The Wallace Collection

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Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Canaletto (1697 - 1768)
  • Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Italy
  • c. 1735 - 1744
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 129.2 x 188.9 cm
    Object size: 157 x 220 x 16.5 cm
  • P497
  • West Gallery I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • One of a pair of unusually large views, depicting the Bacino di San Marco from opposing vantage points. This painting, which complements P499, appears to be an exact view of the Bacino di San Marco with the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, from the steps of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It is however a clever composite image of several viewpoints within the courtyard of that church, and includes several campanili (bell towers) of churches that cannot be seen from that vantage point. The figures in the foreground represent different levels of Venetian society; from the seated beggar on the left, the merchants in the centre, and the priest and lawyer engaged in conversation on the right. There is the customary assortment of sea vessels in the picture, including a burchiello, or passenger boat, being towed in the middle ground. This is a superb example of Canaletto’s attention to composition. The triangle of the foreground terrace - framed by the temporarily-docked burchiello with the detail of passengers embarking - is matched by the boat in the middle of the painting. Its two masts are in turn replicated in the vertical soar of the Campanile di San Marco and the dome of Santa Maria della Salute. The boats are gently balanced in the lagoon and the whole composition is again framed, on the left hand side, by the profile of a vessel with its sail blowing towards the city. The bell tower of the church of Santa Maria della Carità is visible behind the golden globe of the Dogana at the centre left. The tower collapsed in March 1744: the two pictures can thus be dated c. 1735-44.

    It is an attractive, clearly identifiable view of a type calculated to appeal to the Grand Tourist, with picturesque elements of local colour reinforcing the idea of Venice as an exciting cosmopolitan centre. Acquired at an unknown date by the 1st Marquess of Hertford, who went on the Grand Tour (he was recorded in Rome in 1738 and Genoa in 1739).