Francesco Guardi Venice 1712 - 1793
- Francesco Guardi
- Venice, a view of the Lagoon with the Fondamenta Nuove looking towards the Casino degli Spiriti
oil on canvas
Art Market, London, 1920-25;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 18 November 1959, lot 125;
With Edward Speelman, London;
From whom acquired by the late father of the present owners in 1960.
A. Morassi, "The Lagoonscapes of Francesco Guardi", in Apollo, vol. XC, no. 89, July 1969, p. 38, reproduced on p. 39, fig. 3;
A. Morassi, Guardi, Venice 1973, vol. I, p. 425, cat. no. 617, and p. 429, under cat. no. 640, reproduced vol. II, fig. 585;
A. Morassi, Guardi, Venice 1993, vol. I, p. 425, cat. no. 617, and p. 429, under cat. no. 640, reproduced vol. II, fig. 585.
This exquisite picture is an early veduta by Guardi and is one of a small series of lagoon scenes, all of broadly similar dimensions, which form a distinctive group within the artist’s œuvre. Like other pictures from this group, the present work is characterised by its delicate brushwork and pearly silver-blue tonality, lyrically evoking the atmosphere and expanse of the Venetian lagoon in the afternoon sun.
Conceived as part of a pair, this painting’s pendant is signed and shows a View of the Lagoon with the Forte di S. Nicolò di Lido (31 by 52 cm.; formerly with David Koetser, Zurich).1 Praised by scholars for their poetry, Guardi’s early vedute lagunari are generally considered to be among his most imaginative and original creations: “La luminosità madreperlacea delle cristalline visioni panoramiche, ancora ispirate ai valori atmosferici traslucidi di Canaletto, si coniuga con velature rosate verso l’orizzonte, mentre i cieli sereni e “argentei” si specchiano nelle acque lagunari disseminate di barche cariche di figurette”.2 Other pictures from this group of early works include a pair in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, of Views of the Lagoon with the Forte di S. Nicolò di Lido and the island of Murano (32 by 52.8 cm. each); a View of the Lagoon formerly in the Bentinck-Thyssen collection and sold, London, Sotheby’s, 6 December 1995, lot 84 (33 by 54 cm.); the pair of slightly larger format in the Henle collection offered, London, Sotheby’s, 3-4 December 1997, lot 44 (61.4 by 96.5 cm. each); and the pair, both signed and of even larger dimensions, from the Duke of Buccleuch’s collection at Bowhill (72 by 120 cm. each).3
Guardi often repeated his vedute and indeed this View of the Lagoon with the Fondamenta Nuove repeats the same viewpoint as one of the Buccleuch paintings, though the composition of the latter is slightly amplified to include a distant view of an island (only just visible at the extreme right of the present painting). The island has been variously identified as Murano (by Antonio Morassi) and as San Michele (by Francis Russell), and a related drawing showing the exact same viewpoint as the Buccleuch painting is in a private collection, London.4 Guardi adopts a similar viewpoint to the Buccleuch painting in a signed variant formerly in the Morawetz collection, New York, and now in the Havana Museum, Cuba, in which most details are repeated including the disposition of boats.5 What differs most in the present work is Guardi’s choice of a more distant vantage point, leading to a greater sense of depth in a canvas of much smaller dimensions than the other two variants. Even when painting the same group of buildings or the same shoreline, Guardi approaches each view with renewed sensitivity: they are not strictly-speaking topographical for their main subject is the water in the lagoon itself.
Although a number of these early works are monogrammed or signed – as is the case with the present painting’s pendant – the scarcity of dated works has led to much scholarly debate over the paintings’ precise chronology.6 Goering believed the earliest of them was painted in about 1745, while Morassi suggested the years 1745-50. In 1951 James Byam Shaw expressed the view that Guardi did not start painting views until after 1755, a view supported by Sir Denis Mahon’s observation that one of the Buccleuch pictures shows the onion-capped campanile of S. Bartolommeo di Rialto which was only completed on 1st April 1754. Michael Levey agreed, and Dario Succi more recently concurred with this later dating, suggesting they may even post-date 1758. Whatever their precise date of execution, these vedute capture the essence of the lagoon area surrounding Venice; their poetic atmosphere giving way to the nervous energy of Guardi’s later works.
1. A. Morassi, see Literature, 1993, vol. I, p. 429, cat. no. 640, reproduced vol. II, fig. 603.
2. D. Succi, “Gli inizi vedutistici di Francesco Guardi, con cenni sui capricci”, in Guardi: metamorfosi dell’immagine, exhibition catalogue, Gorizia, Castello di Gorizia, June - September 1987, p. 60. Translation: "The mother-of-pearl luminosity of the clear panoramic views of water, inspired by the translucent atmospheric paintings of Canaletto, blends with the rose-tinted hues towards the horizon, and the “silvery” calm skies are mirrored in the water of the lagoon on which people-laden boats are scattered".
3. For the Fitzwilliam Museum pair see Morassi, op. cit., cat. nos. 639 and 658, reproduced figs. 602 and 613; for the Bentinck-Thyssen picture, ibid., cat. no. 657, reproduced fig. 612; for the Henle pair, ibid., cat. nos. 621 and 663, reproduced figs. 589 and 615; and for the Buccleuch pair, ibid., cat. nos. 615 and 620, reproduced figs. 584 and 588.
4. Black chalk, pen and brown ink with brown wash, 235 by 454 mm.; reproduced in A. Morassi, Guardi. I disegni, Venice 1975, p. 149, cat. no. 399, fig. 401.
5. Morassi, op. cit., 1993, cat. no. 616, reproduced fig. 586. Information on the painting’s current whereabouts was kindly provided by Charles Beddington.
6. Discussed in full by F. Russell, “Guardi and the English Tourist”, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXVIII, no. 1114, January 1996, pp. 4-8.