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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Piazza from the Piazzetta with the Campanile and the South Side of San Marco Signed and dated 1744

Oil on canvas | 78.1 x 121.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 400516

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  • This painting is one of four, all in the Royal Collection, which are signed and dated 1743 or 1744 and engraved by Antonio Visentini (1688-1782). It is the companion piece to The Piazza and Piazzetta from the Torre Dell'Orologio towards San Giorgio (RCIN 400513). All four were engraved as in Joseph Smith's collection, possibly before his appointment as Consul in June 1744, since that title is omitted from his name. It is thought that the group of four engravings was published by G. B. Pasquali at Smith's expense. Visentini's original drawing is in the Museo Correr.
     
    The view is from a high viewpoint and several views are combined to make a comprehensive panorama that would be impossible from a single vantage point. On the left is the imposing façade of Sansovino's Libreria of San Marco, completed by Scamozzi after his death; in the centre are much of the west end of the Piazza and the Procuratie Vecchie behind the Campanile; and on the right, a view of the south-west corner of San Marco. Maximilien Misson, the French writer and traveller, described the Piazza and Piazzetta of San Marco as the 'Soul and Glory of the City', where Venice's cosmopolitan society gathered. This painting can be dated to the early summer of 1744, so we are looking at the 15-day Festa della Sensa, celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, an important time of celebration. The scene is full of traders and many of the figures wear the short black cloaks, white masks, black silk or lace scarves and black tricorn hats of carnival dress. On small stages, street players perform masques (mommarie) and mountebanks give performances or advertise their wares.

    The architecture shows a clinical precision of detail which tends towards abstraction, yet the different coloured stones and carvings on the façade of San Marco are subtly and realistically described. Contrasting with the dramatic deep shadows, particularly cast by the massive Campanile, is the sunlight across the scene, highlighting the complex and ancient sculpture and architecture of San Marco. 

    Signed and dated lower left: Ant. Canal Fecit. MDCCXLIV.

    Adapted from Canaletto & the Art of Venice, London, 2017.
    Provenance

    Acquired in 1762 by George III from Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice (Italian List nos 98-9); recorded in the Gallery at Kew in 1805 (no 2)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    78.1 x 121.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    102.5 x 143.9 x 14.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Venice: The Piazza from the Piazzetta with the Campanile and side of S. Marco

    San Marco and the Campanile