PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, NEW YORK
John Blackwood (d. 1777), Soho Square, London;
His great grandson William Ralph Cartwright, M.P. (1771-1850), Aynhoe Park, Northampton;
His son Sir Thomas Cartwright, G.C.H. (1795-1850), Minister Plenipotentiary to the Diet of Frankfurt 1830-8 and at Stockholm 1838-50;
His son William Cornwallis Cartwright, D.L., J.P. (1825-1915);
Sir Fairfax Leighton Cartwright, P.C., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O. (1857-1928), British Ambassador at Vienna 1908-13;
His son Richard Fairfax William Cartwright (1903-1954);
Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett, by whom removed from Aynhoe Park on its sale in 1959;
With Richard Green, London, from whom purchased by the present collector in 1993 as by Canaletto.
The view is taken from a point near the middle of the Grand Canal in front of the Church and Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità, which now house the Gallerie della Accademia, one of the city’s foremost tourist attractions. The foreground is now crossed by the Ponte dell’Accademia, which in its present form dates from 1932. The square on the right, the Campo San Vidal, is celebrated among admirers of Venetian view painting as the subject of one of the greatest masterpieces of the genre, Canaletto’s Stonemason’s Yard in the National Gallery, London. The prominent building on the left is the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni, begun to the design of Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1609, which survives almost unchanged; this is actually rather further up the canal than the Campo San Vidal, the topography having been adjusted for pictorial effect in a manner characteristic of Canaletto (for a recent photograph of the view, see D. Bomford and G. Finaldi, Catalogue of the exhibition Venice through Canaletto’s Eyes, National Gallery, London; York City Art Gallery; and Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, 1998-9, p. 46, fig. 45). In the distance, with a temporary wooden roof, is the great Ca’ Rezzonico, commissioned from Baldassare Longhena in 1667 but only completed, by Giorgio Massari, in the 1750s; the poet Robert Browning was to die there in 1889 and it is now the Museo del Settecento Veneziano.
The view was depicted by Canaletto in a smaller painting among the large series in the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, datable from documented payments to c. 1733-6 (Constable, see under Literature below, I, pl. 44; II, no. 200). For this he used a sequence of sketches on six pages of a sketchbook in the Gallerie dell’Accademia (pages 16 verso, 17, 15 verso, 16, 14 verso and 15; see Pignatti under Literature below, p. 35, and G. Nepi Scirè, Il Quaderno di Canaletto, Venice 1997, pp. 59-65). From the same sketches Canaletto made a drawing of the whole panorama once owned by Consul Smith and now at Windsor Castle (K. T. Parker, The Drawings of Antonio Canaletto in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, Oxford and London 1948, p. 33, no. 19, pl. 28; Constable, I, pl. 106; II, no. 586); this differs from the Woburn painting in omitting the building on the far left and in having more, differently arranged boats. In these details it corresponds with this painting which, not seen in public since 1839, has, like lot 65 in this sale, was always attributed to Canaletto. The painting, however, shows more of the house on the extreme right, and in this respect corresponds exactly with a version of the Windsor drawing last seen in the Benno Geiger sale at Sotheby’s, London, December 7, 1920, lot 52; that, already considered to be ‘probably by Bellotto’ by Parker in 1948, is now universally accepted as Bellotto’s work, indeed as the prototype, preceding Canaletto’s version (S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London, 1972, II, p. 14, no. 11 and under no. 10, reproduced p. 12; Kowalczyk, op. cit., 1998, p. 79, fig. 8). That alone should have given rise to doubts about the traditional attribution of this painting to Canaletto, since so many of Bellotto’s painted versions of Canaletto compositions are preceded by drawings, but it was left to Beddington and Kowalczyk (see under Literature below) to identify it as an early work by the younger artist (Beddington’s and Kowalczyk’s conclusions were made independently, Beddington being unaware at the time of writing of the earlier references to the painting by Kowalczyk); Beddington dates the painting to c. 1739, Kowalczyk to c. 1739-40.
This painting differs markedly in style from the Woburn painting and indeed displays all the characteristics of Bellotto’s early style also evident in lot 66, as Beddington has elucidated: ‘Again we find the cold tonality, here even more pronounced, the extensive use of black, and the ‘icing sugar’ clouds, partly executed in diagonal strokes descending to the left’. Additionally, Bellotto’s first formula for the depiction of ripples is clearly seen, and there is a particularly rich play of reflections in the water, an effect of which Bellotto was especially fond. The large, expressive figures diverge notably from Canaletto’s types in a way seen in other Bellotto paintings of this date, such as The Grand Canal from the Church of Santa Croce and the Convent of Corpus Domini (of similar size) in the National Gallery, London (exhibited Venice, Museo Correr, Bernardo Bellotto, and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Bernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe, 2001, pp. 42-5, no. 1, reproduced in color). Finally, on the nearer walls is clearly displayed ‘Bellotto’s distinctive technique of depicting old stucco on brick in delicate black, inky lines and squiggles over different shades of beige’ (see Beddington under Literature below, p. 671). The painting was accompanied until 1993 by a pendant showing The Piazza San Marco looking East (Constable, op. cit. under Literature below, II, no. 5; Links, op. cit., 1998, pl. 5), of less certain attribution, which is a variant of lot 65 in this sale. The two paintings are first recorded by George Baker (see under Literature below) hanging in the dining room at Aynhoe Park as ‘Venice, St. Mark’s-place, Canaletti’ and ‘Venice, the grand canal, Canaletti’.
