Francesco Guardi (1712 - 1793)
- Venice: the Grand Canal with the Riva del Vin and the Rialto Bridge
- c. 1770
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 68.5 x 91.5 cm
Made up to, Object size: 70.5 x 93.5 cm
with frame, Object size: 72.5 x 104.5 x 6 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, P494 and P503). 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 P494, P491 and P503 probably form a separate pairing.
P508 depicts a view of the Rialto Bridge. The Riva del Vin (the paved street that runs along the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge to the church of San Silvestro) is shown on the left. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi, previously home to Venice’s German merchants, can be seen beyond the bridge on the right. Guardi painted several versions of this scene, including two particularly comparable views now in the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, respectively. Canaletto also painted a similar view (see P511, for example).
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 Newly Elected Doge Presented to the People in San Marco (now in the Musées Royaux, Brussels). The Brussels picture 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.
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. Guardi’s view of the Rialto, in contrast to Canaletto’s meticulous approach, captures the picturesque possibilities afforded by Venice’s untidiness. The rooftops, boats, oars and figures have been delineated with a flickering scrawl of the paintbrush and the overall effect is arguably more stylised and atmospheric.