PROPERTY SOLD ON BEHALF OF A FOUNDATION
Said to be initialed on the arch A.C.
Commissioned by Joseph Smith (c. 1674-1770), British Consul 1744-1760, Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, Venice, sold by him in 1762 with much of the rest of his collection to,
King George III;
Dr. Grant David Yeats (1773-1836); sale, Christie's, London, April 8, 1815, lot 95, described as 'View of a Square at Venice with Publick Buildings, a State Coach and Figures' (unsold at 9 guineas); reoffered, January 13, 1816, lot 57, described as 'Courtyard of a Palace at Venice with a State Carriage and Figures' (10 guineas to Wace);
Said to have belonged to the Earl of Annaly;
With John H. Paris, 15 & 17 Leece Street, Liverpool, early 20th Century;
C.B. Ponsonby, Ireland;
With Koetser-Lilienfeld Galleries, New York, 1948;
Comte de Messay (according to a Schaeffer Galleries entry of 1966);
With Edward Speelman, London ('Notable Works of Art now on the Market', Advertisement Supplement to The Burlington Magazine, XCVI, No. 621, December 1954, pl. XXII, as of 'The Pavilion of the Villa Pisani at Strà');
With Partridge, London, 1957;
With the Schaeffer Galleries, New York, by 1964; retained by Hans S. Schaeffer and by inheritance.
Louisville, Kentucky, The J.B. Speed Art Museum, Eighteenth Century Venetian Painting, 1948, no. 2, reproduced.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, October 17 – November 15, 1964; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, December 4, 1964 – January 10, 1965; and Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, January 29 – February 28, 1965, Canaletto, pp. 96-7, no. 77, reproduced (catalogue by W.G. Constable).
J. Smith, Manuscript Catalogue of his Paintings bought by George III (Windsor), among nos. 85-97; 'Note apart', no. 9 'The Publick Prison at St. Mark's';
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford, 1962, I, pl. 68; II, p. 356, no. 374;
M. Levey, The Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 1964, p. 35, fig. XII;
T.J. McCormick, 'The Canaletto Exhibition in Canada', The Burlington Magazine, CVII, No. 742, January 1965, p. 29, fig. 34;
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, Milan, 1968, no. 227, reproduced;
F. Vivian, Il Console Smith mercante e collezionista, Vicenza, 1971, p. 197;
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, 2nd ed. revised by J.G. Links, Oxford, 1976, I, pl. 68; II, pp. 382, no. 374, 433, under no. 451, and 439, under no. 460;
W.L. Barcham, The Imaginary View Scenes of Antonio Canaletto, New York/London, 1977, pp. 157-8 and 161, fig. 153;
O. Millar, catalogue of the exhibition Canaletto. Paintings & Drawings, The Queen's Gallery, London, 1980-1, p. 68, note 1;
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, London, 1981, no. 186, reproduced;
A. Corboz, Canaletto. Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan, 1985, I, p. 333, fig. 399; II, p. 604, no. P 123, reproduced;
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, 2nd ed. revised by J.G. Links reissued with supplement and additional plates, Oxford, 1989, I, pp. lv – lvi, pl. 68; II, pp. 382, no. 374, 433, under no. 451, 439, under no. 460, and 737;
M. Levey, The Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 1991, p. 43, under no. 408, fig. 13.
Listed by W.G. Constable in 1962 as of the 'Villa Pisani, Stra (?)', the correct subject of this painting was first identified by Mr Richard J. Zimmerman of New york (letter to W.G. Constable of March 27, 1962). the Public Prisons of San Marco are one of the most prominent buildings on the Venetian Molo, adjacent to the Doge's Palace, to which they are joined by the Bridge of Sighs ("I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; / A palace and a prison on each hand; / I saw from out the wave of her structure's rise / As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand." Lord Byron – Childe Harold). The Prisons were designed around 1580 by Antonio da Ponte, who was also responsible, in 1588-90, for the Rialto Bridge, and were completed shortly after his death in 1597. Built of Istrian stone, they contained quarters for the Signori di Notte, the nocturnal security police, as well as a separate wing for women, cells for the victims of the Inquisition, an infirmary and a chapel. Among the earliest purpose-built prisons in Europe, they remained in use until 1919. Casanova was, famously, to escape from them in 1756. Here they are transposed to the Venetian mainland and reborn as the wing of a villa with such success that their true identity long went unrecognised.
