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

The Grand Canal, Venice, looking east from the Campo di San Vio, with the Palazzo Corner, barges and gondolas, the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, the Dogana and the Riva degli Schiavoni beyond

Giovanni Antonio Canal, il Canaletto (1697-1768)
The Grand Canal, Venice, looking east from the Campo di San Vio, with the Palazzo Corner, barges and gondolas, the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, the Dogana and the Riva degli Schiavoni beyond
oil on canvas
18¼ x 30¼in. (46.5 x 76.8cm.)
Sir John Brownlow, Bart., 1st Viscount Tyrconnel (1690-1754), Arlington Street, St. James's, London, by 1738.
His sister and heiress Anne (1694-1779), widow of Sir Richard Cust, by whom removed to Belton House, Lincolnshire, and by descent there through her grandson and heir, Sir Brownlow Cust, 1st Baron Brownlow (1744-1807), to Peregrine Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow, by whom sold in 1955.
with Leggatt Brothers, London, 1955-6, when acquired by the present owner.
The Goods belonging to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Tyrconnel in his Lordship's House in Arlington Street, St. James's, London, taken the 22nd and following days in May 1738, Ms. in the Belton Archives, Lincolnshire Record Office, either one of 'Two views of Venice' in the Great Parlour or one of 'Two prospects of Venice by Canaletti' in the Dining Room.
Inventory of Pictures of the Right Honle Viscount Tyrconnel, deceased, taken in Arlington Street, St. James, 2nd day of April 1754, Ms., one of 'Two views of Venice. Canaletto' in the Back Parlour (Ground floor drawing room).
Mr Patch's Account of the pictures at Belton, Ms., 1779 or shortly after, among four pictures described as 'Canaletti - A view in Venice'.
The Hon. Elizabeth Cust, A Catalogue of the Pictures at Belton House, Ms., circa 1805-6, no. 21, described as 'Canaletti - View of Venice: The grand Canal from the Palace of Cornaro to the Custom House' in the Red Drawing Room.
Lady Elizabeth Cust, Records of the Cust Family, II, The Brownlows of Belton, 1909, p. 232 (transcript of the 1754 inventory).
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, 1962, II, pp. 261-2, no. 185.
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, 1968, p. 96, no. 72B.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, 2nd ed. revised by J.G. Links, 1976, II, p. 276, no. 185, and p. 279, under no. 192.
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, 1981, p. 24, under no. 56.
F. Russell, The Picture Collection at Belton in the catalogue of Christie's Belton House Sale, 30 April-2 May 1984, p. 162.
M. Lucco in Pinacoteca di Brera: Scuola veneta, ed. C. Pirovano, 1990, p. 99.
M. Levey, The Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 2nd ed., 1991, p. 27, under no. 387.
G.T.M. Shackelford in the catalogue of the exhibition A Gift to America: Masterpieces of European Painting from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Seattle Art Museum; and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1994-5, p. 225, note 10.
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable's Canaletto, 1997, p. 23, under no. 222.
Padua, Luca Carlevarijs e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, 25 September-26 December 1994, p. 266, no. 84 and p. 269 illustrated in color.

Lot Essay

The view eastwards from the Campo di San Vio of the last stretch of the Grand Canal before it opens into the Bacino di San Marco takes in several of the city's most prominent buildings. From this vantage point, those lining the north side of the canal are dominated by the Palazzo Corner, among the most magnificent of all Venetian palaces; begun circa 1545, it was designed by Jacopo Sansovino for the Corner, the richest and one of the most distinguished of Venetian families. This is followed by the Palazzi Minotto and Barbarigo (one entirely, the other partly hidden by Palazzo Corner), Manin Contarini, Venier Contarini, Pisani Gritti (now the Gritti Palace Hotel) and Contarini Flangini Fini. On the south side, the line of houses stretching from Palazzo Barbarigo in the right foreground to the Punta della Dogana includes the jewel-like Palazzo Dario, begun circa 1487. Set slightly back, but with its dome rising above the roofs, is the church of Santa Maria della Salute, Baldassare Longhena's masterpiece, begun in 1631 and consecrated in 1687.

This view of the Grand Canal was Canaletto's personal favorite, to judge from the number of times he painted it. A dozen versions are known. (To those catalogued by Constable as prime versions, his nos. 182-92, should be added his no. 190(a), sold at Christie's, London, 10 July 1992, and now in a private collection, U.S.A., and his no. 191(b) in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, which has been revealed as autograph by a recent cleaning.) These range in size from the large canvas in the Museo Thyssen, Madrid, one of the artist's earliest known view paintings, to the copper plate in the collection of the Earl of Leicester at Holkham Hall. In all of them a high level of quality is maintained, and there is an unusual degree of variation between most of the versions. This and the fact that Canaletto seems to have stopped painting the subject less than halfway through his career -- as if he had exhausted its possibilities and wished to save it from formulaic repetition -- suggests that it held a particular fascination for him. This version, datable to the mid-1730s, is unusual in being closely related to another, that of circa 1728 from the collection of Consul Smith now in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen (Constable, op. cit., no. 184). The present painting follows that in size, in the architecture and in the positions of the main boats, but differs in the forms of the boats, figures, clouds and innumerable other details, as well as in style.

