PROPERTY FROM CASTLE HOWARD. FROM THE COLLECTIONS OF THE EARLS OF CARLISLE
The view depicts the Grand Canal looking south from the Palazzo Foscari to the church of Santa Maria della Carità. Ca’ Foscari is shown in the right foreground, the viewpoint being taken from the Volta del Canal in front of the Palazzo Balbi. Beyond the Ca’ Foscari are the Palazzo Giustinian and the Palazzo Nani, followed by the Ca’ Rezzonico, distinguished by its temporary pitched roof. After this comes the tower of the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni, and the façade and bell tower of Santa Maria della Carità, glimpsed through the sails and rigging of a ship. On the other side of the canal, bathed in bright sunlight, is the façade of the Palazzo Moro-Lin, built in 1671–73 by Sebasatiano Mazzoni for the painter Pietro Liberi, and called ‘dalle tredici finestre’ (of the thirteen windows) on account of its unusual width. Beyond it are the smaller buildings of the Campo San Samuele (now the Palazzo Grassi) and finally the Palazzo Malipiero.
THE YOUNG BELLOTTO
Like its companion paintings at Castle Howard, the present canvas constitutes an important contribution to our knowledge of the earliest stage of Bellotto’s career. Bernardo Bellotto was only sixteen when he was accepted to the Venetian Painters’ Guild in 1738. After his concentrated apprenticeship with his uncle, Canaletto, to which a good number of related drawings and paintings bear witness, it seems that even before the end of the decade – and before he was even twenty years old – Bellotto was beginning to emerge with his own distinct style and interpretation of the vedutista’s art. His earliest documented views are the pair of The Entrance to the Grand Canal, looking West, with Santa Maria delle Salute, and a View of the Rialto Bridge from the North, which are recorded by James Harris MP (1709–80), father of the 1st Earl of Malmesbury in his Account of my Pictures begun in 1739. These were two of ‘Four views of Venice’, including ‘two... by Antonio Bellotti [sic]’, for which Harris paid 10 guineas.1 At this stage his work was naturally enough greatly dependent upon his uncle’s, but the pictures already display some of the characteristics that would eventually distinguish his style from that of Canaletto, notably their larger size, cooler tonality and larger and more awkward figures. Bellotto seems to have copied a large number of Canaletto’s compositions, and no doubt many of these were painted to help his uncle fulfil large commissions. The nature of his relationship to the older painter has caused many difficulties in disentangling their respective œuvres. Although Stefan Kozakiewicz in his 1972 monograph on Bellotto’s paintings and drawings published only six Venetian pictures which he considered could be certainly attributed to the young Bellotto,2 recent scholarship by Dario Succi, Charles Beddington and Bozena Anna Kowalczyk has now increased that to more than fifty Venetian vedute. In addition to Harris’s purchase there is other evidence to suggest that Bellotto sold work under his own name. In November 1740, the accounts of Count Johann Mathias von der Schulenberg record that he purchased four views, ‘two of San Marco and two of the Arsenal’ by ‘the nephew of Canaletto’.3 The price paid, a mere 9 zecchini, was, however, very modest. Count Francesco Algarotti, writing only a year later in 1741 records that that Zanetti was by now apparently asking 32 zecchini (8 pounds) apiece for works by ‘un pittore the imita estremamente la maniera di Canaletto’.4 The presence of Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle in Venice between 1738 and 1739, was therefore to be the greatest importance to Bellotto’s career, for his is perhaps the single largest body of his early work to have been purchased by a single patron.
This view of the Grand Canal is typical of the pattern set by these few documented early works. The composition is an adaptation of an earlier painting by Canaletto, painted around 1726–27 for the entrepreneurial British Consul Joseph Smith (1682–1770), and today in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle (fig. 1).5 Bellotto would have known the design not only from Antonio Visentini’s engraving, plate II of his Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetarium published in 1735 (fig. 2), but also from the original painting itself, for this remained in the possession of Canaletto’s patron and agent Consul Smith in his house on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana. Other paintings in Smith’s collection were also copied by Bellotto in his early years, among them, for example, a Regatta on the Grand Canal (present whereabouts unknown) and a Grand Canal at the entrance to the Cannareggio now in a private collection in the United States.6 The fact that the Castle Howard painting omits the roof and dormer windows on top of the Palazzo Moro-Lin led Links to suggest that the painter had based his design on Visentini’s engraving, where they are similarly absent, rather than the original.7 But Bellotto was no mere transcriber of his uncle’s work. One detail in the painting, the depiction of the tower of the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni is, in fact, more closely based on the original painting by Canaletto and quite dissimilar to the engraving. The awning on the Palazzo Malipiero, common to both the Canaletto and the engraving, has been removed. Neither did Bellotto scruple to follow every architectural detail, as witnessed by his own very curious rendition of the campanile of Santa Maria della Carità in the distance.
