Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw)
Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw)
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Property from a Private European Collection
Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw)

The Grand Canal, Venice, looking North from the Palazzo Contarini dagli Scrigni to the Palazzo Rezzonico

Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw)
The Grand Canal, Venice, looking North from the Palazzo Contarini dagli Scrigni to the Palazzo Rezzonico
oil on canvas
24 x 36 3/8 in. (60.9 x 92.2 cm.)
John Blackwood (c. 1698-1777), Soho Square, London, and by descent through his grand-daughter,
Mary Catherine Desaguilliers (c. 1705-c. 1765), and her husband Thomas Cartwright (1735/6-1772) of Aynhoe, Northamptonshire, to their son,
William Ralph Cartwright (1771-1849), and by descent at Aynhoe Park through,
Richard Fairfax William Cartwright (1903-1954), until 1959.
with Richard Green, London, 1993, as 'Canaletto', from whom acquired by the following.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 26 January 2006, lot 62 ($1,696,000).
G. Baker, The History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton, London, 1822, I, p. 549, as 'Canaletto'.
M. Levey, National Gallery Catalogues: the Eighteenth Century Italian Schools, London, 1956, p. 14, as 'Canaletto'.
T. Pignatti, Il Quaderno di Disegni del Canaletto alle Gallerie di Venezia, Milan, 1958, p. 35.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, Oxford, 1962, I, fig. 44; II, p. 285, no. 201, as 'Canaletto';
2nd edition, revised by J.G. Links, Oxford, 1976, I, fig. 201; II, p. 285, no. 201, as 'Canaletto'; and
3rd edition, Oxford, 1982, I, fig. 201; II, p. 285, no. 201, as 'Canaletto'.
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, Milan, 1968, p. 98, no. 90B, illustrated, as 'Canaletto'.
M. Levey, National Gallery Catalogues: The Eighteenth Century Italian Schools, London, 1971, p. 22, note 13.
J.G. Links, Canaletto: The Complete Paintings, London, 1981, p. 34, under no. 94, as 'Canaletto'.
A. Corboz, Canaletto, Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan, 1985, II, p. 627, no. P202, illustrated, as 'Canaletto'.
B.A. Kowalczyk, Il Bellotto italiano, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universitàdegli Studi di Venezia, 1996, no. 14.
B.A. Kowalczyk, ‘I Canaletto della National Gallery di Londra’, Arte Veneta, 53, 1998, p. 94, note 9.
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable’s Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, London, 1998, p. 21.
C. Beddington, 'Bernardo Bellotto and his circle in Italy. Part I: not Canaletto but Bellotto', The Burlington Magazine, CXLVI, no. 1219, October 2004, pp. 668-9 and 671, fig. 18.
London, British Institution, 1839, no. 63 (lent by William Ralph Cartwright).

Lot Essay

This wonderfully atmospheric, and admirably preserved, account of the Grand Canal, evolved from a composition by his uncle, Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto, is one of the earliest pictures in which the brilliantly precocious young Bellotto fully demonstrated the qualities that established him as one of the greatest of eighteenth-century landscape artists.

The viewpoint is from the south side of the Grand Canal to the east of where this is now crossed by the Accademia Bridge. On the left, is the right-hand bay of the Palazzo Mocenigo Gambara, beside the handsome Ca’ Contarini degli Scrigni, which is followed by four further palazzi – Ca’ Loredan, Ca’ Moro, the demolished Ca’ Michiel Malpaga and Ca’ Contarini-Michieli – and the Ca’ Rezzonico, still under construction with the ground and first floors completed, and the temporary wooden structure above these (the palace was not to be completed until 1752- 6). Across the canal are the Ca’ del Duca, the Ca’ Giustinian-Lolin, with its prominent obelisks, and to the right of this the Ca’ Civran-Badoer, and what is now the Campo San Vidal (Vitale), which Canaletto himself had immortalized in his early Stonemasons’ Yard (London, National Gallery).

