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Canaletto (Venice 1697-Venice 1768)

The Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute looking towards the Carità c.1729-30

Oil on canvas | 47.7 x 79.1 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 400519

Cumberland Art Gallery, Large Light Closet, Hampton Court Palace

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This is one of a series of twelve views by Canaletto of the Grand Canal which are all the same format. The pictures form the basis of the fourteen engraved plates in Visentini’s ‘Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum’ (Venice, 1735), thus providing an uncontested date for completion. It is thought that they originated in the years around 1730. The paintings were all acquired by George III with the collection of Consul Smith.

On the left is the Dogana da Mar, the customs house established at the eastern tip of the sestiere (literally a ‘sixth’ of the city) of Dorsoduro in the fifteenth century, and rebuilt around 1680 by Giuseppe Benon, as work on Santa Maria della Salute reached completion. Crowning the low tower at the Punta della Dogana is a bronze sculpture by Bernardo Falcone, of male nudes supporting a gilded globe, surmounted by an allegorical figure of Fortune holding a sail, an appropriate symbol for the customs house of a state whose wealth depended on maritime trade.

Beyond the Salute are the flank and the cusps of the façade of San Gregorio, followed by the tower of Palazzo Venier delle Torreselle, demolished in the nineteenth century. At the turn of the canal are the belltower and pinnacles (lacking any statues) of Santa Maria della Carità. The right bank is shown as far as Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, with Palazzo Tiepolo in the right foreground; above the rooftops can be seen the old belltower of Santa Maria del Giglio (or Zobenigo), demolished in 1774. Canaletto painted this view several times around 1730, and this may well be the earliest version.

Catalogue entry adapted from Canaletto in Venice, London, 2005