PROPERTY OF GORDON GETTY
With inscriptions in red on the reverse CK [or possibly CH] Collection and CK [or CH] Collection [P?]... [C/G] R.F.;
Jacob Polackh (according to Kozakiewicz, see lit.);
Consul Eduard Friedrich Weber, Hamburg, by whom brought from Munich in 1878 (as by Guardi);
His (deceased) sale, Berlin, Lepke, 20-22 February 1912, lot 172 (as by Bellotto);
Private Collection, England;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, 1950 (nos. 14318, 14319);
From whom purchased by Lady Seymour Lloyd, London, March 1951;
Thence by descent to her grand-daughter, Mrs. Charles Plouviez, London;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 10 April 1987, lot 59;
Where acquired by Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London;
From whom acquired by the present owner in 1988.
London, Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., Summer Exhibition, June - July 1950, nos. 32, 34:
King's Lynn, Guildhall of Saint George, Exhibition of Venetian Pictures from the 14th to the 18th Century, 25 July - 8 August 1959, nos. 27, 28.
F. Harck, "Quadri di maestri italiani nelle Gallerie private di Germania, III. La Galleria Weber di Amburgo," in Archivio Storico dell'Arte, IV, 1891, p. 89 (as by Bellotto);
W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, London 1962 [and subsequent editions, revised by J.G. Links], vol. I, pls. 25, 36; vol. II, nos. 75, 157, reproduced;
L. Puppi, L'Opera completa del Canaletto, Milan 1968, nos. 188, 189A, reproduced;
S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London 1972, vol. II, p. 420, no. Z113 (as whereabouts and appearance unknown);
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, London 1981, p. 30, under no. 74;
A. Mariuz, Canaletto: Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan 1985, vol. II, p. 649, nos. P 303, P 304, reproduced;
R. Merrington, in Agnew's 1982-1992, London 1992, p. 84, reproduced in color.
Depicting a corner of the Piazzetta and the quay of the Dogana, Venice, the present pair of small pictures is freely painted with bold areas of impasto, especially in the highlights. That the Quay of the Dogana bears an early, probably 18th century, inscription on a label on the reverse "Canaletto.fe" makes it all the more surprising that both paintings were attributed first to Guardi and then to Bellotto in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the attribution was not questioned by Constable, it was considered less than certain when Christie's catalogued the paintings for sale in 1985. Nevertheless, such doubts were withdrawn before the sale, as the attribution was enthusiastically endorsed by Byam Shaw and others.
In the Piazzetta, the southwest corner of the Ducal Palace is visble to the left, while in the immediate right foreground there is a partial view of the column of Saint Theodore. Canaletto has depicted the column of Saint Mark, with its winged lion, just to the right of center, with the Riva degli Schiavoni beyond. The composition is balanced by two figures, bathed in sunlight, standing in conversation at the center of the plaza, while a larger group, in shadow, stands to the left. In the Quay of the Dogana, the portico and the end of the quay dominate the foreground, with small craft, including a sailboat with a vibrant yellow and red striped canopy, moored alongside. Two figures converse on the quay while others attend to the boats and rest alongside the building. In the distance, the Giudecca, with the Chiesa della Croce, the Redentore and S. Giacomo (now destroyed) appear from left to right on the skyline. The calm waters and hazy atmospheric effects in both works suggest a warm summer's day. The composition seems to relate to another, larger composition in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (inv. no. GG_6331), dated to circa 1724-1730. In the present painting, Constable notes that the portico of the Dogana is shown as supported by two columns without the two piers which in reality flank them. He also states that the lion of Saint Mark is facing the wrong way, suggesting that "it is significant that both pictures have topographical blunders, rare in Canaletto's work" (Constable, op. cit. p. 261). In fact, the lion of Saint Mark is not facing the wrong way, and the taking of liberties over topographical accuracy is characteristic of Canaletto's oeuvre, as he regularly alters or supresses features of the cityscape and architecture in his images.
Given the unusually sketchy execution of these works, perhaps only seen elsewhere in Canaletto's work in The Puppet Show in the Piazzetta (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, inv. no. A147), it is tempting to see in them a plein air execution. Such a hypothesis must be made extremely carefully, however, especially given the fact that no confirmed examples of plein air painting are known in Canaletto's oeuvre. Nevertheless, their painterly finish, atmospheric handling, and the low, street-level view points do evoke an artist working in situ. The small scale of both works also lends credence to this conjecture, as they could have been easily transported from studio to location and back again. In the Piazzetta especially, the rapid, sketch-like execution can be observed in the uppermost level of the Doge's Palace, the corner of which seems to be dematerializing into the atmosphere. Whether actually executed en plein air, or sketched out of doors and finished in the studio, the immediacy of the present works is particularly appealing to the modern viewer.
Constable, who saw these paintings on 6 June 1950, incorrectly stated that they are painted on panel. In fact, they are on canvas, which was likely laid down on soft wood (probably pine) panels before the execution of the paintings. There are no other instances of Canaletto using such a support, although he did occasionally use mahogany panel as a support during his time in London. While Constable did not suggest a date for these works, Puppi's proposed dating to 1740-1745 is certainly too late, and Mariuz's of 1731-1746 is probably also slightly too late. Charles Beddington has suggested that dating them to the late 1720s seems most probable based on stylistic comparisons to other works from this period.
We are grateful to Charles Beddington for his assistance in the cataloguing of the present lot.
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