PROPERTY FROM THE LONDON RESIDENCE OF DIMITRI MAVROMMATIS
Traditionally thought to have been acquired by Sir William St. Quintin, 4th Baronet (1700-1770), directly from the artist;
Thence by descent to his son, William St. Quintin (1729-1795);
By descent to his nephew, William Thomas Darby (1769-1805), who assumed the name St. Quintin by royal licence;
By descent to his son, who died without issue in 1859, and thence to his brother, Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin, Colonel of the 17th Lancers (1800-1876);
By descent to his eldest son, William Herbert St. Quintin (1851-1932) in 1876;
By descent to his wife, Violet St. Quintin (d. 1945);
By descent to her daughter, Margery Violet St. Quintin (1886-1969), wife of Colonel Edmund George Savile L'Estrange Malone;
By descent to their daughter Mary (d. 1994), who married Sir Thomas Digby Legard, 14th Bt. (1905-1984);
Thence by family descent until offered, London, Sotheby's, 7 December 1994, lot 72;
With Richard Green, London, from whom acquired by the present owner.
Country Life, vol. CXV, no. 2986, 8 April 1954, reproduced p. 1036, fig. 7;
J.G. Links, Canaletto, supplement, London 1997, p. 16, no 146*, and p. 31, no. 308*, the former reproduced plate 249, the latter reproduced plate 265;
C. Beddington, Canaletto in England: a Venetian artist abroad, 1746-1755, exhibition catalogue, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven (CT), 19 October - 31 December 2006; and London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 24 January - 15 April 2007, p. 26.
Almost certainly dating from Canaletto's nine-year sojourn in England between 1746 and 1755, this pair of paintings is believed to have been either commissioned, or purchased directly from the artist, by the notable eighteenth-century patron and collector Sir William St. Quintin, 4th Bt. (1700-1770).
The oval format is extremely rare within Canaletto's oeuvre but the other principal examples are also associated with an English patron, Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, for whose London residence, Chesterfield House in South Audley Street, Canaletto painted three oval capricci (two of irregular oval format, one of regular oval format) in the early 1750s.1 Canaletto's only other extant oval canvas, A view of the Bacino di San Marco looking west, is in Frankfurt, Städel Kunstinstitut.2 Its early history is unknown but it can also be dated on grounds of style to the artist's English period.
In Venice the majority of Canaletto's clients had been English and George Vertue, whose notebooks give us the most thorough account of the artist's activity in England, questioned how Canaletto would fare in England 'many persons already having so many of his paintings'. Canaletto arrived in London in May 1746, encouraged to make the journey by his fellow Venetian, Jacopo Amigoni, who had spent a decade in England from 1729 to 1739, and who, according to Vertue, saw the potential for Canaletto to make views of the river Thames. In spite of Vertue's doubts, the artist's London period was to prove particularly fruitful, and Canaletto was able to attract important new clients, including the 9th Duke of Norfolk, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, the 5th Lord King, Thomas Hollis, and Sir Richard Neave amongst others, as well as painting works for English patrons who had earlier purchased Venetian works from him, including the 2nd Duke of Richmond and Sir Hugh Smithson, later Earl and Duke of Northumberland. Canaletto promoted his activity in the Daily Advertiser, in 1749 and 1751, in which he announced his latest paintings and invited clients to attend his lodgings in Silver Street (now called Beak Street) to the North of Golden Square. Sir William St. Quintin's London residence was at Bruton Street, not far from Canaletto's lodgings, and it is possible that he visited the artist there on one such occasion, perhaps precipitating the sale or commission of the present paintings. Their unusual format might suggest that the pair were painted to order with a set purpose or specific location in mind, just as those commissioned by the Earl of Chesterfield had been specified for his wife's Dressing Room and the Music Room in South Audley Street. Just as the Chesterfield Canalettos were removed from London to the country estate at Bretby Hall, apparently during the nineteenth century, so were the present lots removed to St. Quintin's country seat of Scampston Hall in the East Riding of Yorkshire at a later date (Fig. 2).
In common with other works from Canaletto's English period, these pictures are painted on a light grey or cream ground, which replaced the reddish-brown ground he had used previously, and on finely woven canvases. This lightening of the palette coincided with the advent of the late rococo in Venice which saw not only Canaletto but Giambattista Tiepolo, Piazzetta and Pittoni adopt a paler palette. Canaletto made a brief return trip to Venice in 1750/51 and it is possible that the present works were painted there on that occasion or indeed shortly after the artist's final return to his native city in 1756, but the format of the pictures, their technique, and their early association with an English patron strongly suggest the pictures were painted in London.
All of Canaletto's few other depictions of the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo are taken from further to the right, as in his drawing of the church on page 51v and 52 of his sketchbook.3 The nearest comparison in his oeuvre is the small horizontal canvas in the Royal Collection at Windsor,4 which was initially owned by Canaletto's agent in Venice, Joseph Smith, whose collection was later acquired en masse by George III; both this and the sketch, however, depict the church from a point considerably further right.
The viewpoint of the former is one repeated by Canaletto on numerous occasions; an upright canvas taken from the same angle (although from a slightly lower viewpoint) from the late 1720s is also in the Royal Collection.5 More pertinent perhaps, is a comparison with the horizontal view Canaletto painted for William Holbech for Farnborough Hall, near Warwick; the view is taken from a few yards further right but is depicted at exactly the same time of day, the shadows on the Dogana precisely mirroring those of the present work.6 This may suggest that Canaletto used the same source, presumably a drawing or a print, for both works, both of which were painted in England, on fine English canvases and on a grey ground. There can be no question that Canaletto brought with him to England a large number of his own drawings, as well as prints by Visentini and others, to help him in the execution of his paintings. He had an extraordinary ability to re-create in minute detail views he had not seen for many years, using only a basic sketch as a starting point; one of his most remarkable achievements in this regard was the series of six large Roman views he painted for Joseph Smith in 1742-3, over twenty years after visiting Rome itself.
The exceptional condition of these paintings is partly a result of their remarkable provenance; they have appeared only once on the art market some thirteen years ago (see Provenance) and before that had remained in the same family collection for nearly 250 years. Sir William St. Quintin divided his time between Bruton Street and the family estate in Yorkshire, Scampston Hall, which, along with the baronetcy, he had inherited in 1723 from his childless uncle Sir William St. Quintin (1662-1723). He added many Old Masters to a fine collection of contemporary English pictures commissioned directly from the leading English artists of the day; these included several landscapes by Richard Wilson, Samuel Scott and Thomas Gainsborough; indeed Sir William sat to Gainsborough in the 1760s and the portrait still hangs in Scampston Hall (Fig. 1). He was Member of Parliament for Thirsk for five years from 1722, and in 1730 served as High Sheriff for Yorkshire.
1. See F. Russell, "Canaletto and Joli at Chesterfield House", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXX, no. 1025, August 1988, pp. 627-30, reproduced figs. 61-63.
2. See W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford 1976, vol. I, reproduced plate 31, fig. 138, vol. II, pp. 252-53, no. 138.
3. See G. Nepi Scirè, Canaletto's Sketchbook, Venice 1997, p. 149.
4. See Constable, op. cit., vol. I, reproduced plate 58, vol. II, no. 308.
5. Now in the Royal Collection. See Constable, ibid., vol. II, reproduced plate 34, fig. 146.
6. See Beddington, under Literature, pp. 164-65, no. 55, reproduced.
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