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Canaletto's Drawings

A drawing of the Bacino in Venice. On the far left is Santa Maria della Salute. On the opposite side of the water the Granai, Zecca, Libreria, Campanile and Palazzo Ducale are visible. The Doge's galley, the Bucintoro is moored in front of the Piazzetta i

Venice: The Bacino looking west on Ascension Day ©

The majority of the drawings in this exhibition are independent works of art, rather than studies for paintings. They were drawn in Canaletto’s studio, either on the basis of detailed studies made ‘on the spot’– the same studies that also served for Canaletto’s paintings –or as imaginary compositions.

The compositions were usually drawn with a quill pen over an underdrawing of ruled and freehand pencil lines. Occasional pin holes in the surface of the paper show how Canaletto measured out the compositions and constructed the perspectives. Some of the drawings are finished with the application of grey or brown washes. Though the buildings were rigorously laid out, Canaletto populated his scenes with small figures drawn in a familiar shorthand of looped lines.

Many of the drawings fall into distinct series, identical in size, style and technique. They were kept in an album in the library of Canaletto’s patron, Joseph Smith, rather than being framed and hung in the light, and are thus in wonderful condition.