This painting has the most distinguished provenance a painting by Canaletto can have, having been painted for the artist's great patron and agent Joseph Smith and subsequently passed with much of his collection into that of King George III in 1762. It originally formed part of a series of thirteen canvases of similar size presumably intended as overdoors to decorate the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, Smith's house on the Grand Canal just above the Rialto Bridge. five of these are signed and dated 1744 (in June of which year Smith was appointed British Consul) and it must be presumed that all were executed at, or around, that date. With the exception of a representation of how Palladio's design for the Rialto Bridge might have looked if it had been executed (Constable no. 457), all are fairly faithful renderings of prominent Venetian buildings or monuments, the character of each of which is changed to a greater or lesser degree by the introduction of extraneous or imaginary elements (Constable nos. 451-6, 462 and 476). Smith, who was largely responsible for the painter's career, from the early 1720s onwards, had kept many of Canaletto's finest productions for himself and already owned an unrivalled collection of Venetian views by the artist, so he must have relished the novel element of invention which the series introduced. Venetians and Venetian residents, who enjoyed the great views of Venice on a daily basis, naturally tended to take more interest in capricci, with their requisite use of the imagination. Canaletto's series was to be joined in Smith's collection two years later by a second series of eleven capricci of English, mainly Palladian, buildings in imaginary settings painted by Antonio Visentini and Francesco Zuccarelli, several of which are dated 1746. Although this suggests that the idea may have originated with Smith, at this stage in Canaletto's career, after two decades of painting views of Venice, the artist showed a clear desire for new challenges, and this commission took him back to the world of the imagination which he had left in the early 1720s.
In 1762 Smith sold the cream of his collection, including all his paintings and drawings by Canaletto as well as such masterpieces by other artists as Vermeer's Lady at the Virginals, to King George III of England. Almost all of it remains in the Royal Collection, with very few exceptions. Those include, however, this painting and three other components of the same series, as well as three components of the Visentini-Zuccarelli series, which were de-accessioned, for reasons unknown, by the early nineteenth century. This painting was offered in 1815 and sold in 1816 from the collection of Dr. Yeats, a Florida-born physician who had lived in England or Ireland since the 1780s and had settled in London in 1814. Two others of the absent canvases by Canaletto have re-emerged. that with San Francesco della Vigna (Constable no. 460) was sold at Christie's, London, in 1838, and now in a Milanese private collection, while that with the Redentore (Constable, under no. 465; J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable's Canaletto, London, 1998, p. 43, no. 459**, pl. 237) first reappeared at Sotheby's, London, July 6, 1988 (lot 53). The only component of the series which has not been identified with certainty is that described as 'The Loggetta by Sansovino'. It should be considered, however, whether that could possibly be the capriccio of the loggia between the Piazza San Marco and the Calle dell'Ascensione, as suggested when it first reappeared with Colnaghi, London, in 1978 (Pictures from the Grand Tour, no. 29, illustrated). of the appropriate width, it was subsequently offered at Sotheby's, London, July 3, 1985 (lot 23) is now in an English private collection (Links 1998, p. 43, no. 453*, pl. 237).
Constable's statement (1962 and 1964) that this painting is signed 'A.C.' on the capital of the left-most arch of the prison, is incorrect; the design on the capital is, in fact, a row of four coats-of-arms (three of them illegible). The statement is, however, repeated by McCormick and Puppi and in later editions of Constable's catalogue. Canaletto in general very rarely signed his paintings but did go through a phase of signing them in the first half of the 1740s, possibly in response to the emergence of his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, who often used the name Canaletto, as a significant artist in his own right. While several components of this series of overdoors are signed, in the current state of knowledge there is no reason to believe that the artist himself was attempting to distinguish the signed ones from those which he left unsigned.
We are grateful to Charles Beddington for this catalogue entry.
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