This watercolour was painted on the same day, 13 November 1865, as the view of the Doge's Palace, lot 108; by now the extreme cold that inhibited Lear's work in the morning must have eased and the light greatly improved as the wonderfully clear, bright colours of this watercolour suggests. The main purpose of Lear's visit to Venice in 1865 was to paint an oil for Lady Waldegrave (see V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London, 1985, pp. 152-3 no. 59, illustrated): for this he used the present watercolour. The oil was painted in Malta in the winter of 1865-6. Lear also painted a second, watercolour version in the studio in 1866, for a Mr. W.N. Sturt (sold at Christie's London in July 1967, lot 104, illustrated).
On his first visit to Venice in 1857, Lear had disliked the city with its crowded buildings and lack of trees, but his views seem to have changed on his second visit. On the 16 November 1865, he wrote: 'Anything so incredibly beautiful as the color [sic] of the place I never saw' (Noakes, op.cit., p. 116, under no. 31), an appreciation admirably reflected in this watercolour.
The 'Iron bridge' referred to in Lear's inscription was built in 1854 (the second bridge, after the Rialto, to span the Grand Canal); it was replaced in 1932 by the wooden Accademia bridge, itself rebuilt in 1986.