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Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (1697-1768)
Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (1697-1768)

The Grand Canal, Venice, looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (1697-1768)
The Grand Canal, Venice, looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto
oil on canvas
18½ x 30 5/8in. (47 x 78cm.)
Joseph Smith (c. 1674-1770), Venice (British Consul 1744-60).
Pillsbury Collection, Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
with Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York, 1957.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Castagnola, Switzerland, for which acquired in 1959.
Acquired by the present owner from the above c. 1980.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford, 1962 (and subsequent editions), II, no. 246(a), as 'certainly by Canaletto' and datable '1730 or a little earlier' (see also p. 606 in the 1962 edition, p. 665 in later editions).
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, Milan, 1968, no. 120B.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Castagnola, 1969, p. 56, no. 52. J.G. Links, Views of Venice by Canaletto engraved by Antonio Visentini, Toronto and London, 1971, p. 52.
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, St. Albans, 1981, p. 44, under no. 120.
E. Martini, La pittura veneziana del Settecento, Udine, 1982, p. 81, colour pl. XX.
A. Corboz, Canaletto. Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan, 1985, II, p. 632, no. P 226.
D. Succi in the catalogue of the exhibition Canaletto & Visentini - Venezia & Londra, Cà Pesaro, Venice, 18 Oct. 1986-6 Jan. 1987, p. 240 and p. 47, fig. 28.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Collectie Thyssen Bornemisza, 1959-60, no. 98.
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1960, no. 98. Pfäffikon, Seedamm-Kulturzentrum, 18 June-27 Aug. 1978, and Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire, 13 Sept.-5 Nov. 1978, Art Vénitien en Suisse et au Liechtenstein, p. 180, no. 160, illustrated, p. 39, colour pl. IX (detail), and p. 213, under no. 217.

Lot Essay

Canaletto was at the peak of his career in the 1730s. Before the decade was much more than half through he had executed the famous series of no less than twenty-four canvases which remains intact at Woburn Abbey and the only slightly smaller series of twenty-one pictures which was dispersed by the Harvey Trustees in 1957. Despite the pressure of commissions, Canaletto was able to deliver in 1736 one of his greatest masterpieces, The Riva degli Schiavoni, looking West from San Biagio, painted for Marshal Schulenburg and now in Sir John Soane's Museum, London (Constable, op. cit., no. 122). At this stage the artist's style was still developing constantly and it is only in the works of the following decade that his prodigious output begins to reveal the use of studio assistants and a corresponding slackening of quality control. The present picture's cold tonality sets it apart from the sunlight-bathed scenes mentioned above. This and its exceptional attention to detail relate it to two paintings for which internal evidence suggests a dating around 1738. These are the great panoramic view of The Bacino di San Marco looking East in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (ibid., no. 131), which shows scaffolding still in place around the dome of the new campanile of the church of Sant' Antonin, for which final payment was made in the autumn of 1738, and The Grand Canal looking South-West from the Church of the Scalzi, with San Simeone Piccolo in the National Gallery, London (ibid., no. 259), which shows San Simeone Piccolo, consecrated on 27 April 1738, complete but before the removal of the workmen's hut.

It has been observed that Canaletto's abilities are often best represented by his views of lesser-known parts of Venice. This stretch of the Grand Canal between the church of San Stae (almost equidistant from the Scalzi and the Rialto) and the bend immediately before the Rialto Bridge, although well known to anyone who has travelled down the Grand Canal, has rarely been depicted in art. It is a testament to Canaletto's skills as well as to the city's resistance to change that the view remains much the same today, but for the removal of the picturesque chimneys and sailing vessels and the addition of a vaporetto stop at the Campo San Stae on the right. The scene is dominated by Domenico Rossi's sparkling white façade of 1709-10 of the church of Sant' Eustachio, always known as San Stae, surmounted by Antonio Corradini's statues of the Redeemer, Faith and Hope. The church still contains altarpieces painted for it in 1722 by Sebastiano Ricci, Piazzetta and Giambattista Tiepolo. Against its far flank is the small Scuola of the Gold-Beaters' Guild of 1711, from which the Ponte Giovanelli crosses the Rio di San Stae and leads to the Palazzo Coccina Giunti Foscarini Giovanelli, where Doge Marco Foscarini was born in 1695. The tall building which follows is the magnificent Ca' Pesaro. Designed by Baldassare Longhena and begun in 1652, this is one of the greatest Venetian Baroque palaces and now houses the Gallery of Modern Art. Canaletto has only hinted at the presence of two small houses which actually seperate this from Domenico Rossi's newly-built and almost equally imposing façade of the Palazzo Corner della Regina of 1724-7, named after Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, who was born in a house on the site in 1454. The view stretches beyond to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto. Most of the buildings on the North side of the Grand Canal are similarly immediately recognizable today. They include (from the far left) the Palazzi Barbarigo, Zulian, Ruoda and Gussoni Grimani della Vida and, after the Rio di Noale, the Palazzi Boldù Ghisi Contarini and Fontana Rezzonico (with the obelisks).

In the distance is the Palazzo Mangilli Valmarana which was to be remodelled in the 1740s to serve as the residence of the great marchand-amateur and newly appointed British Consul, Joseph Smith, who played such a leading role in advancing Canaletto's career by attracting English clients. Smith's publicity tool which reached the widest audience was the Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum, an album of Visentini's prints after Canaletto. The first edition of this, published in 1735, showed fourteen paintings by Canaletto which were, as the title-page stated, in Smith's house, and were to remain there until 1762. The twenty-four additional plates included in the second edition of 1742, however, almost all showed pictures which had already passed through Smith's hands, including three from the Woburn series and eight or nine from the Harvey series. The painting chosen to represent the Grand Canal at San Stae was not that in the Harvey series but the present work, which is thus identified as having the similar distinction of having been sold by Smith.

The picture from the Harvey series, now in a London private collection (ibid., no. 246) is Canaletto's only other depiction of this view.

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