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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

Venice: San Giorgio Maggiore c.1735-40

Pen and ink, over a little ruled and free pencil and pinpointing | 26.8 x 37.7 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 907482

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  • A drawing of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. In the foreground two figures stand on the quayside and look across the water towards the church.

    The island of San Giorgio lies 400 metres to the south of the Palazzo Ducale, across the Bacino. A primitive church dedicated to St George became the home of a Benedictine monastery in 982; this was rebuilt several times before Andrea Palladio first remodelled the refectory, then in 1565 presented a model for a new church. Much of the body of the new church was completed before Palladio’s death in 1580, but the façade in Istrian stone was not begun until 1599, and it is unclear how faithful this was to Palladio’s designs. The monastery was suppressed during the Napoleonic occupation, and the buildings adjacent to the church were used as a military magazine and as warehouses. They were restored and ceded to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in 1951, since when they have been the venue for several notable exhibitions of Canaletto’s work.

    Standing opposite the Molo and Riva, San Giorgio Maggiore occupies the most prominent site of any church in Venice. The rounded quayside in the foreground of the present drawing, and the panorama of the Riva to the left, imply that the view was taken from the Punta della Dogana, the easternmost point of Dorsoduro. But from that point San Giorgio is seen from slightly to the right of its central axis; in the drawing the church is seen as if from the Fondamenta della Farina, to the left of its axis. This ‘long shot’ of the church, from a distance of 500 metres, combined with the wide-angle view of the church’s setting, greatly reduces the apparent width of the Bacino.

    A related painting was sold at Christie's in London 10 December 1993, lot 68.

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

    Purchased by George III from Consul Joseph Smith, 1762

  • Medium and techniques

    Pen and ink, over a little ruled and free pencil and pinpointing

    Measurements

    26.8 x 37.7 cm (sheet of paper)