The painting is one of the least known of Canaletto's mature masterpieces. It has always been hidden in private collections, and although it was seen by W.G. Constable in the mid 1950s on the only occasion that it has ever changed hands, he curiously neglected to illustrate it in his monograph. This omission was not rectified by J.G. Links in his subsequent editions of the book, and the first - and only - time that it has been reproduced was in the catalogue of the 1994 Luca Carlevarijs exhibition. It was then thought to be previously unrecorded, but its identification as Constable's no. 185, sold by Lord Brownlow in 1955, has recently been confirmed from photographs in the Constable-Links archive (now with the present writer). Constable speculated that this painting may have come into the possession of the Brownlow family with the collection of Sir Abraham Hume (1749-1838), father-in-law of the 1st Earl Brownlow, who did own Constable nos. 309 and 376. The painting's history can, in fact, be established with a rare degree of completeness, and it can now be demonstrated that it was already in the Brownlow collection more than a century earlier, only a few years after its date of execution.

It is recorded as early as May 1738 in an inventory of the collection of Sir John Brownlow, Bart., 1st Viscount Tyrconnel, in his house in Arlington Street, St. James's, London. Brownlow, who must have been the first owner of the painting, if he did not actually commission it, had succeeded his father as 5th baronet in 1701, at the age of ten, and made a brief Grand Tour of Italy in the company of his governor, R. Latreille between December 1710 and July 1711 (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, 1997, p. 142). He arrived in Venice on 5 December for the carnival and is next recorded in Rome the following April. After his return he married his cousin Eleanor Brownlow in 1712, and the following year was elected a member of Parliament, a position he was to hold until 1741. After a period of financial difficulties, circa 1715-17, Brownlow's fortunes improved and he became better able to satisfy his appetite for pomp and show. He was elevated to the Irish peerage as Viscount Tyrconnel in 1718 and created one of the first new knights of the recently revived Order of the Bath in 1725. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1735 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1740.

Tyrconnel was a notable collector. He is remembered above all for (presumably) commissioning Philippe Mercier's Belton Conversation Piece; painted in 1725-6, this shows him and his family in front of Belton House, Lincolnshire, which he had inherited in 1721 from his aunt (and mother-in-law) Alice, Lady Brownlow (see A. Laing, catalogue of the exhibition In Trust for the Nation: Paintings from National Trust Houses, National Gallery, London, 22 November 1995-10 March, 1996, pp. 54-5, no. 17, illustrated in color). Immediately after his second marriage in 1732 he used some of his new wife's money to carry out alterations and improvements to the Arlington Street house (see Lady Elizabeth Cust, op. cit., p. 195). Many of the 152 paintings recorded there in 1738 were bought from London dealers, who included a Count Viani (for some of them, see Christie's Belton House Sale, 1994, lots 544-56).

Tyrconnel may have been inspired by memories of his Grand Tour to acquire a small group of views of Venice. This painting was accompanied until 1956 by a pendant showing The Grand Canal, looking South-West from the Rialto Bridge to the Palazzo Foscari, Constable, op. cit., no. 222), last recorded at Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1979, lot 10. That painting is also related to one then in the collection of Joseph Smith and now in that of Her Majesty the Queen; this suggests that this pair of circa 1735 may have been commissioned on the basis of Visentini's engravings published in that year, and that Smith may have been involved. Tyrconnel also seems to have acquired (at least) two paintings by Marieschi. Views of The Doge's Palace from the Bacino di San Marco and The Grand Canal with the Fondaco dei Turchi (F. Montecuccoli degli Erri and F. Pedrocco, Michele Marieschi: La vita, l'ambiente, l'opera, 1999, pp. 248-9, nos. 29-30, both illustrated) would seem to be the unattributed 'Two views of Venice' of the 1738 inventory (see under Literature above) and the '2 views of Venice by Marieschi & Chenerole [i.e. Cimaroli]' recorded in the Dining Room at Arlington Street in the 1754 inventory; they are presumably also the other two of the four paintings described as 'Canaletti - A view in Venice' listed in the same room at Belton as the present painting and its companion by Mr. Patch in circa 1779. After Tyrconnel's death, all the Arlington Street paintings were removed by his sister and heir, Anne, Lady Cust, to Belton, where the view paintings were to remain until their sale by her descendant in the 1950s and 1960s.

A pair of studio copies of the present picture and its pendant was sold at Sotheby's, London, 6 December 1995, lot 134.

I am indebted to Alastair Laing for providing the details of the documentation of the Tyrconnel provenance.

Dario Succi has requested the loan of this painting for th Canaletto exhibition to be held at the Centro de Cultura Contemporanea, Barcelona, February-April 2001.
Charles Beddington

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