Francesco Guardi (1712 - 1793)
- Venice: the Dogana with the Giudecca
- c. 1770
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 68.2 x 91.3 cm
Made up to, Object size: 70.5 x 93.5 cm
with frame, Object size: 104.5 x 126 x 15.5 cm
- West Gallery I
- This picture is one of a set of four paintings purchased by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1865 (see P491, P503 and P508). The paintings were highly regarded in the 19th century and, until recently, were still considered to the only set of four topographical views by Guardi still together. However, a difference in style, technique and composition revealed by conservation work suggests that whilst the present picture is undoubtedly a pendant to P508, P491 and P503 probably form a separate pairing.
P494 shows a view across the mouth of the Grand Canal looking towards the Dogana (customs house). The island of Giudecca, with the domed church of Santa Maria della Presentazione (commonly known as Le Zitelle) prominent on the shoreline, can be seen in the distance. Guardi painted several views of the Dogana, although from varying viewpoints and distances (for example in the National Gallery, London).
Recent conservation work and technical analysis of the present picture has revealed the existence of an earlier composition under the painted surface, which seems to correspond to another finished painting by Guardi, The Doge in the Bucintoro Departing for the Lido (now in the Louvre, Paris). The Louvre picture, which shows the Ascension Day ceremony, is one of a series of 12 pictures painted by Guardi in the 1770s, after engraved versions of original designs by Canaletto, all of which commemorate the ceremonies and festivals marking the 1763 coronation of the Doge Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo. Another version of the same scene painted by a different, less competent, artist is also in the Wallace Collection (see P513).
Why Guardi decided to abandon this earlier work after Canaletto remains unclear. However, as the present picture demonstrates, Guardi seems to have been eager to distance his work from that of his predecessor by painting a more generalized view with scope for invention. With its palette of intense turquoise blues, dashes of reds and yellows, tremulous lines and taut detailed brushwork, this painting clearly demonstrates how Guardi imparted a new sense of excitement, movement and atmosphere to the Venetian view.