Comparison between the Castle Howard painting and the Canaletto at Windsor Castle allows us to see clearly the difference in styles of the two painters. The former is rather larger than the original, something which is consistent in Bellotto’s works based on Canaletto. The viewpoint is the same, but upon the surface of the canal itself Bellotto has significantly altered the disposition of the various gondolas, retaining only the large covered ship which dominates the right foreground of both paintings as well as the engraving. The way it is painted is entirely characteristic of Bellotto in its grey-green intonation, which lends it what Beddington has termed his ‘colder, even wintry light’, and in the attention given to every detail of the reflection and surface ripples of the water. The figures, stiffer and less well realised than Canaletto’s, are picked out in cobalt blues and lilac, rather than the latter’s greens, blues and reds. The architecture and its textures are also rendered with extreme care, again a distinct feature of Bellotto’s approach, with its use of heavier strokes of the brush and thicker application of the paint. The sky, with the edges of the clouds rendered in creamy whites, uses the sloping diagonal strokes of the brush that are an immediately recognisable characteristic of Bellotto’s work.
Other works by Bellotto from this period share a stylistic homogeneity with the Castle Howard canvas. Of particular importance in this respect is another much larger painting of the same view also to be found in this early group, today in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (fig. 3).8 As Kowalczyk has pointed out, the painting includes a depiction of the handicapped seventeen year old Prince Frederick Christian of Savoy (1722–63). Prince Frederick, who supposedly arrived incognito at the Palazzo Foscari on the 21 December 1739 for a six-month stay, is shown at the entrance to the Palazzo Foscari on the right of the picture, accompanied by two pages.9 This would strongly suggest that the painting itself must date to 1740. The stylistic relationship of the two paintings seems quite clear. The Stockholm version is much larger, and uses a higher viewpoint, and also extends the composition to the right to allow for greater prominence for the Palazzo Foscari itself. As Kowalcyzk notes, if we accept that the Castle Howard version was painted around 1738–39 then this would make it the prime version of the composition. It is interesting to observe that among the many differences between the two versions, Bellotto has painted each view as at a different time of day; here the Ca’ Foscari is in shadow, as it is in Canaletto’s painting at Windsor, indicating an afternoon setting, while the Stockholm painting shows the Palazzo in bright sunshine, as it would have been in the morning. Unusually, no preliminary drawing for this painting by Bellotto has survived, which was very often the case in those instances where his work was based closely upon that of his uncle Canaletto, such as another view still at Castle Howard, the Campo Santo Stefano.10 The present painting can also be compared to other works by Bellotto assigned by modern scholars to this early phase of his career and which also originally hung at Castle Howard. These include, for example, the superb view of The Grand Canal looking south from the Ca’ da Mosto to the Rialto Bridge, later in the Oppenheimer collection, whose handling closely parallels the present canvas and must surely date from a very similar moment around 1738–39.11 Such a dating would support the possibility that the present canvas may have been among the first of the Venetian vedute commissioned by Lord Carlisle.
LORD CARLISLE’S COMMISSION
Lord Carlisle arrived in Venice by November of 1738, when he was met by his son, Charles, Viscount Morpeth (1719–41), who had joined him for reasons of health. In due course they went on to Rome and Florence before leaving Italy from Leghorn on the 26 July the following year. Although there is little by way of actual documentary evidence for Lord Carlisle’s acquisition of the group of vedute, we know that the pictures he had commissioned had arrived at Castle Howard by June of 1740. They are recorded in a letter of 3rd June of that year to the Earl from his agent in Venice, Count Antonio Maria Zanetti (1669–1767), who records his pleasure at the paintings’ safe arrival in England:
J’ay Plaisir que vous avez recu les Tableaux, et trouvez a votre gre: Je crois que vous les avez places dans votre Maison de Campagne, et que en regardant la ville de Venice vous vous souviendrez de moy: Si quelqu’uns de vos amis en est charme, come je l’espere, et qu’il les trouve a un prix onet de 6 livres, et qu’il en ait Plaisir d’en avoir, vous me fairez grande grace de m’en ordonner pour fair Plaisir au Peintre qu’il les a fait, qui est le plus bon homme du monde, et qui en est aussy abil que Canaletto, au quel presentement on paye seulement le nom, et la renomme.12
(‘I am pleased to learn that you have received the paintings and that they are to your liking. I hope that you have hung them in your Country House and that when looking at the city of Venice, you will be reminded of me. If any of your friends are charmed by them, as I hope they will be, and find that for the reasonable price of six livres they would like to have one, they would do me a great honour in ordering some more through me from the painter, who is the best there is, and who is as skilful as Canaletto, whom nowadays one is paying solely for his name and reputation’).
