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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Piazza looking north-west with the narthex of San Marco c.1723-4

RCIN 907444

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A drawing of a view in Piazza San Marco in Venice. On the right is the narthex (vestibule) of the basilica of San Marco. On the left is the edge of the Loggetta and the Campanile. In the centre is part of the Procuratie Vecchie. Canaletto’s viewpoint can be located precisely, standing against the north of the west arcade of the Palazzo Ducale. The Campanile (shortened to include a section of the bell-storey) runs up the left side of the composition, with awnings against Sansovino’s Loggetta. The south wall of the narthex (vestibule) of San Marco is on the right, built out at this point as an open single-bay arcade with two stages of columns. By the corner column is loosely indicated the stump of porphyry known as the Pietra del Bando, from which decrees were proclaimed. One of two sixth-century pillars, supposedly brought from Acre in 1256, stands at the lower right edge. Beyond, the arcades of the Procuratie Vecchie recede into the distance. A portion of the western range of the Piazza is shown, though in reality the corner of the Piazza cannot be seen from this viewpoint. A couple of figures sit or stand under the arcade of the narthex, but the drawing is otherwise unpopulated, and the afternoon sun casts the shadow of the Campanile across the foreground. In the painting (Royal Collection,RCIN 401037), Canaletto first laid in then eliminated the Campanile, leaving a ghostly line down the left edge of the picture. The foreground shadow was replaced with bright light from a midday sun, giving prominence to the large figures introduced in the foreground, including a senator or procurator with his entourage, and an official standing at the Pietra del Bando. Catalogue entry adapted from Canaletto in Venice, London, 2005