Nerly's formal artistic education began in 1823 under Carl Friedrich Freiher von Rumohr, a writer, scholar, draftsman and art collector who not only introduced the young artist to the highest social circles, but also encouraged him to study from life.
In 1828 Nerly travelled to Italy with his mentor, an experience that left a permanent mark on the artist. It is here that he changed his name to Nerly (he was born Friedrich Nerlich), a pronunciation closer to the Italian language. When von Rumohr decided to return to Germany, Nerly headed for Rome, where he remained for the following six years, soon becoming an prominent figure within the community of German artists. Thereafter he moved to Venice, where he married a local woman and settled for the rest of his life.
Depicting one of Nerly's favourite views, the present work is one of several variations of this composition. From his studio in the Palazzo Pisani, near the Campo San Stefano, a popular meeting point for the Venetians, the artist was stimulated by breathtaking views of the romantic city. Having become acquainted with Joseph Mallord William Turner, who worked in Venice between 1819 and 1821, Nerly's realism absorbed an element of romanticism, as he used light to new dramatic effect in his panoramas.
In this beautiful painting, Nerly portrays the city towards the end of the day on the Grand Canal, before Santa Maria della Salute, the water rippled by a light breeze. On the right, next to the Doge's Palace, are the Marco and Todaro columns, leading along the Molo via the Library, the Zecca and the State Grain Storage Houses all the way to the entrance of the Grand Canal. The Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute both feature to the left of the canal entrance.