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View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi

View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi
oil on canvas
52 ½ x 92 ½ in. (133.3 x 234.8 cm.)
painted in 1745-47
Anonymous sale ‘lately consigned from abroad’; Christie’s, 30 March [=2nd day] 1771, lot 55, as 'Canaletti', 'its companion [lot 54; A large and most capital picture, being a remarkable view of the city of Verona, on the banks of the Adige. This picture is finely coloured, the perspective, its light and shadow fine and uncommonly high finish’d’; 250 guineas to Grey] exhibiting another view of the same city, equally fine, clear and transparent’, the measurements recorded as 53 by 90 inches (250 guineas to ‘Fleming’, ie. the following).
Gilbert Fane Fleming (1724-1776), Marylebone; Christie’s, London, 22 May 1777, as ‘Canaletti. A view of the city of Verona, esteemed the chef d’œuvre of the master’ (205 guineas to ‘Ld Cadogan’, i.e. the following).
Charles Sloane Cadogan, 3rd Baron, from 1800 1st Earl, Cadogan (1728-1807), and presumably by inheritance to his son,
Charles Henry Sloane, 2nd Earl Cadogan (1749-1832).
(Probably) acquired by the Hon. George James Welbore Agar Ellis, from 1831 1st Baron Dover (1797-1833), Dover House, Whitehall, and by inheritance through his widow,
Lady Georgina Dover (1804-1860), by whom lent to the British Institution in 1838, and apparently their daughter-in-law,
Eliza Horatia Frederica (1833-1896), widow of Henry George, 2nd Baron Dover and 3rd Viscount Clifden (1825-1866), in whose name lent to the Royal Academy in 1877, to their son,
Henry George, 4th Viscount Clifden (1863-1895); his sale (+), Robinson & Foster, London, 25 May [=5th day] 1895, lot 784, as 'Canaletto' (2,000 guineas to Agnew’s for the following).
Walter Hays Burns (1838-1897), North Mymms Park, Hertfordshire, and by inheritance at North Mymms through his son,
Walter Spencer Morgan Burns (1872-1929), to the latter’s son,
Major-General Sir George Burns, K.C.V.O., G.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C. (1911-1997); Christie’s, London, 26 November 1971, lot 30 (£300,000).
Acquired by Cyril Humphris, London; to the previous owner, thence by descent.
M. Chamot, ‘Baroque Paintings’, Country Life, LX, 6 November 1926, p. 708.
A. Oswald, ‘North Mymms Park, II’, Country Life, LXXV, 20 January 1934, pp. 70-1, fig. 13.
S. Kozakiewicz, in Bernardo Bellotto 1720-1780, Paintings and Drawings from the National Museum of Warsaw, exhibition catalogue, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Liverpool, York and Rotterdam (catalogue in Dutch), 1957, p. 25, under no. 32.
W. Schumann and S. Kozakiewicz, in Bernardo Bellotto, genannt Canaletto in Dresden und Warschau, exhibition catalogue, Dresden, 1963, respectively under nos. 3 and 71.
W. Schumann and S. Kozakiewicz, Drezno i Warswawa w twórczości Bernarda Bellotta Canaletta, exhibition catalogue, Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe, 1964, p. 58, under nos. 3 and 71.
W. Schumann and S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto genannt Canaletto, exhibition catalogue, Vienna, 1965, pp. 15 and 47, under no 8.
S. Kozakiewicz, in Europäische Veduten des Bernardo Bellotto genannt Canaletto, exhibition catalogue, Essen, Villa Hügel, 1966, pp. 19 and 99, under no. 65.
W.S. Lewis, ed., The Yale Edition of Horace Walpoles Correspondence, London and New Haven, 1967, pp. 298-9, note 10.
S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, genannt Canaletto, Recklinghausen, 1972, I, p. 45; II, pp. 80-3, no. 101, illustrated; English edition, translated by M. Whittall, Bernardo Bellotto, London, 1972, I, p. 44; II, pp. 80-1, no. 101.
E. Camesasca, Lopera completa del Bellotto, Milan, 1974, p. 95, no. 67.
D. Sutton, in Souvenirs of the Grand Tour: A Loan Exhibition from National Trust Collections in Aid of the Trust’s Conservation Fund, exhibition catalogue, London, Wildenstein, 1982, p. 22, under no. 6.
St. J. Gore, in The Treasure Houses of Britain; Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting, exhibition catalogue, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1985, p. 273, under no. 193, as ‘a strikingly original composition’.
