This view of the Cannaregio from the Church of the Scalzi is a newly identified early work by Bernardo Bellotto. There is a drawing by Bellotto of this composition in the collection of the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt (fig. 1).1
An inscription on the reverse of the sheet gives a date range of 1735–38, which is accepted as plausible for the execution of the drawing, meaning that it, and in all likelihood the present painting, were executed by Bellotto between the age of 13 and 16, the years just prior to his admission to the Venetian painters’ guild in 1738.2
The young artist was, at this time, an apprentice in the studio of his uncle Canaletto and spent his formative years rapidly developing his skills by producing his own versions of compositions available to him. This same view was depicted by Canaletto in a painting dated 1730–35, now in a private collection in Milan.3
Bellotto’s drawing closely follows Canaletto’s painting, but even at this young age Bellotto’s innovative instinct is in evidence as this finished painting differs from his own drawing and his uncle’s prototype in the placement of the gondolas and the staffage.
Aspects of Bellotto’s early technique are evident in this painting: his limpid depiction of the clouds streaking across the blue sky, and the incised vertical lines, serving as guidelines marking out the facades along the canal and plotting the placement of the windows and their shadows cast onto the surface of the water. As one of Bellotto’s earliest views of Venice, this precocious work is an important addition to his œuvre.
1. Inv. no. AE2202; ink and brown wash over pencil, 23.1 by 37.7 cm.; see S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, vol. II, London 1972, p. 19, cat. no. 17, reproduced p. 21, plate 17.
2. See M. Bleyel, Bernardo Bellotto genannt Canaletto. Zeichnungen aus dem Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt, exhibition catalogue, Darmstadt 1981, vol. II, p. 18, cat. no. 17, reproduced p. 21, fig. 17.
3. W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford 1962, vol. I, reproduced plate 52, fig. 260, vol. II, p. 318, cat. no. 260.