Lot 98
  • 98

Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto
  • London, a view of the Old Horse Guards and Banqueting Hall, Whitehall seen from St. James' Park
  • oil on canvas
  • 18 5/8 x 30 1/4 inches


Possibly Dr. Richard Mead (1673 - 1754) and bequeathed to his son-in-law;
Dr. Edward Wilmot (1693 - 1786), created Baronet in 1759;
By descent to Sir Henry Sacheverel Wilmot, 4th Baronet (1801-1872), by 1857;
By descent to Sir Robert Wilmot, 8th Baronet (1939-1974);
His estate sale, London, Christie's, 27 June 1975, lot 31 (for 100,000 gns.)
With Roy Miles, London, 1975;
From whom purchased by Paul Mellon, K.B.E. (1907 - 1999);
His sale, London, Christie's, 17 November 1989, lot 4;
Where acquired by a UK pension fund;
By whom sold, London, Christie's, 4 July 1997, lot 121;
There purchased by the present collector.


Manchester, Art Treasures Exhibition, 1857, no. 821 (leant by Wilmot family, according to a label on stretcher at time of 1989 sale);
London, Guildhall Art Gallery, Canaletto in England, June-July 1959, no. 23;
New Haven, Yale Art Center; London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Canaletto in England. A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755, 19 October - 31 December 2006; 24 January - 15 April 2007, no. 16 (exhibited in London only; due to its success, the exhibition was extended until 22 April 2007).


F.J.B. Watson, Canaletto, London and New York 1949, p. 20, reproduced fig. 25;
F.J.B Watson, "Some Unpublished Canaletto Drawings of London", in The Burlington Magazine, XCII, 572, Nov.1950, p. 316 and 314, reproduced fig. 12;
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford,1962, and 2nd ed., revised by J.G. Links, 1976, I, p. 142, reproduced plate 76; II, cat. no. 416 and under nos. 735 and 736; ed. 1989, I, p. lxvii and II, p. 738;
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, Milan 1968, cat. no. 280, reproduced;
A. Bettagno, Venetian drawings of the eighteenth century, exhibition catalogue, London 1972, p. 36, under cat. no. 53;
Christie’s Review of the Season 1975, London 1975, p. 9; reproduced on the jacket cover and p. 40;
J.G. Links, Canaletto and his patrons, London, 1977, p. 69, reproduced plate 100 (erroneously described as formerly in the collection of the Earl of Malmesbury and with incorrect measurements);
J.G. Links, Canaletto. The Complete Paintings, St. Albans 1981, p. 68, cat. no. 222, reproduced;
J.G. Links, Canaletto, Oxford 1982, pp. 161-2, reproduced plate 151; 2nd, ed., London 1994, pp. 172 - 173, reproduced plate 154;
A. Bettagno, Canaletto, Disegni-Dipinti-Incisioni, exhibition catalogue, Venice
1982, p. 46, under cat. no. 44;
A. Corboz, Canaletto. Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan 1985, II, p. 716, cat. no. P405, reproduced;
Sotheby’s Art at Auction. The Market Review 1993-1994, London 1994, p. 32 reproduced in reverse;
M.J.H. Liversidge, "Canaletto and England', in Canaletto and England, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham 1994, p. 21;
E. Garberson, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue: Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Washington 1996, p. 223, note 14;
S. Reyburn, "Stepping forward a century - the remarkable rise of 'newer' Old Masters", in Antiques Trade Gazette, August 1997, p. 33;
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable's 'Canaletto' Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, London 1998, pp. 37, 39 cat. no. 416;
C. Beddington, Canaletto in England. A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755, exhibition catalogue, New Haven 2006, pp. 18, 27, 45, 82 - 85, cat. no. 16.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is clearly in beautiful condition. The canvas has an old lining applied with a non-wax adhesive. The surface is still well textured despite the lining, and the paint layer is stable. There are no structural damages and only a very reasonable amount of thinness to a few areas of the paint layer. The foreground and landscape are in almost perfect condition, with only a few spots of retouching in the tops of the trees. There are small retouches visible under ultraviolet light in the lower center sky. A few random dots of retouching have also been applied in isolated areas elsewhere.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This tranquil London scene, looking eastward across Saint James’s Park toward the Horse Guards building and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, beyond, is an exquisite example of views from Canaletto’s English period.  In May of 1746, Canaletto transferred his studio to London, perhaps in pursuit of fresh challenges, following two decades of prolific Venetian vedute painting.  The outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740 had discouraged English visitors from undertaking the Grand Tour, and these had made up the majority of Canaletto’s patrons and this lack of clientele may have been a further factor in his decision to move.  The artist must have found success in Britain, however, as he remained there long after the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that brought an end to the hostilities in October 1748.1 The painting is presumed to date to 1749, when the old, red brick Horse Guards had been condemned.  This perhaps captured the imagination of the artist, compelling him to record the architecture in painted form for posterity.  Given the lush foliage, it is likely this painting was executed in May or June of 1749, prior to the building’s demolition which began late that same year.2