S. Marinelli, Bernardo Bellotto: Verona e le città europee, Milan, 1990, pp. 124-9.
G. Marini, in Art in the Eighteenth Century: The Glory of Venice, exhibition catalogue, London, Royal Academy, and Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1994, p. 429, under no. 255.
A. Laing, In Trust for the Nation: Paintings from National Trust Houses, London, 1995, pp. 86-87, under no. 30, fig. 13.
E.P. Bowron and G.J.M. Weber, in Bernardo Bellotto 1722-1780, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Museo Correr and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2001, p. 142, under no. 37; English edition, Bernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe, p. 144, under no. 38.
K. Załeski, in Bernardo Bellotto genannt Canaletto, Europäische Veduten, exhibition catalogue, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2005, pp. 219-20, under no. 56, fig. 56.1.
A. Henning, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden: Die Augestellten Werke, Cologne, 2005, I, p. 55.
B.A. Kowalczyk, in Bellotto and Canaletto, Wonder and Light, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Gallerie d’Italia, 2016, p. 168, under no. 54.
B.A. Kowalczyk, in Bernardo Bellotto 1740, Viaggio in Toscana, exhibition catalogue, Lucca, Fondazione Ragghianti, 2019, p. 113.
London, British Institution, Pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch and French Masters, June 1838, no. 141, as 'Canaletto, Bridge at Verona' (lent by Lady Dover).
London, Royal Academy, The Winter Exhibition, 1877, no. 239, as 'Canaletto, Bridge at Verona' (lent by Viscountess Clifden).
London, The Magnasco Society, at Agnew’s, Loan Exhibition of Pictures of the XVII & XVIII Centuries, October 1926, no. 17.
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, on long-term loan, 1973-2021.
Special notice
Specifed lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square ( ¦ ) not collected from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT by 5.00 pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Crown Fine Art (details below). Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent ofsite. If the lot is transferred to Crown Fine Art, it will be available for collection from 12.00 pm on the second business day following the sale. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crown Fine Art. All collections from Crown Fine Art will be by prebooked appointment only.
Sale room notice
Please note that the final line of provenance should read as follows:
Acquired by Cyril Humphris, London; to the previous owner, thence by descent.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Senior Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This justly-celebrated picture and its erstwhile companion, Verona from the Ponte Nuova looking upstream with the Castel San Pietro (Powis Castle, the National Trust), are the supreme masterpieces of Bellotto’s early career. The two are Bellotto’s ultimate expressions of the clear light of his native Veneto, and the Ponte delle Navi is more arresting in design than any of his earlier works, and perhaps than any of those that were to follow. Before leaving Italy, Bellotto made slightly simplified replicas of both pictures. He took these to Dresden where they set the course of his subsequent development in Europe.
The subject:
The view is from the southernmost house on the narrow spit of land, the Isolo, separating the river Adige, on the right, from the Acqua Morta, filled in in 1882, which originally had been the main branch of the river on the left. The stone-faced Ponte Navi, or delle Navi, with its brick defensive gatehouse crowned by Ghibelline battlements was the southernmost of the medieval bridges of Verona. Despite the evident strength of the beak below the tower and the ramp from the Isolo which must have helped to protect the structure when the river was in flood, this was unable to withstand the inundations of 2 September 1757 (when the arches at either side of the tower were washed away and the tower itself hung precariously eleven degrees from the vertical) and 1882. Its replacement of 1893 was destroyed in the Second World War, after which the existing bridge was built. On the right, above the southernmost house on what is now the Lungadige Bartolomeo Rubele (commemorating the hero who saved a mother and child stranded under the tower in 1757), is the brick apse and campanile of the great medieval church of San Fermo Maggiore. To the left of this, above the sunlit span of the bridge, are the houses lining the Via Dogana, and above those are the slender campanile of San Fermo Minore, a shorter spire, a stretch of the battlemented medieval city wall and a small domed belfry. On the left the easternmost arch of the bridge crosses the Acqua Morta to the Via San Paolo, the entrance to which is cast in deep shadow. The eye is drawn down the predecessor of the Lungadige Porta Vittoria along the left bank of the Adige. Beyond the prominent white building, the Dogana, on the corner of Via San Paolo is Palazzo Pompei, a masterpiece of 1530 by the great Veronese architect Michele Sanmicheli: the artist simplified the detail of both. Further away, after a group of floating wooden mills, is the now-demolished church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, or della Vittoria Nuova, a Gerolamini monastery built between 1487 and 1512, suppressed in 1806 and destroyed by bombing in 1945. Beyond this is a further stretch of the medieval city wall, with its substantial tower guarding the river bank. The Adige flows onwards to the plain.
