This picture shows the island monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its celebrated façade designed by Andrea Palladio, and the eastern end of the Giudecca, now the site of the Cipriani Hotel, by afternoon light from a view point on the Molo. The subject had an inevitable appeal to visitors to Venice, and this explains the large number of variants of the composition by the artist (A. Morassi, Guardi: I dipinti, Venice, 1984, nos. 422-35), some of which extend the view to the right to include the church of the Zitelle. While the topography and the angle of the light, which emphasises the sophistication of Palladio's front, changes little, Guardi never repeats his skies or his boats, although the manner in which these serve to frame the design of this picture is paralleled in several other examples - i.e. Morassi, nos. 423 (Toulouse, Fondation Bemberg), 425 (Carter collection), 427 (Venice, Accademia), 428 (Toledo, Museum of Art) and 432 (London, Wallace Collection). This canvas is a relatively mature work, presumably of the 1780s. Like other variants of the subject the picture was, as Waagen states, the pendant to a View of the Dogana and the Salute: of the pictures of that subject known to Morassi (nos. 472-95) only one is of similar scale, the example in the San Francisco Legion of Honor Museum (Morassi, no. 492; measuring 48 x 66 cm.), first recorded in the possession of A. Williams, which is clearly of comparable date and described by Morassi as a late work of good quality ('buon livello').
John Henderson was a significant collector of contemporary British pictures and watercolours, and also had a distinguished holding of Italian maiolica. Among his Old Masters, Dr. Waagen recorded no fewer than ten pictures by Guardi: one of these, of the Piazza di San Marco, was lent to the Winter Exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1870. Of the seven pictures sold in 1882 one, lot 343, is now in the National Gallery (no. 2522): ironically the picture which Henderson bequeathed to that institution is merely a pastiche (London, National Gallery).