Lot 47
  • 47

Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto

bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto
  • Venice, The Grand Canal, looking North-East from Palazzo Balbi to the Rialto Bridge
  • oil on canvas


Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), created 1st Earl of Orford in 1742, 10 Downing Street, London, by 1736 and until his resignation as Prime Minister in 1742, when removed to another of his London residences;
Thence by descent to his son Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford (1701-1751);
Thence by descent to his son George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford (1730-1791);
His sale, London, Langford’s, 13 June 1751 (=first day), lot 64 ‘A View in Venice Cannaletti’, for £35-15-6 to Raymond for Gideon [The catalogue is in the Houlditch Manuscript in the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum; it is transcribed in A Capital Collection … (see below), pp. 457-8. The sale is not recorded by Lugt];
Sampson Gideon (1699-1762), Belvedere, near Erith, Kent;
Thence by descent to his son Sir Sampson Gideon, 1st Bt. (1745-1824), created Baron Eardley in 1789, Belvedere, near Erith, Kent;
Thence by descent to his daughter Maria Marowe (1767-1834), wife of Gregory William Twistleton (from 1825 Eardley-Twistleton-Fiennes), 8th Baron Saye and Sele (1769-1844), Belvedere, near Erith, Kent;
Thence by descent to their son William Thomas Eardley-Twistleton-Fiennes, 9th Baron Saye and Sele (1798-1847), Belvedere, near Erith, Kent [‘Saye & Sele’ is inscribed in chalk on the stretcher];
Sir Culling Smith, 2nd Bt., widower of Lord Eardley’s second daughter Charlotte Elizabeth (d. 1826), Belvedere, near Erith, Kent;
Thence by descent to their son Sir Culling (Eardley-) Smith, 3rd Bt. (1805-1863), who assumed the name of Eardley, Belvedere, near Erith, Kent [‘Belvedere Heirloom’ is written in ink on a label on the stretcher], from which removed in 1860 to Bedwell Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire;
Thence by descent to his eldest daughter, Frances Selena, who married in 1865 Robert Hanbury, M. P., who added the name of Culling to his surname, Bedwell Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire;
Thence by inheritance to her sister Isabella (d. 1901), wife of the Very Rev. the Hon. William Henry Fremantle, M.D., Dean of Ripon (1831-1916), Bedwell Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire;
Thence by descent to their son Lt.-Col. Sir Francis Edward Fremantle, O.B.E. (1872-1943), Bedwell Park, Hatfield, Hertfordshire;
With Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., London, by whom purchased from the above (with the pendant) on 3 July 1930 and sold on 4 April 1940 (with the pendant: £4,400) to G. Bellesi;
Senator Mario Crespi, Milan, by 1954;
With Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., London, 1955;
Acquired in Paris in the 1960s by a French private collector;
Thence by descent.


London, British Institution, 1844, no. 86, as ‘View on a Canal, Venice’ (lent by Lord Saye and Sele);
London, British Institution, 1861, no. 64, as ‘Rialto and Grand Canal, Venice’ (lent by Sir Culling Eardley);
Lausanne, Les Trésors de l’Art Venitien, 1947, cat. no. 102 or no. 125 C (ex-catalogue) [Printed label on the back of the frame].


