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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Grand Canal looking West with the Scalzi and San Simeone Piccolo c.1726-27

Oil on on canvas | 47.3 x 79.4 x 1.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407267

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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.

    The view is now interrupted by the bridge before the railway station, the Ponte degli Scalzi, first built in 1858, which would span the immediate foreground of the painting. To the right is the church of Santa Maria di Nazareth, always known as the Scalzi (literally 'shoeless') as it was the church of the barefoot Carmelites, built after 1654 to the plans of Longhena, with a baroque façade added by Giuseppe Sardi after 1672. Canaletto has captured the general layout of the façade but many of the details are inaccurate, especially the gesturing statues that bear no resemblance to those on the church. The buildings beyond, including the church of Santa Lucia, were demolished in 1861 to make way for the railway station.

    In the left distance is the pitched-roof church of Santa Croce. To the left is San Simeone Piccolo, and at far left are Palazzo Foscari-Contarini and Casa Adoldo, the latter with a gothic façade. San Simeone's portico was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, and its elegant dome by Longhena's church of Santa Maria della Salute. Blocks of stone still lie before San Simeone, under construction from 1718 and consecrated in 1738. A painting of the later 1730s in the National Gallery, London of the same view from a little further back shows the church fully finished, with the stones cleared away and steps cut in the quay.

    Canaletto has condensed the composition by halving the number of buildings between San Simeone and Santa Croce to bring the distant buildings closer to the viewer, and by narrowing the Grand Canal. It is clear that the two sides of the composition were studied separately, and in fact they seem mismatched, with the right half sitting at a lower level than the left half.

    As with several other paintings in this series, Canaletto later repainted the sky to give the group a more uniform appearance. X-rays have revealed that the sky originally had the more dramatic cloud formations seen in the corresponding Visentini engraving.

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

    Joseph Smith; from whom bought by George III

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on on canvas

    Measurements

    47.3 x 79.4 x 1.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    68.0 x 99.8 x 10.1 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Grand Canal with the Scalzi and S. Simeone Piccolo

    The Scalzi and S. Simeone Piccolo, looking west