Both the Verona views are bathed in late afternoon light, but for this picture the artist deliberately selected the very brief period when the sun has already caught the north side of the bridge and its tower but not the north front of the house at the corner of the Via San Pietro. The distant trees in this picture and those in the small gardens by the Adige in that at Powis tell us that Bellotto observed the city in the summer. Sunlight and shadow combine both to animate the composition and define its sense of space. The Powis picture (Kozakiewicz, op. cit., no. 98) is perhaps less inventive in its exploitation of sunlight. The view is taken from the Ponte Nuova, north of the Ponte delle Navi, with the buildings on the west bank of the river on the left, opposite those on the Isola, with the Castel San Pietro ahead; the floating wooden mills on the river and the distant ridge protected by the city wall are already in shadow. In his other views of Verona, the appreciably smaller pair of the Castelvecchio with the Ponte Scaligero (Kozakiewicz, nos. 94 and 96), Bellotto chose intersecting viewpoints, as Canaletto often did with his pairs. In the case of this picture and that at Powis the viewpoints are back to back. As a result, although afternoon light was selected for obvious compositional reasons in both, the pictures formed a perfect visual pair, that at Powis lit from the left, the Ponte delle Navi from the right.
This picture allowed Bellotto to express his instinctive gift for narrative in a way that the Powis composition did not. A social panorama unfolds: below the viewer, in the shadow cast by the building from which Bellotto surveyed the scene, a mason chisels at one of the blocks of stone that have been unloaded; men are in the larger of the two boats by the landing place and another, smaller, is being drawn up beside this; to the right three men are underway in a boat with a cargo of bales and a barrel. The river must from time immemorial have been a key artery of trade in the city, on the left, under the arch across the Aqua Morta, a vessel passes with a cargo of hides. On the ramp a couple of Franciscans address two identically dressed men and a priest is about to pass an elegant couple, the man politely half a pace behind his companion in her crinoline. There are loungers on the bridge, across which a carter with a load of hay drives his pair of oxen towards the Via San Paolo, while to the right of the guard tower a coachman whips on the horses drawing the carriage of an unseen officer or official, which is preceded by a running footman in livery of blue and white, and a cavalry escort crosses to the heart of the city.
Bellotto reveals himself as an equally acute observer of the passage of time on buildings: plants are weakening the parapets and beaks of the bridge; paint has fallen away to reveal the brick of the small structure projecting above the central arch of the bridge, while there is a disturbing crack in the wall behind this which has allowed part of the mortar to decay and ivy climbs up the side wall; all but one of the machicolations of the tower are eroded and, to the left of the central machicolation, water has run down the brick and discoloured this, as it has done from the ends of the windowsills, while a number of the angle blocks have fallen away; a section of ashlar facing has failed above the right-hand arch of the bridge itself to reveal the brick beneath. Characteristically, Bellotto tells us that it had been necessary to stabilise the arch and two of the others with irregularly-placed metal clamps. The physical condition of the bridge that Bellotto describes with such precision helps to explain why the flood of 1757, some twelve years after the picture was painted, was to be so destructive. Throughout, Bellotto’s attention to detail is unyielding. His handling varies as appropriate: areas of render are handled with a creamy fluency; while elsewhere, as for example in the façade of Palazzo Pompei, he matches the precision of the finest of Canaletto’s work.
When he painted his replica of the picture, now at Dresden, Bellotto eliminated a number of the figures, notably the cavalry escort and the ox-cart on the bridge, and simplified some of the topographical detail: the timbers in the river to the right of the water mills are omitted, as is the small boat near these; and fewer of the gaps where corner stones and bricks have fallen from the tower are shown.