Anon. [Horace Walpole?], A Catalogue of Sir Robert Walpole’s Pictures in Downing Street, Westminster, Ms., 1736 (part of a complete catalogue of Sir Robert Walpole’s collection of pictures bound into Horace Walpole’s personal copy of the Aedes Walpolianae …, 2nd ed. of 1742, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, PML 7586), no. 126 ‘A View of Venice. Canaletti. 2=9 1/2 [by] 4=5 3/4’ hanging in the Parlour;
R. and J. Dodsley, London and its Environs described, containing An Account of whatever is most remarkable for Grandeur, Elegance, Curiosity or Use, In the City and in the Country Twenty Miles round it, London 1761, vol. I, p. 272;
T. Martyn, The English Connoisseur: containing an Account of Whatever is Curious in Painting, Sculpture, & c. In the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, both in Town and Country, London 1766, vol. I, p. 12;
E.W. Brayley, The Beauties of England and Wales …, vol. VIII, London 1808, p. 546;
Pictures at Belvedere, 1856, p. 3 [This document is known from a typescript in the library of the National Gallery, London, entitled Pictures at Belvedere 1856. Copy of a Manuscript Catalogue. The paintings by Canaletto are recorded on p. 2 of the typescript];
G.F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London 1857, p. 282;
E.J. Climenson, Passages from the Diaries of Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, Oxon. A. D. 1756 to 1808, London 1899, p. 150;
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, London 1913, vol. I, pp. 143 and 144;
V. Moschini, Canaletto, London and Milan 1954, pp. 22, 26, reproduced fig. 115 and a detail in colour plate 15 (as datable to circa 1730);
W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, Oxford 1962 (and subsequent editions revised by J. G. Links), reproduced vol. I, plate 46; vol. II, nos. 216(a) and 216(b) and under no. 340 and 340(c);
L. Puppi, L’opera completa del Canaletto, Milan 1968, pp. 98-9, no. 93 C;
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, London 1981, p. 36, under no. 98;
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W. G. Constable’s Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, London 1998, pp. xvii and 22-3, reproduced plate 257;
D. Succi, in Canaletto. Una Venècia Imaginària, exhibition catalogue, Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània, 20 February - 13 May 2001, p. 138, under no. 50;
B.A. Kowalczyk, in Canaletto prima maniera, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 18 March - 24 June 2001, p. 190;
D. Succi, in Canaletto. Una Venecia Imaginaria, exhibition catalogue, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 29 May - 2 September 2001, p. 170, under no. 52;
A Capital Collection: Houghton Hall and the Hermitage, ed. L. Dukelskaya and A. Moore, New Haven and London 2002, pp. 23, 24, 35, 52, note 133, 446 and 458;
B.A. Kowalczyk, Canaletto: Il trionfo della veduta, exhibition catalogue, Rome, Palazzo Giustiniani, 12 March - 19 June 2005, p. 78.

Catalogue Note

This painting, which has been inaccessable to scholars since 1940, is the most significant Canaletto rediscovery for more than a decade and has a particularly distinguished provenance, only recently identified.

The view is taken from the Palazzo Foscari on the sharp bend in the Grand Canal, known as the Volta de Canal, roughly equidistant from its entrance onto the Bacino di San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Looking North-East from there the whole of the longest straight stretch of the canal is visible, as far as the Rialto Bridge, part of which is shown in the far distance, with the roof and dome of the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo beyond. Apart from being a particularly well balanced composition, and one in which water occupies the full breadth of the canvas, the view has the relatively unusual distinction of being observable, even from some height above the water, from the vantage point of the Palazzo Foscari. The foreground is dominated by the façade on the left of the Palazzo Balbi, built in 1582-90 to the designs of Alessandro Vittoria.

A macchina erected next to the Palazzo Balbi was the focal point of the annual regatta (gondola race), from it the winners receiving their flags and prizes. The view is consequently known above all as the setting for depictions of regattas, including no fewer than three by Luca Carlevarijs, two showing The Regatta on the Grand Canal in Honour of Frederick IV, King of Denmark, 4 March 1709 (Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg Hillerød, Denmark; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the latter dated 1711; A. Rizzi, Luca Carlevarijs, Venice 1967, reproduced plates V, 35-7 and 39-40) and a third, smaller and showing a different regatta, in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (ibid., reproduced plate 41). The first of these would certainly have been known to Canaletto from Giuseppe Baroni’s engraving of it, published in Domenico Lovisa’s Il Gran Teatro di Venezia of 1717 (ibid., reproduced plate 38). It is also the setting for all of Canaletto’s paintings of regattas, in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, at Woburn Abbey, in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, in the National Gallery, London, and in a German private collection (Constable, see Literature, nos. 347-51).