In all, a total of between forty and fifty paintings described as ‘Canaletto’ are recorded in various Castle Howard inventories. Although it is possible to trace the Venetian views in successive inventories, our understanding of the group is hindered by the fact that all early references to the pictures are collective and generic. Recent scholarship has shown that these were clearly the work of more than one artist. The Earl acquired five works by Canaletto, including one of the greatest of all eighteenth-century Venetian vedute, the Bacino di San Marco looking East of 1739, today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (see introduction).13 This was followed by the signed pair of The Piazza San Marco looking South-east and the Entrance to the Grand Canal from the West end of the Molo, painted slightly later in 1742–43 and both today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.14 Another two were destroyed by the great fire at Castle Howard in 1940. A handwritten list by Zanetti preserved in the Castle Howard archives records that eighteen of the paintings were by Michele Marieschi (1710–43). Another two have now been identified as the work of Giambattista Cimaroli (1687–1771).15 This would suggest that Bellotto’s work for Castle Howard consisted of perhaps as many as fifteen pictures, three of them of substantial size, and all painted in late 1738 or 1739. Six of these were among the views destroyed by fire in 1940. Of the nine that escaped the fire, a large pair which hung in the Dining Room in the 19th century showing the Entrance to the Grand Canal and S. Maria della Salute and The Rialto Bridge and the Palazzo Camerlenghi, were sold by George, 9th Earl of Carlisle in 1895 to Colnaghi’s and are today in the Musée du Louvre in Paris;16 a further three paintings have also been identified by Succi with pictures now in private collections. These included two paintings that were later in the collection of Sir Max Michaelis: a view of The Grand Canal from the Palazzo Flangini to Palazzo Vendramin and a Campo Santa Maria Formosa.17 The third was the Grand Canal from Ca’ Mosto looking towards the Rialto, formerly in the Oppenheimer collection.18 Today only three other paintings from the original group of fifteen purchased by Lord Carlisle remain at Castle Howard. These are the View of the Campo Santo Stefano, a View of the Libreria and the Piazzetta of similar smaller format,19 and the much larger Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (fig. 4).20
Lord Carlisle’s employment of Zanetti as an agent for acquiring paintings was unusual, for most British visitors to Venice at this date would have engaged the services of Consul Joseph Smith, certainly if they actively sought works by Canaletto himself. The Earl’s relationship with Zanetti most probably grew out of their common interest in engraved gems, both antique and modern, of which both men were avid collectors. Nonetheless Zanetti also acted as a picture agent for a number of very distinguished collectors, among them, for example, Philippe d’Orléans (1674–1723) and Joseph Wenzel I, Prince of Liechtenstein (1696–1772). It is possible that the paintings acquired by the Earl were commissioned directly from Canaletto himself, either by Carlisle or his agent. Zanetti’s letter implies that Lord Carlisle was being asked to order some more views, but who they were to be painted by, or by whom those already ordered were, remains unclear. The fact that Zanetti is clearly referring to another vedutista suggests strongly that many of these works were by at least one other painter, but whether he was referring to Bellotto or to his short-lived contemporary Michele Marieschi is impossible to determine. Given his known association with the latter, and the number of paintings by him that did reach Castle Howard, it seems most likely that his ‘bon homme’ was Marieschi.21 Links speculated that three of the four Bellottos still at Castle Howard, the Campo Santo Stefano, the Grand Canal from Ca’ Foscari and the Piazzetta and the Library were among those supplied by Zanetti, while the Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day may have been acquired from Smith, and the works now in Washington and Boston perhaps directly from Canaletto himself.22
‘THE BLUE COFFOY DRAWING ROOM’
When the paintings arrived at Castle Howard, it seems that the Venetian views were hung to complement the Roman views by Panini. A number of the Canalettos shared the same frames as the Paninis, which had been commissioned in 1740, and as we know that in April 1744 the 4th Earl paid his framer Paul Petit £64. ls. for a total of fifteen carved and gilt frames, it is probable that parts of both sets of Italian pictures were actually hanging at Castle Howard by this date or shortly thereafter.23 The painting remains in this frame to this day (fig. 5). The Countess of Oxford, visiting Castle Howard on the 27 April 1745 noted, ‘in the drawing room… several views of Venice by Canaletto lately put up there’.24 The Earl’s posthumous inventory of 1758–59 records, ‘16 Venetian and Roman views in carved gilt frames’ hanging in the ‘Blue Coffoy Room’ in the South-East Wing, and it is possible that the core group of the vedute were displayed there from the outset, probably as early as the summer of 1744.25 It is interesting to speculate whether in his choice of a room dedicated to the views of Italy, the 4th Earl was consciously emulating the major sequence of twenty four Venetian views commissioned a few years earlier in 1732 from Canaletto by his wife’s half-brother-in-law John, 4th Duke of Bedford for Woburn Abbey, and completed by 1736.26
