2 More

Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute

Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute
oil on canvas
52 1/2 x 65 3/8 in. (133.4 x 165.4 cm.)
Commissioned from the artist by William Holbech (c. 1699-1771) and installed in the dining room at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire, and by descent to his nephew.
William Holbech, M.P. (d. 1812), and by descent to his son.
William Holbech (1774-1856), and by descent to his son,
Ven. Charles William Holbech (1816-1901), honorary Canon of Worcester and Archdeacon of Coventry, and by descent to his grandson,
William Hugh Holbech (1882-1914), and by descent to his brother,
Ronald Herbert Acland Holbech (1887-1956), and by whom sold to the following,
with Savile Gallery, London.
with Tomás Harris, London, by 1932.
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, by 1939.
with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, by 1979.
with Dino Fabbri, New York, 1987.
with Harari & Johns, Ltd., until January 1987,
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above.
G. Nares, ‘Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire, II’, Country Life, 18 February 1954, pp. 430-3.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, I, Oxford, 1962, p. 117, note 3, pl. 38; II, pp. 256-7, no. 173; 2nd edition, II, revised by J.G. Links, Oxford, 1976, p. 270; 2nd edition, revised by J.G. Links, and with a supplement, II, Oxford, 1989, pp. 270 and 731.
L. Puppi, Opera completa di Canaletto, Milan, 1968, p. 104, no. 151, illustrated, dated to 1735-1737.
E. Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting in England 1737-1837, II, London, 1970, p. 179
G. Jackson-Stops, Farnborough Hall, London, 1981 and subsequent editions, p. 14.
A. Corboz, Canaletto, Una Venezia immaginaria, II, Milan, 1985, p. 640, no. P 267, illustrated.
M. Laskin, Jr. and M. Pantazzi, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada Ottowa: European and American Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts , I, Ottowa, 1987, p. 49.
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable’s Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, London, 1997, p. 18.
D.R. Marshall, 'Canaletto and Panini at Farnborough Hall,' Art Bulletin of Victoria, XLV, 2005, published online.
C. Beddington, Canaletto in England, A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755, exhibition catalogue, New Haven and London, 2006-7, p. 164, under no. 55, fig. 55.1.
D.R. Marshall, 'Revisiting Canaletto and Panini at Farnborough Hall', NGV Art Journal, VL, 2014, published online.
London, Savile Gallery, 1930, no. 6.
London, Tomás Harris, An Exhibition of Painting by Venetian Artists 16th and 18th centuries, June-July 1932, no. 5.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Old Masters: including important paintings by Guardi and Canaletto, November- December 1944, no. 3.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Eighteenth-Century Venice, 3 January-14 March 1951; 21 March-18 April 1951, no. 9.
Munich, München Residenz, Europäisches rokoko, 15 June-15 September 1958, no. 23.
London, Thomas Agnews & Sons, Old Master Paintings: Recent Aquistions, 7 June -27 July, 1979, no. 21, illustrated (frontispiece).
Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Canaletto: disegni, dipinti, incisioni, 1982, no. 93 (entry by J.G. Links).
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

Brought to you by

Elizabeth Seigel
Elizabeth Seigel Vice President, Specialist, Head of Private and Iconic Collections

