3 More
6 More

View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, from the entrance of the Grand Canal

View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, from the entrance of the Grand Canal
signed and dated 'GASPARO VAN WITEL ROMA 1714' (lower left, on the boat)
oil on canvas
21 ¾ x 42 ¾ in. (55.1 x 108.2 cm.)
John Astley (d. 1718), a younger son of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt., and by descent at Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk to the following,
Sir Jacob Henry Astley, 5th Bt. (1756-1817), and by descent to his son,
Sir Jacob Astley, 6th Bt. and later 16th Baron Hastings (1797-1859), Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk, and by descent to the present owner.
B. Aikema and B. Bakker, Painters of Venice: The story of the Venetian veduta, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 1990, p. 31, fig. 25.
G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, nuova edizione a cura di Laura Laureati e Ludovica Trezzani, Milano, 1996, p. 248, no. 313, entry by Laura Laureati.
London, Harari & Johns Ltd., Venice in Perspective: The first One Hundred Years of Venetian View Painting, 1987, no. 4.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Senior Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This fine canvas shows one of the most celebrated views in Venice. It is a work of the full maturity of the pioneering vedutista, Gaspare Vanvitelli, and remarkably has an unbroken provenance since its commission in 1714.
This view from the mouth of the Grand Canal shows from the left: the end bay of the Magazzini del Sale and the western-most bays of Baldassare Longhena’s Patriarchal Seminary (1671), beside that architect’s masterpiece, the church of Santa Maria della Salute (1631-1687); and beyond this the Abbey of San Gregorio, which was to be suppressed in 1775, the pinnacles of the late gothic façade of the church of which are seen from the back. Beyond the Grand Canal is lined with palazzi, punctuated by the Calle del Traghetto, the Rio del Fornace and the Campo San Lio; and further on are the great campanile of Santa Maria della Carità, which was to collapse in 1744, the church itself, now the seat of the Accademia, and the Palazzo Querini. The nearest building on the opposite, north or left, bank of the canal is the subsequently altered Palazzo Fini of about 1688, designed by Alessandro Tremignon; this is followed by the fifteenth-century Palazzo Pisani Gritti, now the Gritti Hotel, the lateral bays of which the artist concertinaed; and by the smaller palazzi Venier Contarini, Manin Contarini, Barbarigo and Minotto, beyond which is Jacopo Sansovino’s spectacular Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, begun in 1533 but still unfinished in 1556.
Gaspare Vanvitelli, or Gaspare degli Occhiali, as he was also known in Italy where he is first recorded in 1675, born Gaspar Adriaansz. van Wittel in Amersfoort, was incontestably the most influential vedutista of his generation in Italy. Like many northern painters he settled in Rome, where he would be based until his death in 1736. Other northern artists had responded to classical buildings in Rome and to the light of the Roman Campagna, but none had been systematically interested in topography. While Claude’s evocations of Italian landscape were informed by his close study of nature, Vanvitelli’s views were developed from the accurate and often very detailed drawings he made on his Italian journeys. By the early 1690s, he had learnt how most effectively to use these, replicating successful compositions as specific patrons or the market at large determined. He clearly understood that his patrons wanted accurate records of the major cities and other sites they had visited, and honed his art to that end. His successful exploitation of the genre was evidently registered by artists in Venice and had a significant bearing there on the careers of Carlevarijs and Canaletto, and thus indirectly on those of Marieschi, Bellotto and Guardi. Panini in Rome was yet more directly indebted to Vanvitelli’s example.
It is thought that Vanvitelli travelled in northern Italy before 1690. The earliest of his extant dated pictures of Venice, a View of the Molo from the Bacino (Madrid, Prado; G. Briganti, ed., L. Laureati and L. Trezzani, op. cit., 1996, no. 287) is of 1697. With the exception of single views of the Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta, and three related pictures of the island church of San Michele and Murano (nos. 285-6 and 319-21 respectively), all of Vanvitelli’s Venetian views were taken from viewpoints in the Bacino between the Molo, the Island of San Giorgio and the mouth of the Grand Canal. These include the eight recorded variants of the 1697 composition, five of which are not dated, while others are of 1706 and 1717.
