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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

Venice: Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo c.1735-40

Pen and ink, over free and ruled pencil and pinpointing | 27.1 x 37.9 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 907481

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  • A drawing of Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. The church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo is on the right hand side of the composition, casting a dramatic shadow onto the building of the Scuola Grande di San Marco in the centre. In front of the church is the Verrocchio's equestrian monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni.

    At the centre is the ornate late fifteenth-century façade, in coloured marbles with trompe-l’oeil arcades in the lower arches, of the Scuola Grande di San Marco, suppressed in 1807 and now part of the city hospital. To the right is the huge gothic brick church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (in Venetian dialect San Zanipolo), built between 1234 and 1430 and the burial place of many of the greatest Venetians. Running up the left of the composition is the Rio dei Mendicanti; at the right is Andrea del Verrocchio’s equestrian monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni, mercenary leader of the Venetian forces. On his death in 1475 Colleoni left a large bequest to the Republic, with the condition that his monument be placed in front of the basilica of San Marco. After much debate the Senate wilfully misinterpreted the terms of the bequest and allowed the erection of the monument in front of the Scuola of the same name, a less prestigious site. The scene has changed little in five centuries.

    Canaletto constructed his view from a first-floor window of a house on the south side of the Campo, but in reality the façades of those houses rise from a line corresponding with the lower edge of the drawing. He has thus rendered the foreground buildings ‘invisible’ to take in an angle of some 120° without having to resort to extreme perspectival effects. Canaletto first painted the composition as early as 1725 and he and Bellotto repeated it several times, sometimes expanding the view even further.

    Catalogue entry adapted from Canaletto in Venice, London, 2005

    Purchased by George III from Consul Joseph Smith, 1762

  • Medium and techniques

    Pen and ink, over free and ruled pencil and pinpointing


    27.1 x 37.9 cm (sheet of paper)