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Details of gondola on a Venice canal
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Canaletto's Paintings

Smith first met Canaletto in the early 1720s, and quickly spotted his potential. Their relationship developed into an unofficial partnership of mutual benefit, and a friendship that was to last for over 40 years.

Canaletto’s paintings of Venetian views found a lucrative market among the British Grand Tourists in Venice who wanted paintings of the city to take back to Britain as souvenirs. Smith acted as Canaletto’s agent, liaising between artist and patron, handling payments and shipping works to Britain. At the same time Smith commissioned many paintings from Canaletto for his own collection, such as the series of 12 paintings of the Grand Canal that promoted his work to the many visitors Smith received in his palazzo.

Smith also supported Canaletto in more difficult times: in the 1740s the War of the Austrian Succession disrupted the steady stream of visitors to Venice, and as the artist’s workload declined, Smith commissioned a series of monumental views of Rome and a set of overdoor paintings. In 1746 Smith arranged for Canaletto to travel to Britain, where he stayed for almost ten years.

By 1762, when his collection was sold to George III, Joseph Smith had amassed the greatest collection in existence of paintings and drawings by Canaletto.

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