Luca Carlevarijs was born at Udine, the son of a minor painter who died when he was a child, moving to Venice with his sister in 1679 when he was sixteen years old. Little is known of his life or work before he had reached the age of forty, but in 1703 he published Le Fabriche, e Vedute di Venetia, a set of 104 etchings which had an enormous success and influence, being used as a compositional sourcebook by Venetian view painters for several following decades. He himself first emerges as a painter of views in 1704, but by the end of the first decade of the century he had executed the masterpieces now at Birmingham, Schleissheim and Frederiksborg, in the J. Paul Getty Museum at Malibu and in the Lehman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. With works such as these he established in Venice a genre of painting which was to grow with the appetite of the market as the century progressed until it became the pre-eminent genre for which eighteenth-century Venetian painting is known. Carlevarijs was to remain the unrivalled master of Venetian vedutismo until the mid-1720s. By 1728, when progressive paralysis put an end to his career, it was clear to contemporaries that his successor had already appeared in the form of the young Canaletto.
The present paintings, generally dated to the second decade of the century (see Morassi, loc. cit., and Rizzi, loc. cit., 1967), show to what an extent Carlevarijs's achievements anticipate those of Canaletto. While one of the views is of a composition he had himself established as early as 1703 in one of the plates of Le Fabbriche, e Vedute di Venetia (Fig. a), the pairing of these two views of the Molo was one which Canaletto was to particularly favour. Carlevarijs's novel interest in capturing the life of the city as well as its buildings is shown by the attention given to the figures. A surviving group of forty-nine oil studies of figures, themselves worked up from drawings, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. These were used by the artist throughout his career and a number of figures in the present paintings are taken from them (see Fig. b and Rizzi, op. cit., 1967, bozzetti figs. 24, 38 and 47).
Given the scarcity of information on the patronage of Carlevarijs, and view painting in general at this early date, the early history of the present paintings is of particular interest. No attempt has hitherto been made to investigate their provenance before their sale, along with the contents of Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, in 1896. There can be little room for doubt, however, that they had been inherited, along with Shobdon Court, Herefordshire, by his father from his first cousin once removed, John, 2nd Viscount Bateman, who died without issue in 1802. The latter's father, William Bateman (c. 1695-1744) is recorded as having formed a great collection of paintings on his travels but the connection with the 1896 sale at Christie's seems never to have been previously noticed. The son of a notably rich Lord Mayor of London, William Bateman was on his Grand Tour in 1718, visiting Venice for the Carnival in January before moving on to Padua in February and subsequently Rome, where he is recorded in June and August (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 59). Evidently he did not miss the opportunity of acquiring or commissioning souvenirs of his Venetian visit from the leading practitioner in the field.