The place of the picture in Bellotto's oeuvre:
It is generally accepted that this picture and the pendant (fig. 1) were painted about 1745-7 and certainly before Bellotto left Italy for Dresden in the spring of 1747. Still only in his mid-twenties, he had already roughly a decade’s artistic experience. Even before his enrolment in the Fraglia—the Venetian guild for painters—in 1738 he was supplying spirited versions of pictures by his mother’s brother, Antonio Canal, Canaletto, to whom he owed his training. Mostly larger than the prototypes, these are chromatically vibrant and were evidently executed at pace, becoming increasingly more confident. Visits to Florence, Lucca and Rome in 1740 offered new visual challenges to which the young Bellotto rose with dazzling brilliance, although for the compositions of some of his Roman views he depended on drawings made in 1719-20 by his uncle. With such works as his large Santa Maria dAracoeli and the Campidoglio (Petworth House, National Trust, the Egremont Collection) and a pair of upright Roman views formerly at Ockham, Bellotto came of age as Canaletto’s most accomplished rival as vedutista. Bellotto had previously visited Dolo on the Brenta but it was only from about 1744 that he ventured further west, to Verona, to the western frontier of the Venetian republic at Canonica opposite Vaprio on the Adda, to Gazzada, to Milan and in 1745 to Turin. The fall of light had evidently intrigued the artist from the teenage years when he recapitulated his uncle’s compositions with precocious energy. This animates his views of Rome and the magical pictures of Gazzada and Vaprio. But Bellotto had never had the occasion, or perhaps the courage, to express this as dramatically as in this picture and its companion. In Bowron’s words: ‘these lyrical views achieve with their varied effects of light and crystalline atmosphere’ what Kozakiewicz had in 1972 termed: ‘the perfect harmony in a panoramic view of a city that was his goal’.
The pair of views of the Castelvecchio and the Ponte Scaligero once in the possession of Prince Alexei Orlov (Kozakiewicz, nos. 94 and 96) were presumably the first of Bellotto’s pictures of Verona. One of these corresponds with a characteristically efficient drawing now at Darmstadt (Kozakiewicz, no. 95). The drawing was no doubt made at the same time as that, also at Darmstadt, to which the Powis picture was directly related (Kozakiewicz, no. 100, for the inscription on which see below). The drawing corresponding with this picture is in the National Museum at Warsaw (fig. 2; Kozakiewicz, no. 103): it has presumably been trimmed on the right as the campanile of San Fermo Maggiore is cut. There are autograph annotations on the drawing, pencil lines which Kozakiewicz considered to establish that the design was transferred and scaled up. The three drawings are strictly linear and offer no hint whatever of the fall of light. These may as the inscription on that relating to the Powis picture states have been made as records of the pictures, which had evidently been based on studies made on the spot, almost certainly with the assistance of an optical device, a camera oscura, an extant example of which in the Museo Correr, Venice, is said to have belonged to Canaletto. Bellotto’s original drawings may have been destroyed during the bombardment of Dresden in 1760.
A further drawing of rather different character was presumably made by Bellotto at the time he was working on the canvas in Venice in the winter of 1745-6 or that of 1746-7. Identified by K.T. Parker (The Drawings of Antonio Canaletto in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, Oxford and London, 1948, no. 120, pl. 46) as a ‘Veduta Ideata with Reminiscences of Chioggia’, this shows a variant of the Ponte delle Navi, but evidently of Roman rather than medieval date, with the beak below the tower, now shorn of machicolations, and behind it the left bank of the Adige, from the Via San Paolo to the city wall, beyond which the river has given way to the open sea, with sailing vessels in the distance. The buildings are lit in the same way as in the picture. The drawing was evidently intended as a work of art in its own right and obtained as such by Canaletto’s key patron and agent, the merchant Joseph Smith (c. 1674-1770), who in 1744 had been appointed Consul in Venice. The fact that there was a market for a drawing of the kind suggests the impact this view of the Ponte delle Navi may have had on those who saw it in Bellotto’s workshop.
What immediately distinguished this picture and that at Powis from any earlier works by Bellotto is their scale. The most ambitious of the Roman views, that at Petworth and the Piazza Navona (Kozakiewicz, no. 79), both measure roughly 87 by 148.5 centimetres (34 by 58½ inches) and the Turin pair of 1745 (Kozakiewicz, nos. 92 and 93) 127 by 164 centimetres (50 by 64½ inches), as against 132.5 by 231 centimetres (52¼ by 91 inches). Bellotto clearly intended both canvases to be tours de force. After completing these he made full size versions (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie, inv. nos. 604-5; Kozakiewicz, nos. 99 and 102), which in 1747 or the following year were acquired by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, who secured his services in the summer of 1747. The Dresden versions only differ from the prototypes in minor respects, the addition or subtraction of a boat and modifications to the figural groups. The impact these made at the Saxon court is clearly shown by the way that their format and scale set the pattern for the prodigious sequence of views of Dresden and Königstein Bellotto was to paint for the King-Elector, of which replicas were commissioned for the latter’s minister, Count Brühl, and thus for Bellotto’s subsequent pictures of Vienna, Munich and Warsaw, topographical masterpieces through the medium of which we still see the capitals of many of the most sophisticated rulers of northern Europe. Bellotto’s unprecedented pair of views of Verona were thus the catalysts for his subsequent career, and are the works upon which his claim to be regarded, with his uncle and Guardi, as one of the great triumvirate of outstanding view painters of the eighteenth century must be based.