Vanvitelli must have been particularly struck by Longhena’s majestic and spectacularly placed church of Santa Maria della Salute, which is seen in almost half of his Venetian views. Three drawings in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Rome, demonstrate how closely he observed the building. This picture was directly based on the largest of these (fig. 1; no. D337), which measures 502 by 1185 millimetres, and cuts off the composition at the same points. The drawing was followed in this respect also in the larger picture in Palazzo Colonna (no. 310) and a smaller one with D. Heinemann in Munich in 1926 (no. 312), but marginally reduced on the right in the gouache at Holkham Hall, Norfolk (no. 311). The boat on the left that is so striking an element in the design of this picture, and the four gondolas drawn up below the church are also shown in the presentation drawing at Chatsworth (no. D112), which is part of a series, five of which are dated 1713, acquired by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, who was in Rome in the autumn and winter of 1714-5.
Vanvitelli showed the Salute from a slightly different angle and a viewpoint roughly between the Molo and San Giorgio in his panoramic composition, showing the Bacino, with the Zattere and the Redentore on the extreme left and the Doge’s Palace on the right, of which seven variants are known (nos. 298-303; and the example sold at Christie’s, London, 15 December 2020, lot 39): of these, three (nos. 298-300) are of the same size as this view of the Salute. The artist painted five variations on the central section of the composition from the same viewpoint, with the Punta della Dogana and the church: four of these (nos. 304-7) were small in scale, while one in the Torlonia Collection, Rome (no. 308) is more substantial.
A note on the provenance:
That this picture is close in date to the Chatsworth drawing is confirmed by its provenance. It was very probably purchased, as part of a larger order, by John Astley (d. 1718), a younger son of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt., of Melton Constable, Norfolk. He was in Padua on 30 January 1716, and is likely to have been the Astley whose presence in Rome on 24 November 1714, and on 20 July and 12 October, is mentioned in the correspondence of William Kent (C. Blackett-Ord, ‘Letters from William Kent to Burrell Massingberd from the Continent, 1712-1719’, The Walpole Society, LXIII, 2001, pp. 87, 89 and 90). In Rome earlier in 1714 Kent had met Astley’s Norfolk neighbour, Thomas Coke, later 1st Earl of Leicester, whose estate at Holkham was less than ten miles from Melton Constable. Kent quickly won Coke’s friendship, accompanying him on a tour of northern Italy in June, returning by November to Rome, where Burlington - who was to become his most influential patron - had arrived on his first visit at the end of September. Coke, in addition to drawings, acquired three pictures from Vanvitelli - views of the Piazza San Pietro and of the Colosseum, Rome and of Vaprio d’Adda (nos. 108, 56 and 326), respectively dated 1715, 1716 and 1717; and one of the Castel Sant’ Angelo en suite by Hendrick Frans van Lint (exhibited London, Jocelyn Feilding, Italian Views from a Private Room in Holkham, 1977, no. 1; wrongly attributed by A. Busiri Vici, Peter, Hendrik e Giacomo Van Lint, Rome, 1987, no. 331, to Giacomo van Lint, who did not reach Rome until 1723), which are identical in size with this canvas; and the two others by Vanvitelli, Rome, the Tiber with San Giovanni dei Fiorentini and the Castel Sant Angelo and Naples, the Darsena with the Castel Nuovo, both signed, the latter in Greek, which Astley obtained with a matching View of the Forum, Rome from the foot of the Capitol, which is signed and dated 1715 by van Lint. That the two commissions were closely linked is further suggested by the fact that, in addition to his three larger canvases by the artist, Coke acquired a small reduction of his view of the Darsena (no. 352), dated 1711, and a gouache of 1722 showing the full composition (no. 359), which, like that related to this view of Santa Maria della Salute, is a component of a group of four in the medium.
Astley was one of the four sons of the veteran Tory politician, Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt. (c. 1639-1729) who had married in 1661. He was evidently older than most visitors on the Grand Tour and although his father had inherited more than one estate, as a younger son he may have had relatively restricted means. It is thus possible that the pictures were ordered on behalf of his father for whom Melton Constable, the greatest of the late-seventeenth-century houses of Norfolk, was rebuilt by 1687. Sir Jacob was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Philip Astley, 2nd Bt. (1667-1739), whose great-grandson, Sir Jacob Henry Astley, 6th Bt. (1797-1859) became the 16th Baron Hastings in 1841 when that barony was called out of abeyance.

More from Old Masters Evening Sale

View All
View All