Although it is not possible to identify specifically the present painting in the early inventories, it has probably always formed part of the core group of roughly nineteen vedute that have hung together since the mid-eighteenth century. The probate inventory taken in 1758 includes several references to ‘views of Venice’ including eighteen in the ‘Blue Coffoy Drawing Room’. In 1769, a total of thirty-seven views of Venice by Canaletto (and two by Marieschi) are recorded in the anonymous England Displayed of that year: ‘In the Drawing Room: ‘Canaletti. Nineteen views of Venice, & c. A capital collection, which displays the beautiful glow and brilliancy of this master’s colouring in a very high manner’.’27 A large portion of these was undoubtedly by Bellotto. Two years later, the 5th Earl (1748–1825) counted ‘between 30 and 40 views of Venice small’ and ‘10 views of Venice Canaletti’ in his ‘List of the best Pictures at Castle Howard not purchased by me’.28 The first printed catalogue of paintings at Castle Howard, published in 1805, only lists nineteen paintings worthy of mention (presumably those in the Blue Coffoy Drawing Room), but a later document of 1812 records forty-one once more, including a rare titled description of the View of the Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day: ‘The Doge of Venice marrying the Sea’ (fig. 5), then hanging in the Gold Bedchamber in the South Front apartments.
By the mid 19th century the collection had been split into two groups, divided between the Drawing Room (later known as the ‘Canaletto Room’) and the Green Silk Dressing Room on the first floor of the South Front, with a few others scattered throughout the house. Gustav Waagen, who visited Castle Howard in 1854, recorded eighteen ‘pictures by Canaletto, some of them very excellent’.29 The first detailed description of the pictures is afforded us by the Athenaeum of September 1876, which lists twenty-six ‘Canalettos’. Twenty of these were of ‘cabinet size’ and a further six described as ‘larger pictures’. Here we find a few more closely observed descriptions, notably, for example, of the large Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day. In 1878 and again in 1880, the steward John Duthie listed each of forty one pictures individually with dimensions and locations, albeit without any specific titles. Only at this point can the View of the Grand Canal looking south be identified with any certainty. According to Browning there were in 1905, four large and nine smaller views by Canaletto in the ‘Canaletto Room’, as well as eleven smaller works by Marieschi. Three more, ‘hanging in the Music Room’ and in ‘Lady Carlisle’s Dressing Room’ were large pictures by Canaletto.30 Later archival photographs, taken before the fire in 1944, give a clearer indication of the hanging arrangement in the Canaletto Room, with the smaller works by Canaletto and Bellotto hanging above the larger views (fig. 6). The View of the Grand Canal looking south can be seen on the left hand end of the second row of smaller format works, one in a row of three works beneath their counterparts by Canaletto.
The Castle Howard Bellotto is thus of paramount importance in understanding the nature of the artist’s early career in Venice. Collectively the remaining paintings constitute one of the most important groups of works by Bellotto to have remained in the same family collection for which they were painted. They provide a vital point of reference in attempts to construct an understanding of his work in the city prior to his departure for Rome in 1742. Beyond this, they bear witness to the rapid evolution of his own distinctive style that, after his departure from Italy in 1747, would serve him so well for more than three decades in the great courts of northern Europe. Above all, they show that Bellotto can, in Beddington’s words, ‘be considered one of the geniuses of European view painting for the work of his Venetian period alone’.31
1 The Entrance to the Grand Canal was exhibited Turin, Palazzo Bricherasio, Canaletto e Bellotto: l’arte della veduta, 2008, no. 2. The pendant, the View of the Rialto Bridge, was sold New York, Sotheby’s, 24 January 2008, lot 114. The other two paintings were by Michele Marieschi; cf. F. Montecuccoli degli Erri and F. Pedrocco, Michele Marieschi, Milan 1999, pp. 388, 415, nos 160 and 185. The former was sold in these Rooms, 4 December 2013, lot 41. All four canvases were imported into England by Harris’s agent William Hayter by March 1743.