John Blackwood (d. 1777), the first recorded owner of this painting and its pendant, was a good example of those London picture dealers of the first half of the eighteenth century who ‘travelled extensively on the Continent, assembled a sizeable collection there and then returned to London to dispose of it at leisure from their own homes or through the auction rooms’ (F. Hermann, The English as Collectors: A Documentary Sourcebook, London 1999, p. 27). Edward Edwards (1738-1806) records that John Greenwood, ‘a native of Boston, in New England’ and later a successful London auctioneer, at the outset of his career ‘formed an acquaintance [in Holland sometime before 1763] with Mr. Blackwood, an English merchant, who dealt much in pictures’; he further informs us that Blackwood ‘traded to Spain, from whence he brought some very fine pictures of the Spanish masters, particularly of Murillo’ (E. Edwards, Anecdotes of Painters who have resided or been born in England …, London 1808, p. 170). Blackwood was indeed the only dealer of his generation to acquire paintings in Spain. Four paintings given to Murillo which he purchased there in c. 1760 were bought from him by Sir Lawrence Dundas (C.B. Curtis, Velazquez and Murillo, London and New York 1883, pp. 173-4, no. 139, p. 182, no. 161, p. 239, no. 301 and pp. 293-4, no. 462). Although he was obliged to suspend his activities between 1744 and 1749 following the outbreak of war with France in 1743, Blackwood held a particularly large number of sales in the 1750s, culminating in that at Langford’s, Covent Garden, on March 19-20, 1760. He participated in the Van Haecken sale in 1758 as both seller and buyer, and such masterpieces as Poussin’s Moses sweetening the Waters of Maribah (Baltimore Museum of Art) passed through his hands. Blackwood was also unusual in retaining an impressive collection of paintings. This passed after his death in 1777 to his great grandson William Ralph Cartwright, M.P. (1771-1850), whose father Thomas Cartwright, M.P. (1735-1772) of Aynhoe Park, Northampton, had married in 1765 Mary Catherine Desaguilliers (or Desaguliers), daughter of Blackwood’s daughter Mary (d. before 1753), wife of Major-General Thomas Desaguilliers, of Grace, Essex, Chief Firemaster of Woolwich Arsenal. According to George Baker (see under Literature below), Mrs Blackwood (Anne, daughter of Sir Cloudesley Shovel) was also William Ralph Cartwright’s maternal great aunt, and it was she who actually bequeathed the collection to him.
Blackwood’s collection was subsequently housed for nearly two centuries at Aynhoe Park (sometimes spelt Aynho) near Banbury, which had been rebuilt by John Cartwright after the Restoration and remodelled for Thomas Cartwright in 1707-11 to a design attributed to Thomas Archer; alterations were carried out by Sir John Soane for William Ralph Cartwright in 1799-1804, and it remained the seat of the Cartwright family until it was sold and divided into apartments in 1959 (see G. Nares, ‘Aynhoe Park, Northamptonshire’ in Country Life, July 2, 1953, pp. 42-5, July 9, 1953, pp. 122-5 and July 16, 1953, pp. 202-5). Blackwood’s paintings evidently dominated the décor, as George Baker attested in the 1820s: ‘The interior is enriched with some beautiful bronze figures and vases, and a choice collection of pictures, principally imported from the continent by John Blackwood, esq.’. They included no fewer than seven paintings given to Murillo, all acquired on his visit to Spain in c. 1760, of which two, The Sacrifice of Isaac and Tobias and the Angel, are important autograph works (see Curtis, op. cit., nos. 3, 16, 33, 72, 200, 335 and 373d; and D. Angulo Iñiguez, Murillo, Madrid 1981, nos. 90, 96, 1526-7, 2141, 2271 and under no. 87). There were also three portraits by Van Dyck of unidentified gentlemen, one three-quarter length, the other two heads in painted ovals (S.J. Barnes, N. de Poorter, O. Millar and H. Vey, Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, p. 384, no. III.185, and p. 387, nos. III.191-2), and a fine portrait by Hogarth of Blackwood’s daughter Mary Desaguilliers, traditionally dated to 1741 (exhibited London, Tate Gallery, Manners & Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760, 1987-8, pp. 138-9, no. 119; Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, William Hogarth: dipinti disegni incisioni, 1989, p. 86, no. 147; and London, Tate Gallery, Hogarth the Painter, 1997, p. 43, no. 20). The only other Italian view painting was The Arch of Constantine by Alessandro Salucci and Jan Miel, now in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham (D.R. Marshall, Viviano and Niccolò Codazzi and the Baroque Architectural Fantasy, Milan 1993, reproduced p. 214, fig. VC 101a).
We are grateful to Charles Beddington for providing this catalogue entry.
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