Bellotto was known as ‘Canaletto’ in the northern European countries in which he worked, and is still known thus there to this day, which must explain the attribution of the Ponte delle Navi to ‘Canaletti’, which was maintained until at least 1895. The correct attribution seems first to have been made in the Magnasco Society exhibition catalogue and was, by implication, endorsed by Chamot in her review. Arthur Oswald, best known for his many articles in Country Life, wrote about the picture with particular perception in the second of his articles about North Mymms in 1934.
A note on the provenance:
While the evidence of the Windsor drawing suggests that Consul Smith may have been aware of the picture, it is not clear who, if anyone, commissioned this and its pendant. However, the inscription on the drawing at Darmstadt related to the pendant indicates that it was intended for England, where Bellotto’s uncle settled in 1746: ‘copia del quadro dela Vista stando sun il ponte novo verso il castelo di Verona a Verona di Bernard. Belotto de:tto il Canaletto per ingiltera’. Because of the War of Austrian Succession there were fewer Englishmen on the Grand Tour and Canaletto himself went in search of patrons in 1746 to London, where he at times was reduced to painting large canvases as speculations. Bellotto may have taken the same course. But it seems likely that he had sold both this picture and the pendant by the winter of 1746-7, as otherwise there would have been little point in his preparing the autograph replicas which he took to Dresden. That the Powis picture was known in England is proved by William Marlow’s full-scale copy of this, now in the Courtauld Institute Galleries (Lee of Fareham Collection), which was owned by Robert and James Adam, and included in their substantial sale at Christie’s, 26 February 1773, lot 21, as ‘after Canaletti’. Many of the works in the sale were evidently executed for the brothers in Italy, which Robert left in 1757, but where James remained until 1763. Marlow, however, did not exhibit until 1762 and only went to Italy in 1765, ‘by the advice’ of Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland, who with her husband, Hugh Smithson Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, was a serial patron of Adam. It thus seems not unlikely that the Powis picture was copied in London for the Adam brothers.
As yet it seems not to have been established who was the owner of the substantial collection of pictures sold by James Christie on 28 and 30 May 1771 for a total of £3,472 9s. Whether the pictures had been ‘consigned from abroad’ as Christie stated, or had been imported by a collector or agent with rather widely ranging tastes over a longer period cannot be ascertained. However, because exceptionally the catalogue records measurements, a few other works in the sale can readily be identified, most relevantly the large Marieschi of the Courtyard of the Doges’ Palace formerly in the Palmer Morewood collection at Alfreton Hall (Osterley Park, the National Trust; R. Toledano, Michele Marieschi, Lopera completa, Milan, 1988, no. V.4.I) at 130 guineas (28 May, lot 60). James Christie himself attached most significance to the six cartoons by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli from the Barberini collection now in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena (30 May, lot 62 [misprinted as 26]), 700 guineas, which were evidently acquired by the Scottish banker, Alexander Fordyce, who as a result of trying to short shares in the East India Company had accumulated debts of some £200,000 by 1772. The cartoons were included in his sale at Langford’s, 7 July 1774, as lot 59, in which by coincidence there was ‘A view in Verona’ given to ‘Canaletti’ (lot 50), which is perhaps to be identified with the partly fanciful view of the Ponte Scaligero at Philadelphia (Kozakiewicz, no. 97). The sale of the two Verona views evidently attracted some notice: Horace Walpole, writing to Sir Horace Mann, the ambassador at Florence, on 26 April 1771, passed on a rumour that the pictures were ‘copies by Marlow, a disciple of [Samuel] Scott’, whom he claimed to be ‘better painters than the Venetian’. The rumour was no doubt circulated by someone who was aware of Marlow’s picture, but perhaps unaware that the ‘Canaletti’ in question was the nephew of the artist whose work was more familiar to a London audience. Significantly, Walpole did not identify the vendor.
Northern pictures outnumbered those by Italian artists in the 1771 catalogue. Although Fleming is identified as the buyer of this picture, few details of buyers are recorded, but Robert, 1st Lord Clive, for whom the companion Bellotto was evidently purchased by Grey, also obtained a small Madonna and Child given to Titian. The Powis picture is recorded in 1771 in his London mansion, No. 45 Berkeley Square, which had been redecorated by Sir William Chambers in 1763-7.
