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Drawings of the Grand Canal

Canaletto also made a series of drawings of various points along the Grand Canal. They mainly show different viewpoints to the twelve paintings and were intended as a finished series in their own right.

The drawings appear as if they have been drawn from a boat in the centre of the Grand Canal, with the buildings on each side converging to the horizon. In fact they were carefully put together in the studio, probably as a gift or commission for Joseph Smith.

Canaletto began by making outline studies in sketchbooks that he carried with him around the city. One of these sketchbooks survives in the Accademia in Venice. He added useful notes to himself about materials or colours: 'B' for bianco or white, 'R' for rosso or red; sporco signified 'dirty'.

In the studio Canaletto used his sketchbook studies as a guide. Infrared imaging shows the extent of his careful underdrawing. The roofs and façades of the buildings are drawn out with a ruler, and vertical lines extend into the water for the corresponding reflections. These meticulous guidelines were almost entirely obscured by pen and ink in the finished sheet.

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