 242), while one of the Santa Marta pictures surfaced on the London art market some ten years ago. Bozena Anna Kowalczyk believes that all four pictures are by Canaletto’s pupil, Giuseppe Moretti. A variant of this composition was engraved by Giovanni Battista Brustoloni and published as plate 10 of a series of twenty four prints of Venice dedicated to Doge Marco Foscarini (reigned 1762-63).

By the late 1750s, Canaletto must have been aware of the competition offered by Francesco Guardi. The Streit pictures and those developed from these, including the San Pietro festa, suggest the confidence of the sixty-year-old painter as he reestablished himself in Venice, and anticipate the smaller but no less remarkable pictures of the 1760s, that are distinguished not least by the eloquence of Canaletto’s use of circular dots of paint that may have been suggested by a familiarity with such Dutch pictures as Vermeer’s Lady at a Virginal with a Gentleman in the Royal Collection, which he would have seen in the possession of Consul Smith.

More from Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

View All
View All