Lot Essay

This major picture of one of the most celebrated sights of Venice was one of two commissioned shortly before 1750 from Canaletto by William Holbech (c. 1699-1771) to complement two others he had previously acquired for the Dining Room at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire (fig. 1).
The eighteenth-century visitor to Venice would have sailed down the Grand Canal and, as he approached Longhena’s great church, Santa Maria della Salute, would have had his first glimpse of the Bacino di San Marco, before landing on the Molo and seeing the great monuments of secular and spiritual Venice, the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica di San Marco. Beyond the church is seen the Dogana, and, across the Bacino, the Riva degli Schiavoni, with the church of the Pietȧ, the campaniles of San Giorgio dei Greci and San Giovanni in Bragora, with, to the right of these in the distance, the campanile and dome of San Pietro di Castello, which at the time was the Cathedral of Venice. In Canaletto's painting, the vessel behind the Dogana flies the flag of Austria (we are indebted to Bozena Anna Kowalczyk for this information), to which England had been allied in the recent War of Austrian Succession, as the artist would have known. As usual the artist took liberties to enhance his composition. André Corboz (loc. cit.) noted, for instance, that there are in fact sixteen steps in the upper flight to the church.
The picture was painted by Canaletto in London, as the grey ground and the roseate sky among other characteristics demonstrates. Despite his absence from Venice, his handling of the great dome of the Salute and the way the light falls on the structure is masterly. It was executed at the same time as a view from the Piazzetta with the southern bay of Sansovino’s Libreria, showing the Dogana and the Salute, and on the further side of the Zattere, the church of the Redentore, designed by Palladio (fig. 2; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Constable, op. cit., no. 128): the viewpoints of the two intersect, as so often with pendants supplied by the artist. But in this case their interlocking viewpoints had a further relevance. For Canaletto had previously painted for Holbech a pair of the same format, one (fig. 3) showing the three northern bays of the Libreria, the south side of the Piazza di San Marco with the Procuratie Nuove and the lower part of the Campanile from in front of the Basilica, the other (fig. 4) the north section of the façade of the Basilica and the Torre del’ Orologio (Augsburg, Stӓdtliche Kunstsammlungen, and Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada; Constable, op. cit., nos. 45 and 38).
Holbech was already in his thirties when he set out on a delayed Grand Tour in 1733. He met the connoisseur Joseph Spence and the traveler Richard Pococke respectively in Florence and in Rome, and is known to have been in Venice on 30 April 1734, his visit timed perhaps for the Ascension Day celebrations. A family tradition claimed that he bought his first pair of Canalettos in Venice, but although he evidently ordered an interior of the Pantheon by Panini, which is dated 1734 (New York, the late Asbjorn Lunde), the San Marco views must both on stylistic evidence be dated to the early 1740s as Charles Beddington (loc. cit., 2006-7) correctly notes. These were presumably ordered in connection with Holbech’s project to remodel Farnborough Hall, which had been purchased in 1684 for £8,700 by Ambrose Holbech. William Holbech, his grandson, inherited in 1717. The remodeling of the house may well have been envisaged long before it began to be realized; and the fact that Holbech ordered two further Canalettos suggests that he had not originally planned a room on the scale of the Saloon. Holbech probably employed the Warwick mason, William Hiorne, but has been thought to have taken advice from his neighbor and friend, Sanderson Miller, a gifted amateur architect, although he may have called in one of two lesser professionals, John Sanderson or William Jones. The new terrace had been laid out by 1742 and work on the house may have been begun in 1745: a carver was at work late in 1749 and the main rooms were evidently ready for plastering by 1750: the Yorkshire plasterer, William Perritt’s bill for the virtuoso stuccowork in the Hall, the Saloon, on the Staircase and in the Library, totaling £434 4s. 4d., is dated 14 November of that year. The work would presumably have been undertaken in the dry summer months. The pictures were no doubt installed when the plaster had had time to dry out that autumn.
By the time Canaletto painted this picture and its erstwhile companion for Holbech, it is likely that he had seen Farnborough and the unfinished Saloon, with Peckitt’s plaster frames. For early in 1748 he visited Warwick Castle, of which he was to paint a remarkable series of views in the ensuing years; and Warwick is no more than fourteen miles from Farnborough (see F. Russell, ‘Patterns of Patronage’, in C. Beddington, op. cit., 2006-7, p. 42). This picture and the view from the Piazzetta are, as Beddington states very probably of 1749-50, and were evidently placed in the frames prepared for these in the latter year. That the compositional weight of both is on the right demonstrates that Holbech intended these to hang not as a pair but as pendants to the two pictures he already owned, set diagonally opposite each other. The view of the Piazza San Marco and this picture, both lit from the right, were placed on the east wall, to the left and right of Panini’s overmantel of the Campidoglio, implying a light source through the windows on the south wall: and the other two, the Piazzetta and the view of the Bacino, both lit from the left, implying the direction of light from the windows, on either side of the central niche, on the opposite, west, wall.
Naturally Canaletto drew on earlier compositions when planning the picture. His earliest depiction of the view is at Dresden (Constable, op. cit., no. 168). The first picture to codify what was to become Canaletto’s definitive treatment of the subject is the canvas in the series of twelve Grand Canal views executed for Joseph, later Consul, Smith in the Royal Collection (Constable, op. cit., no. 170), which may be of 1729-30 and was engraved by Antonio Visentini for his Magnis Canalis Venetiarum (V) in 1735; the view is shown by afternoon light and shadows are brilliantly used to define spatial recession. A larger variant was subsequently supplied to Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle of Castle Howard (Constable, op. cit., no. 171), but for that supplied in the early 1740s for Smith himself (Royal Collection, Constable, op. cit., no. 174), Canaletto, evidently to differentiate this from his earlier picture, showed the view by morning light, so that the façade of the Salute is cast in shadow. Understandably Canaletto would return to his earlier use of light in this canvas, and in the late example formerly in the Neave collection (Constable, op. cit., no. 176). In the 1982 exhibition catalogue Links suggested that the artist may have used an impression of Visentini’s print as an aide memoire.
Canaletto adapted the composition to achieve the maximum impact in its intended plaster frame. He eliminated the left hand section of his earlier picture, thus emphasizing the scale of the Salute, no doubt in part to bring this into balance with the equally dominant buildings in the first pair supplied to Holbech. Moreover, after visiting Farnborough Canaletto must have been aware of his patron’s architectural interests and, very probably, that he had already ordered pictures of a pronounced architectural character from Panini to complement the interior of the Pantheon he had previously secured. Dated 1750, the pictures in question (figs. 5 and 6) were sold at Christie’s, New York, 30 January 2013, lots 42 and 43.
When the series of pictures was sold to the Savile Gallery, copies were made by Mohammed Ayoub to take their place. Nares recorded a family tradition that the copyist was in fact Chinese.

More from The Ann & Gordon Getty Collection: Volume 1 | Important Pictures and Decorative Arts, Evening Sale

View All
View All