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JOHANN RICHTER (STOCKHOLM 1665-1745 VENICE)

Venice, the Piazzetta looking north-west towards the Campanile, with the Biblioteca, the Procuratie Vecchie and the Torre dell'Orologio

Details
JOHANN RICHTER (STOCKHOLM 1665-1745 VENICE)
Venice, the Piazzetta looking north-west towards the Campanile, with the Biblioteca, the Procuratie Vecchie and the Torre dell'Orologio
oil on canvas
48 ¹/₈ x 63 ¹/₂ in. (122.3 x 161.3 cm.)
Provenance
Annie Cottenet Schermerhorn (1857-1926), wife of John Innes Kane (1850-1913), by whom bequeathed to the following,
The Cooper Union Museum, New York, by whom sold at the following,
Anonymous sale [The Property of an American Institution]; Sotheby's, London, 26 March 1969, lot 22, as 'Luca Carlevarijs', (£12,000, to Marshall).
with Colnaghi, London, 1974.
Private collection, Switzerland, by summer 1978.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 16 July 1980, lot 130, as 'Luca Carlevarijs'.
Anonymous sale [The Property of a Gentleman]; Christie's London, 24 May 1991, lot 73 as 'Luca Carlevarijs', for £451,000, where acquired by the seller at the following,
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 5 July 2017, lot 22, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
R. Palluchini, 'Due Vedute del Carlevarijs', Studi di Storia dell'Arte in onore di Vittorio Viale, Turin, 1967, pp. 52-56, fig. 3, as Luca Carlevarijs.
A. Rizzi, Luca Carlevarijs, Venice, 1967, pp. 63 and 92, fig. 154, as a collaborative work with unspecified collaborator.
R. Palluchini, 'Schede Venete Settecentesche', Arte Veneta, XXV, Venice 1971, pp. 163-64, note 20, as 'Luca Carlevarijs'.
E. Martini, La Pittura del Settecento Veneto, Udine, 1982, p. 489, note 116, as 'Luca Carlevarijs'.
I. Reale, 'Gio. Richter, svezzese, scolare di Luca Carlevariis', Luca Carlevarijs e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, exh. cat., Milan, 1994, pp. 118, 120 and 126, notes 15, 17 and 24, fig. 11, as Johann Richter.
Exhibition
Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada; and Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, 17 October 1964-28 February 1965, Canaletto, no. 130, as Luca Carlevarijs, with catalogue entry by W.G. Constable.
London, Colnaghi, Exhibition of Old Master Paintings, 21 May-22 June 1974, no. 3, as Luca Carlevarijs.
Pfäffikon, Seedamm-Kulturzentrum; and Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, 18 June 1978-5 November 1978, Art vénitien en Suisse et au Liechtenstein, no. 159, as Luca Carlevarijs.

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Lot Essay

This and the accompanying canvas exhibited here can be considered the masterpieces of Johan Richter, the Swedish born artist who, along with Luca Carlevarijs, was one of only two specialist view painters active in Venice before Canaletto. Both works are among the grandest in scale executed by the Scandinavian and display the distinctive and beguiling figure types, executed with a bright palette and vivacity, that characterise his work. Richter has been considered a highly innovative artist in the development of Venetian vedute painting. Although both canvases depict two views of the Piazzetta, one of the Republic’s most famous landmarks, Richter frequently painted Venice’s less celebrated views, away from San Marco and the Bacino. By doing so, the Scandinavian anticipates the work of Canaletto in a way that no other earlier artist had done.

This view of the Piazzetta, looking north-west, is dominated by the Campanile (Bell Tower) with Jacopo Sansovino’s Loggetta on its east side, both of which collapsed in 1902 and were subsequently rebuilt. To the left of the Bell Tower stands Sansovino’s Libreria, the architect’s masterpiece constructed in Istrian stone and begun in 1537 to accommodate the vast collection of manuscripts bequeathed to the Republic by the Greek Cardinal Bessarion of Trebizond in 1468. Cast in shadow, behind the Campanile stands the long arcade of Bartolomeo Bon the Younger’s Procuratie Vecchie, containing the apartments of the Procurators of San Marco, and, to its right, the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), designed by Mauro Codussi and completed in 1499. The view is completed on the east side with the south flank of the Basilica di San Marco.

When Richter arrived in Venice is unclear, but scholars of the artist’s work generally agree that he almost certainly entered the studio of Luca Carlevarijs soon after his arrival. By that time he was already a proficient painter of landscapes having studied in his native Stockholm with David Klocker Ehrenstahl and Johan Sylvius. Richter’s first documented Venetian works, showing The Piazza San Marco and the base of the Campanile and The Grand Canal with the Church of Santa Lucia, last recorded in the collection of the art historian Osvald Sirén in Stockholm, are said to be signed and dated on the reverse ‘Jean Richter Suezzese fece in Venezia l’anno 1717’. In December of that year, in a letter to the Florentine collector Francesco Gabburri, the painter Antonio Balestra described Richter’s work as,

‘…accomplished with great love… showing particular propensity for a finished quality’

Some of his early paintings in Venice are virtually indistinguishable from those of his presumed master Carlevarijs and many in fact, including these two canvases, were considered to be by Carlevarijs until recently (see literature, Reale, op. cit., 1994). It is, however, the series of seven engravings by Bernhard Vogel after paintings by Richter from which we learn most. These engravings, discovered and published relatively recently by Isabella Reale, are clearly inscribed ‘IOANNES RICHTER PINXIT VENET’ (op. cit., 1994). Five of the engraved views are taken from or looking at the Piazzetta in different directions, one a panoramic, distant view of the city from the Bacino and the last a view of San Michele di Murano.

While perhaps not the picture from which it was made, the present lot is, as Reale observed, very closely related to Vogel’s engraving. The picture however includes an additional five bays of the Libreria on one side and the corner of the Basilica di San Marco on the other. While the staffage does not correspond precisely and each figure is in fact different to what would be his or her counterpart in the engraving, their placement within the Piazzetta does largely correspond, both in the foreground and the background. The engraving is more closely related to two canvases on a much smaller scale: one sold Sotheby’s, London, 10 July 2002, lot 76; the other sold Christie’s, New York, 24 January 2003, lot 164, though even in those works there are many departures from the engraving. Reale reproduces a further painting in a private collection with a similar correspondence to the engraving as the present lot (op. cit., 1994, p. 120, fig 11). Rizzi catalogued both that and the present picture as by Carlevarijs with the aid of a collaborator (op. cit., 1967). His recognition of these two works as having been executed in part by another hand was, in a way, the first step towards the reattribution to Richter nearly three decades later.