After studying under Matthias Withoos, Gaspar van Wittel travelled to Rome where he is first recorded in 1675, as a member of the Dutch society of artists 'De Bentveughels'. Known as Vanvitelli, he spent most of his life in the Eternal City, although he did make several trips to northern Italy during the early 1690s and to Naples in 1700- 1701. He probably visited Venice for the first time in 1694; his first dated picture of that city is 1697 (G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, Milan, 1996, p. 125). Throughout his career he continued to paint views of Venice based on material he had compiled during his visits.
This view is taken from the centre of the Bacino di San Marco. On the extreme right of the painting part of the Doge's Palace is visible with the Piazzetta in front of it, and the imposing Libreria Marciana which was designed by Jacopo Sansovino in 1537. Behind this, the facade of the Zecca (the mint) is visible. The extended brick faade of the public granaries, with the fish market in front, had to make place for the Royal Gardens in 1808.
On the opposite side of the Grand Canal is the magnificent Church of S. Maria della Salute, designed by Baldassare Longhena in 1631 and completed in 1687. At the end of the Dorsoduro, marking the entrance of the Grand Canal, is the Dogana, designed by Giuseppe Benoni in 1677. Two large bronze Atlantis holding a golden globe, by Bernardo Falcone, are seen on the top of the loggia. On the left of the loggia is the Fondamenta delle Zattere. Beyond the Canal of the Giudecca is the Island of the Giudecca. On the extreme left is the faade of the Redentore, Andrea Palladio's most celebrated church, the construction of which started in 1577.
This painting, which has been in a private collection for over forty years, has hitherto not been published. Several versions exist, all showing slight differences particularly in the ships. Two of them are dated: one 1710 and the other 1721 (G. Briganti, op. cit., pp. 244-245, nos. 298-303). Another version also showing on the left the Church of the Redentore and on the right the the Doge's palace, is with Trafalgar Galleries, London.