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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Benavides garden, Padua with a classical arch and a statue of Hercules c.1742-5

Pencil, pen and ink and wash | 34.2 x 54.2 cm | RCIN 907563

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A drawing of a classical triumphal arch with a staircase leading away to the left. A gentleman standing on the right looking right and another by the arch. On the right is a colossal statue of Hercules on a plinth. Behind is a section of a classical building with columns and a balustrade visible on the right. The drawing is made up of two separate sheets of paper, which are now mounted as one drawing. Parker catalogued the pieces of paper separately as cats. 142 and 143 (RL 7563 and 7539). The garden was identified by Corboz (1985, p.119) as that constructed during the sixteenth century in the Palazzo Mantova Benavides in Padua, built by Bartolomeo Ammanati in 1544-6, featuring a triumphal arch and a collosal statue of Hercules. Canaletto has taken some liberties with the form of the arch, and the staircase to the left and pavilion to the right are inventions, but the general disposition of the main features is accurate. The drawing is now composed of two pieces of paper, which came to George III on the pages of different Smith albums. While the left-hand portion was mounted in the Canaletto album, the right-hand portion was mounted at the end of an album of prints and drawings by Antonio Visentini. The preceding two folios of that album bore two further drawings that were catalogued by Parker as by Canaletto (RL 7540 and 7508), though it has recently been claimed with good reason that they are in fact the work of Canaletto's nephew and pupil Bernado Bellotto. No such suspicion can attach to either portion of the present drawing, whose execution carries all the habitual marks of Canaletto. It is probable that the right portion was cut off, possibly by Canaletto himself, to salvage a moderately successful composition - the left portion with the arch - from a sheet which was somewhat lopsided, and which also revealed Canaletto's discomfiture in drawing a figure larger than his accustomed inch-high shorthand. A small area of foliage was scratched out either side of the join, to the left of Hercules's neck. Perhaps wishing to keep his Canaletto album 'pure', Smith mounted the discarded fragment with the two Bellotto sheets at the end of the Visentini album for want of anywhere else to put them. Like Canaletto's magnificent drawing of 'A capriccio with a monumental staircase' (RL 7564), which has very similar dimensions, this must have been one of the last to have been drawn for Smith before the sale of his collection to George III. The two parts of the present drawing were reunited in 1979. Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004