Gilbert Fane Fleming (1724-1776), who bought this picture in the 1771 sale, was the son and heir of Gilbert Fane (d. 1762), successively Lt. Governor of St. Kitts and of the Leeward Islands; he married Lady Camilla Bennet, daughter of Charles, 2nd Earl of Tankerville. Between 1769 and 1776, Fleming purchased 37 lots in picture sales at Christie’s, representing a high proportion of the 48 included in his posthumous sale held by James Christie in 1776. His daughter, Caroline Alicia married Sir John Brisco, 1st Bt. in 1776 and it has been suggested that Fleming commissioned the commanding whole length of her of that year by Gainsborough (Kenwood, the Iveagh Bequest).
Charles, 3rd Lord Cadogan, the buyer in the 1776 Fleming sale, was also a purchaser at Christie’s, where his first recorded acquisition was a Cuyp in 1772. His uncle, John, 1st Lord and 1st Earl Cadogan had formed a significant collection that was sold after his death in 1726, and his mother’s Sloane inheritance made it possible for him to follow his uncle’s example. In 1783, Cadogan sold Caversham Park, the mansion built for his uncle to an officer who had served in India, Major Charles Marsac (1736-1820). As was not unusual at the time, the contents of the house were sold with this. In Phillips’s catalogue of the sale at Caversham on 28 October 1826, the pictures there are stated to have been collected by both Cadogan and Marsac. Cadogan himself subsequently sold twelve lots of pictures at Christie’s on 22 March 1793. He seems to have been interested in vedute and probably acquired the four works given to Canaletto that were to be owned by his descendants: these included the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, which is among the most ambitious of Bellotto’s Venetian views (W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, Oxford, 1962 and subsequent editions, no. 279), as well no doubt as the ‘gallery picture’ catalogued as by ‘Canaletti’ and described as a ‘VENETIAN CARNIVAL, with numerous Boats, Figures and masked Characters’ in the catalogue of the Caversham sale (lot 349), in which there were also works given to Marieschi and Zuccarelli as well as Italian views by Wilson.
It seems probable that the Ponte delle Navi was bought privately by George James Welbore Ellis, 1st Lord Dover, who had a significant place in the early-nineteenth century appreciation of Venetian views. Travelling in Italy in September 1828 with his wife, born Lady Georgiana Howard, who had been brought up at Castle Howard with its room of Venetian views ordered by her great-great-grandfather, Charles, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, Welbore Ellis purchased a large number of small pictures by Guardi, as well as a pair of Canalettos. One of these was presumably the view of the Doge’s Palace lent by Lady Dover to the British Institution in 1858 (no. 104), but it seems highly unlikely that the Ponte delle Navi was purchased by Welbore Ellis in Italy, as was suggested tentatively in 1971. Welbore Ellis’s interest in the artist led him to buy the portrait of Canaletto now at Anglesey Abbey (the National Trust, the Fairhaven Collection) after a sale at Christie’s on 8 May 1830 (lot 51, 8 gns. to Seguier). Welbore Ellis was elevated as Baron Dover in 1831 and shortly thereafter purchased Melbourne House, Whitehall, which was renamed Dover House, and his collection was placed there. The Guardis he acquired were dispersed in a number of sales for Dover’s descendants.
Walter Hays Burns was born in Newark, New Jersey and married Mary Lynam Morgan, daughter of the banker Junius Spencer Morgan in 1867. In 1878 he became a partner in his father-in-law’s increasingly influential bank. In 1884 he purchased No. 69 Brook Street, now the Saville Club, which he had remodelled extensively. Nine years later he acquired North Mymms Park in Hertfordshire, conveniently close to London. This was and remains a distinguished late Elizabethan house. The architects Sir Ernest George and R.B. Yeates were called in to add an additional wing and make other alterations to suit the domestic requirements of the time. No doubt encouraged by the example of her brother, Henry Pierpont Morgan—the greatest American collector of his generation—the Burns formed a significant collection of both pictures and furnishings expressly for the house: this view of Verona, bought as by Canaletto, was the most spectacular of their acquisitions, bought to complement a distinguished group of earlier Italian pictures by such artists as Bernardo Daddi, Jacopo Bellini and Bernardo Strozzi. It was placed in the Jacobean Room, where it was complemented by a large view of Venice optimistically attributed to Bonington (Oswald, op. cit., fig. 14).
Since its then record-smashing sale in 1971, the Ponte dele Navi has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland.
The compiler is indebted to Charles Beddington for his assistance.

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