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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

San Geremia and the Entrance to the Cannaregio c.1726-7

Oil on canvas | 78.5 x 47.2 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 400532

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  • This is one of a series of twelve views by Canaletto of the Grand Canal which are all the same format. The pictures form the basis of the fourteen engraved plates in Visentini's 'Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum' (Venice, 1735), thus providing an uncontested date for completion. It is thought that they originated in the years around 1730. The paintings were all acquired by George III with the collection of Consul Smith.

    At the centre of the composition is the mouth of the canal of Cannaregio, heading north-west from the Grand Canal towards the lagoon, and at that time the principal route from central Venice to the mainland. The canal is spanned by the sixteenth-century Ponte delle Guglie ('of the obelisks'), painted excessively large to hold the centre of the composition. Beyond the bridge is the Ghetto, built high up because of shortage of land. To the left is the rear of the church of San Geremia with its thirteenth-century belltower, more slender than in reality. The belltower survives, but the church was rebuilt in 1753-60 by Carlo Corbellini and its clumsy mass now dominates the waterfront. Abutting the belltower is Palazzo Labia, built over several decades from the mid-seventeenth century. Canaletto has dramatised the view, giving the Palazzo Querini on the right a more pronounced and angled façade and raising its height compared to the Palazzo Labia opposite.The buildings on the right are 'opened out', as if from a point on the Riva di Biasio to the left of the principal view, which makes the waterside façades visible on both sides. The bridge is brought closer and the buildings enlarged in the Ghetto beyond.


    The composition corresponds in most details with a drawing of the same view, dated 16 July 1734, which is however not a study for this painting but a later derivation. The most significant difference is the building second from the right: here it is a humble two-storey brick building; in the drawing it has been transformed into the modern three-storey, five-bay Palazzo Emo. This proved to be a popular composition, with at least eight repetitions and many subsquent versions.

    The painting was altered in later years by Canaletto, who added the balustrade on the waterfront, with a statue of St John of Nepomuk by Giovanni Marchiori (1696-1778) at the corner. According to an inscription on the base of the extant statue, it was erected in 1742; Visentini's engraving was similarly reworked for the second edition of the Prospectus, published in the same year, and it is thus likely that Canaletto's alteration to the painting was carried out almost as soon as the balustrade and statue were erected. Why he or Smith should have been so keen to make this alteration is unknown, as they evidently felt no need to 'update' Palazzo Emo. The only comparable instance is the transformation of the façade of Smith's own palazzo, and perhaps Smith had some involvement in the commissioning of Marchiori's statue.

    Catalogue entry adapted from Canaletto in Venice, London, 2005.

    Provenance

    Joseph Smith; from whom bought by George III

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    78.5 x 47.2 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    65.5 x 96.9 x 10.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    S. Geremia and the Entrance to the Cannaregio