THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
This is a period copy after the painting by Canaletto that is one of twenty-one views of Venice of the same size, painted between 1730 and 1735, which formerly belonged to Sir Robert Grenville Harvey, and of which none are now displayed publicly. Several related drawings for this composition by Canaletto exist,1 and it was also one of nine of the group of twenty-one to be engraved by Antonio Visentini.2 Visentini's prints of Canaletto’s Venetian 'vedute' were organised by the artist’s patron, Consul Joseph Smith, and led to the wide dissemination and popularity of the artist's works, particularly among 18th-century British collectors.
The present composition depicts the church of Santa Croce in the foreground on the right, with round windows over the two side portals; the dome beyond of S. Simeone Piccolo, which today greets visitors arriving at Venice train station (a structure which has now replaced a lot of what is visible on the left-hand side of this view); and the campanile of S. Geremia, visible in the distance.
As the nameplate on the frame of the present painting relates, this work was previously attributed to William James. James was believed to be a landscape painter based in London, and possibly a pupil of Canaletto when he also came to work here. A lack of documentary evidence, however, has led to uncertainty over James' identity and paintings formerly attributed to his hand are now generally given to high-quality, anonymous followers of Canaletto, like the present work.
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