The view was already a favourite subject of Canaletto long before he began painting festivals in the early 1730s. His earliest depiction of it is probably the large version presumably executed for Johann Wenzel von Liechtenstein and now in the Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice (Constable, op. cit., no. 210; Kowalczyk, see Literature, 2001, pp. 138-9, no. 50, reproduced in colour, where dated to 1723). That was probably followed by the version in the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull, probably of circa 1724 (Constable, op. cit., no. 214; Kowalczyk, op. cit., 2005, pp. 56-9, no. 6, reproduced in colour), and by that in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden (1726?; Constable, op. cit., no. 211; catalogue of the exhibition Masterpieces from Dresden, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 15 March - 8 June 2003, pp. 84-7, no. 25, reproduced in colour). Further variants are in the Uffizi, Florence (inscribed on the reverse with the date 1728; Constable, op. cit., no. 213; Kowalczyk, op. cit., 2001, pp. 190-1, no. 70, reproduced in colour; Kowalczyk, op. cit., 2005, pp. 78-81, no. 12, reproduced in colour) and in the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (late 1720s; Constable, op. cit., no. 212). A sketch in pen and brown ink in the collection of the Courtauld Institute, London, shows the palazzi on the right (ibid., no. 589; Kowalczyk, op. cit., 2001, p. 69, no. 21, reproduced in colour, where connected with the Ca’ Rezzonico painting and dated to circa 1723).

The only other version painted after 1730 is the small canvas among the set of twenty-four in the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey (Constable, op. cit., no. 215). A presumably incomplete series of payments for those was made between February 1733 and April 1736 (ibid., 1989 ed., I, p. xlii, note 27). Although only part of the façade of the Palazzo Balbi is shown, and the palazzi on the right are raised in height, the viewpoint of the Woburn version is almost identical to that adopted for this painting, and the general disposition of the boats is similar. Like the early version in the Ferens Art Gallery this painting, which may be dated to circa 1733 on stylistic grounds, shows the whole of the façade of the Palazzo Balbi, although here the number of arched openings at its centre is corrected from five to three. While it may slightly precede the Woburn version in date, it must have been considered by Canaletto his ‘definitive’ statement on the subject, to which he was never to return.

Constable’s assessment of this painting as a replica of the very close version of the same size formerly owned by Sir George Leon (his no. 216) is possibly the most surprising error of judgement in the whole of his catalogue, and was recognised as such by Links (in conversation with Charles Beddington before his death in 1997) although the correction given in his last publication (loc. cit., 1998) is very muted. That painting, now the property of an Italian private collector, has been offered on the market regularly over the last two decades and was exhibited in Barcelona and Madrid in 2001 (see Succi, loc. cit.), on which occasion it was published as a copy by Charles Beddington (C. Beddington, "Review of Canaletto: Una Venècia imaginària, ed. D. Succi and A. Delneri", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLIV, no. 1186, January 2002, p. 34).

This painting was formerly accompanied by a pendant showing The Bucintoro returning to the Molo on Ascension Day (Constable, op. cit., vol. I, reproduced plate 64; vol. II, no. 340), which remained with it until its sale by Ader Tajan at the Hôtel George V, Paris, 15 December 1993, lot 13, for FF. 66,000,000 (fig. 1).  On all three occasions that this painting has been exhibited it has been accompanied by the pendant, which was no. 89 in the 1844 exhibition, described as the ‘Marriage of the Doge of Venice’, and no. 68 in the 1861 exhibition, described as the ‘Doge marrying the Adriatic’. The pairing of the two subjects is unusual, the sobriety of this painting contrasting with the gaiety of the pendant. Thus, although this painting is described in the sources only as ‘A View in Venice’ there can be no uncertainty about the identification of the pair. Furthermore, a pair of copies, measuring 72.5 by 91.5 cm. and thought to have been acquired from Dudley Tooth in 1953 as ‘William James’, is currently on the London art market.

Although the provenance of this painting and its pendant from the late-eighteenth century has long been known, it is only within the last decade that the remarkable early history of the paintings has been rediscovered.  It was Sir Oliver Millar who first noticed the references to the paintings in the 1736 manuscript catalogue of paintings at 10 Downing Street (see under Literature) and in the 1751 sale, and this information was published by Links, loc. cit., 1998.  The manuscript catalogue of 1736, which is bound into Horace Walpole’s own copy of his Aedes Walponianae, 1752, in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (PML 7586), describes the two pictures ‘in the Parlour’: no. 125, ‘The Doge of Venice in His Barge, with Gondola’s & Masqueraders. Canaletti. 2-9 1/2 x 4-5 3/4’, and no. 126, ‘A View of Venice. Canaletti. 2-9 1/2 x 4-5 3/4’ (fig. 2).  In the manuscript copy of the 1751 sale, the present picture appears as lot 64, ‘A View in Venice Cannaletti (Raymond for Gideon) 36-15-6’, whilst its pendant appears as the subsequent lot, ‘the Doge marrying the Sea, it’s Companion Ditto (Ditto for Ditto) 34-13-.’