2 S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, 2 vols, London 1972.
3 A. Binion,‘The Schulenberg Bellottos’, in the exhibition catalogue Bernardo Bellotto. Verona e le città europee, Verona, Museo di Castelvecchio, 1990, pp. 27–29.
4 Cited by B.A. Kowalczyk, ‘Il Bellotto veneziano nei documenti’, in Arte Veneta, 47, 1995, p. 73.
5 Inv. 401404; canvas, 49.9 by 80.3 cm. M. Levey, Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen, Cambridge 1991, p. 26, no. 385.
6 See C. Beddington, ‘Bernardo Bellotto and his circle in Italy. Part I: not Canaletto but Bellotto’, in The Burlington Magazine, CXLVI, October 2004, p. 671, reproduced figs 19 and 22.
7 J. G. Links, 1998, p. 33, under note to no. 334.
8 Inv. NM 49; canvas, 101 by 162 cm.
9 B. A. Kowalcyzk, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Canaletto e Bellotto. L’arte della veduta, Turin, Palazzo Bricherasio, 2008, no. 4.
10 An outline drawing of the design by Visentini is in the Museo Correr in Venice, and an elaborated version also by him is in the British Museum, London. Canaletto’s only extant drawing is a rough outline of the buildings on the right hand side of the composition.
11 Beddington, 2004, p. 667, reproduced fig. 15.
12 For Zanetti’s correspondence with the 4th Earl see D. Scarisbrick, ‘Gem Connoisseurship: the 4th Earl of Carlisle’s correspondence with Antonio Maria Zanetti’, in The Burlington Magazine, CXXIV, February 1987, pp. 90–104. The correspondence consists of 18 letters dating from June 1740 to July 1758 (Castle Howard Archives ref. J12/12/18).
13 Exhibited, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Canaletto, 1989, no. 51; see W.G. Constable and J.G. Links, Canaletto. Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697–1768, Oxford 1976, vol. I, pp. 207, 260, nos 50 and 154, the former reproduced plate 19.
14 See Constable and Links 1976, vol. I, pp. 207, 260, nos 50 and 154, the former reproduced plate 19.
15 Exhibited, Milan, Palazzo Reale, Da Canaletto a Tiepolo: Pittura veneziana del Settecento, mobili e porcellane dalla collezione Terruzzi, 2008–09, nos 25 and 26, reproduced.
16 Succi, 1999, p. 63, figs 46 and 47.
17 The former (private collection, United States) sold London, Christie’s, 16 December 1998, lot 78; Succi, 1999, fig. 44; the latter (private collection, Europe) exhibited, London, National Gallery, Venice. Canaletto and his Rivals, 2010–11, no. 44; Succi, 1999, fig. 43.
18 Now in a private collection in the United States. Beddington suggests a dating around 1738; see C. Beddington, ‘Bernardo Bellotto and his circle in Italy. Part I: not Canaletto but Bellotto’, in The Burlington Magazine, October 2004, p. 667, reproduced fig. 15. Succi, 1999, fig. 41.
19 Exhibited, Venice, Museo Correr, and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Bernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe, 2001, nos 3 and 4.
20 Exhibited, London 2010–11, no. 42.
21 For which see F. Montecuccoli degli Erri and F. Pedrocco, Michele Marieschi, La vita, l’ambiente, l’opera, Milan 1999, pp. 66–68.
22 Links 1998, p. 33, under no. 334.
23 Castle Howard Archives J12/14/3.
24 Welbeck Ms., VI, p. 186, cited by Succi, 1999, p. 71.
25 Castle Howard Archives F4/1, p. 33.
26 See, for example, F. Russell, ‘The Pictures of John, Fourth Duke of Bedford’, in Apollo, 127, June 1988, pp. 401–06.
27 England Displayed being a new Complete and Accurate Survey and Description of England and the principality of Wales by a Society of Gentlemen, London 1769, pp. 145–46. Cited by Succi, 1999, p. 47.
28 Castle Howard Archives J14/30/2.
29 Waagen 1854, vol. III, p. 324.
30 H. Ellen Browning, ‘The Canaletto Collection at Castle Howard’, in Art Journal, 68, 1905, p. 340 ff.
31 Beddington 2010, p. 121.
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