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The Grand Canal Drawings

Canaletto’s paintings on the Grand Canal executed for Joseph Smith in the 1720s were followed a few years later by a set of finished drawings, recording the views from six points on the canal. They are perhaps the most accomplished pen drawings of Canaletto’s whole career, with a brilliance and density revealing an artist at the height of his powers.

The drawings were composed from twenty-five successive pages of a sketchbook compiled some years before. The buildings are solidly constructed in rigorous perspective with regular patches of parallel hatching, contrasting with the rounded figures and boldly drawn boats in the foreground, the horizontal scribble of the water, and the varied hatching of the sky.