The 1736 reference is of particular significance as it is the earliest record of Canaletto paintings hanging in an English house. It is also of the greatest interest in establishing their first owner as no less a figure than Sir Robert Walpole (fig. 3), whose name had not previously featured in the literature on the artist, although he also owned Two Views of Venice by ‘Canaletti’ listed as nos. 359 and 360 in the 1736 catalogue, as hanging in the Parlour at Orford House in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea (A Capital Collection …, p. 449), but no further details are given and the paintings have not been identified.

Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first ‘prime’ minister, who was created Earl of Orford on his fall from power in 1742, was one of the greatest patrons and collectors of his day. Houghton Hall was built for him in 1722-35 to the designs of Colen Campbell and William Kent, and he commissioned from Paul de Lamerie the 'Walpole Salver' (Victoria & Albert Museum, London). He began to collect paintings in the 1720s, and his inventory of 1736 lists 154 at 10 Downing Street, 120 at Houghton, 78 in Chelsea and 66 at 16 Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. These included major works by Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Pietro da Cortona, Carlo Maratti, Guido Reni, Salvator Rosa, Murillo, Adam Elsheimer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan van Huysum, Jacob Jordaens and Frans Snyders, and particularly fine groups of paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck, including fourteen full-length Wharton family portraits by the latter. Walpole left substantial debts, as a result of which his collection was largely dispersed by auction sales in 1748 and 1751 and, above all, by the private sale in 1779 of the Houghton collection to Catherine II, Empress of Russia, as a result of which most of his more important possessions are now in the Hermitage (see A Capital Collection ..., passim). Walpole was unquestionably the first owner of the paintings by Canaletto, although how he acquired them is not known. He never visited Italy, but it may be relevant that his son Edward, who was charged with buying works of art for his collection, was in Venice between January 1730 and January 1731 (ibid., p. 309). They hung at 10 Downing Street (fig. 4), the eastern part of which was acquired by the crown in 1732 and offered by George II to Walpole as a personal gift; Walpole would only accept it for his office as First Lord of the Treasury and vacated it on his resignation in 1742, since when it has been the official residence of the Prime Minister. The original picture-hanging plans made by Isaac Ware still survive and, together with the 1736 inventory, allow for an accurate reconstruction of arrangement of pictures at Downing Street.  This picture and its pendant hung on either side of the fireplace in the ‘Northeast corner room’, also known as the ‘First-floor Parlour’ (fig. 5).  This room included other pairs of pictures: two oils by Francesco Solimena; The Exposition of King Cyrus and Orpheus described as Castiglione but now attributed to Antonio Maria Vassallo (see A Capital Collection, pp. 178-180, nos. 85 and 86); and A Kitchen piece by David Teniers the Younger (op. cit., pp. 242-3, no. 139) paired with Cook at a Kitchen Table with Dead Game by Paul de Vos (op. cit., p. 246, no. 144).  As Andrew Moore has observed, ‘The effect of these paintings in the rooms at Downing Street was quite stunning and it was here that the collection acquired its early reputation’ (op. cit., p. 24).  The prominent display of this painting and its pendant there provides important support for Professor Bruce Redford’s theories about prominent Whigs commissioning Venetian views in order to emphasize the political parallels between the two states (see B. Redford, Venice and the Grand Tour, New Haven and London 1996, pp. 60-3).