No doubt sold originally as by Canaletto, this picture was consistently attributed to him and was accepted as such by Levey (op. cit.), Constable (op. cit.) and Puppi (op. cit.), among others. By the early 1990s there was a better understanding of the development of the young Bellotto and this picture was correctly recognised as an early work of his by Bozena Kowalczyk, in her unpublished thesis of 1993-6, and by Charles Beddington, in a seminal article of 2004 (op. cit.). Beddington dated the picture to about 1739. The composition was based on a drawing by Canaletto from the collection of Consul Smith at Windsor (fig. 1; Constable, op. cit., 1976, no. 586), which drew on six sketches in the Venice Sketch Book (Constable, XVIII, f. 16v, 17r, 15v, 16r, 14v and 15r; in that order). Canaletto based his picture of the subject, in the series he supplied for John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford at Woburn (Constable, no. 200), on the Windsor drawing, but made numerous adjustments, extending the composition to the left, eliminating the awning on the building on the extreme right and completely changing the disposition of the boats. The Woburn picture was sent to London, where it was hung at Bedford House, Bloomsbury, when Bellotto was in his early teens, so the latter must have been given access to the Windsor drawing, hypothetically by Smith. His drawn copy of this, last recorded in the sale of the Geiger collection, Sotheby’s, 7 December 1920, lot 52 (S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London, 1972, II, no. 11), adheres faithfully to the prototype, although the younger painter introduced hatching in the sky that evokes the characteristic right-handed preparation of his early canvases, including that under discussion.

In this picture, Bellotto followed the Windsor drawing very closely, but, like Canaletto, did not feel bound by the disposition of the boats. Canaletto aligned most of his boats in the Woburn picture, perhaps because boats crossed the canal at the point in question. Bellotto was more adventurous: he retained the boat on the left, with two men standing, and that with a single man on the extreme right, and he gave more prominence to the gondola crossing the canal behind and to the left of this. But the other vessels he himself devised and placed with an evident intention to leave space to enhance what Beddington fairly terms the ‘particularly rich play’ of the reflections of the buildings. These have markedly more important visual roles than those in Canaletto’s wider and more conventional picture, and indeed prefigure the dramatic intensity of much of Bellotto’s later work. Beddington comments on the ‘rather inelegant and curiously proportioned figures’: those in the foreground are all of labourers and were no doubt intended to be read as such, but the evidently more elevated passengers on the gondola moving to the right behind the nearest boatman are of notably refined quality.

A note on the provenance:
The picture was originally the pendant to one of the Piazza San Marco from the West (Constable, no. 5, last recorded in a Washington private collection). The pair is known to have been inherited from John Blackwood (c. 1698-1777), through his grand-daughter, Mary Catherine Desaguilliers, who in 1765 married Thomas Cartwright (1735/6-1772) of Aynhoe. Blackwood, who married Anne, widow of the Hon. Robert Mansel who had died in 1723, and was the daughter and co-heiress of the ill-fated Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, was a significant agent and collector. He had dealings with numerous collectors of the time and evidently maintained a wide correspondence. One of the agents he employed was Dr. John Clephane (1705-1758), who was in Venice for the Ascension Day celebrations in 1740, as travelling tutor to Blackwood’s step-son, Thomas, 2nd Lord Mansel, and returned the following year when he acted in the same capacity for John Bouverie (c. 1722-1750). Clephane’s papers in the Rose of Kilravock archive document commissions for Blackwood in Rome, but do not record any in Venice (see F. Russell, ‘Dr. Clephane, John Blackwood and Batoni’s Sacrifice of Iphigenia’, Burlington Magazine, 127, 1985, pp. 890-3). Blackwood also had dealings with William Bristow (1699-1753), who was in Venice in 1737 and whom Walpole wrote off as ‘a great pretender to taste’. To judge from the collection inherited through his grand-daughter, Blackwood had a particular interest in Murillo. It was no doubt he who arranged for Allan Ramsay to portray his children, Shovel, Mary and John, with their half-brother Thomas, 2nd Lord Mansel, in the remarkable group portrait of 1742 (London, Tate Britain).

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