While the transitions of ownership are unusually complex, this painting and its pendant have been moved remarkably few times. This, and the fact that this painting has been sold publicly only once (in 1751), helps to account for its exceptional state of preservation. The buyer at the 1751 sale was the stockbroker Sampson Gideon, one of the most successful Jews of his generation in England. Gideon was a major subscriber to government funds and a financial adviser to the brothers Henry Pelham, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Thomas Pelham, 1st Duke of Newcastle. By the mid-1740s he had also become a valued adviser on financial matters to Sir Robert Walpole, who sought his counsel about floating loans for the Spanish War. Unwilling to give up his faith, his son was made a baronet in 1759 at the age of thirteen, and Baron Eardley in 1789, in recognition of his father’s services. Gideon acquired Belvedere, near Erith in Kent (fig. 6), on the death of Lord Baltimore in 1751 and shortly afterwards added a Great Room attributed to Isaac Ware. His collection was small but exceptional, as the Dodsleys observed in 1761: ‘The collection, though not numerous, is very valuable, it containing none but pieces which are originals by the greatest masters, and some of them very capital’ (Dodsley, op. cit., p. 271). Those included Rubens’ Deborah Kip, Wife of Sir Balthasar Gerbier, and her Children, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Murillo’s Immaculate Conception now at Melbourne (U. Hoff, European Paintings before 1800 in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 198-9) and Flight into Egypt now in the Detroit Institute of Arts (exhibited Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682): Paintings from American Collections, 2002, pp. 116-17, no. 3), and two gallery interiors by Teniers, one of which is now at Raby Castle (exhibited Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, The Treasure Houses of Britain, 1985-6, pp. 362-3, no. 291). There was also a Portrait of Snyders and his wife and child by ‘Long Jan’, also bought for Gideon by Raymond at the Walpole sale in 1751 [Second day (June 15), lot 66].

The pair of paintings by Canaletto hung in the Long Parlour, where they were seen and described by the Dodsleys (loc. cit.): ‘View of Venice’ and ‘Ditto, with the Doge marrying the sea Its companion’ Height 2 feet 9 inc. Breadth 4 Feet 6 inc. [Painted by] Canaletti’; these descriptions are repeated by Martyn, loc. cit. They were to remain at Belvedere until 1860, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys recording in her diary in 1771 having seen ‘two views of Venice by Canaletti’ (see Climenson, loc. cit.) shortly before the remodelling of the house by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart for Sir Sampson Gideon, later Baron Eardley, in circa 1775. Belvedere was visited early in the next century by Edward Wedlake Brayley, who noted (loc. cit.): ‘the collection of pictures evince a very judicious choice: among them is a view of Venice, and its companion, with the ceremony of the Doge marrying the Sea, by Canaletti …’ before going on to mention paintings attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Holbein and Rembrandt. By the time of the 1856 catalogue of Pictures at Belvedere the two paintings by Canaletto were in the Dining Room, where they were the only framed paintings, the remainder of the decoration of the room being by (or attributed to) Antonio Zucchi and Angelica Kauffman. This painting hung on the left of the chimneypiece, the pendant on the right (They may have been moved here shortly after the remodelling of circa 1775, judging from an annotation, probably in an eighteenth-century hand, in the copy of Dodsley in the library of the National Gallery, London, which records ‘now in the dining Parlour’). They were not among the twenty-one paintings from Belvedere consigned by Sir Culling Eardley for sale at Christie’s on 30 June 1860, nor were they among the ten paintings apparently consigned under the name of Sir Culling Eardley for sale at Christie’s on 6 June 1868, lots 73-82.

Along with other paintings from Belvedere (including unsold lots from the 1860 sale) they were moved in 1860 to Bedwell Park, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Belvedere was purchased in 1865 as a home by the Royal Alfred Merchant Seamen’s Institution, which it remained until its demolition in 1957. Bedwell, the paintings’ new home, was a late seventeenth century house which had been bought by Sir Culling Smith, 1st Bt., in 1807 and to which significant additions were made in circa 1840 and 1860, presumably in part to accommodate these new embellishments. There the pair of paintings by Canaletto remained until their sale to Agnew’s in 1930. Their whereabouts following their sale by Agnew’s have hitherto been unknown. There is no question, however, that this is the painting reproduced by Moschini in 1954, loc. cit., as in the collection of Mario Crespi, Milan, nor indeed that the pendant is the painting reproduced by him as fig. 114 and colour plate 16 as in the same collection. If one allows that both paintings could have been mistakenly described as measuring 76 by 120 cm. in the catalogue of the Lausanne exhibition of 1947 (of which both bear printed labels on the backs of the frames, but with the numbers 125 C and 125 D rather than the 101 and 102 of the catalogue) then it should be assumed that Constable’s no. 215(a) and 215(b) are both this painting.

We are grateful to Charles Beddington for providing this catalogue entry.