Two drawings, pages from a sketchbook formerly in the collection of Dr. Alfredo Viggiano, and now in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice (figs. 1 and 2), can be linked to The Old Horse Guards.  Watson, who was first to publish the sketches in 1950, described them as: 

“of an unusually summary character, and so bespattered with notes on colours and architectural characteristics as to suggest at first sight that they are sketches made on the spot, perhaps on a notebook held in the artist’s hand… The painting agrees closely with the drawings, and follows the notes as to colour, treatment of the architecture and material, with great care.  The proportions of the Horse Guards building have been modified to accord with the direction più largo and the plastered walls of Little Walsingham House follow the indication sporco.  Dirty they may well have been, for the house had already been described as ‘little, old and ruinous’ as early as 1658, although it was not demolished until 1786.”3

The earliest known provenance for this canvas links it to Sir Edward Wilmot, First Baronet, who was surgeon to King George II and King George III.  The painting then remained in the Wilmot family until it was sold by Sir Robert Wilmot, 8th Baronet, in 1975 (see Provenance).  The catalogue of the Wilmot sale states that, prior to Edward Wilmot, the work had “traditionally been thought to have been in the collection of Dr. Meade”4  A renowned man of medicine, Richard Mead was himself a royal physician, attending to King George I, King George II, as well as Sir Robert Walpole, Isaac Newton and Alexander Pope.  Mead even assisted the artist Jean-Antoine Watteau, who travelled to England with the expressed purpose of receiving counsel and treatment for his consumption. 

Edward Wilmot was not only a colleague of Mead, but also married his daughter, Sarah, becoming heir to Mead’s estate.  Mead amassed an impressive collection, not only of paintings, but also manuscripts, books, antiquities and coins.  The physician owned other views by Canaletto and was a friend of Joseph Smith, the British consul at Venice and the artist’s great patron and agent.  This canvas, however, was not among those offered in the sale of paintings held at Langford’s, London, shortly after Mead’s death in 1754.5  It could be conjectured, therefore, that the painting was bequeathed to Edward or had entered the Wilmot family at an earlier stage.

As Charles Beddington asserts, it is in fact more plausible that Edward Wilmot acquired the painting independently for himself.6  The prominent depiction of the Old Horse Guards in the painting would have been of particular interest to the doctor, who had by now risen to the position of Physician-General to the Army.7  Wilmot would likely have seen the collecting of paintings as befitting a man of his career and standing, and selected the work for its relevance to his own work.


1.  C. Beddington, under Literature, op. cit, p. 9.
2.  Ibid. p. 83.
3.  F.J.B. Watson, under Literature, op. cit., p. 316.
4.  See catalogue entry, Sir Robert Wilmot Estate sale, London, Christie’s, 27 June 1975, lot 31.
5.  Property from the Estate of Dr. Richard Mead (the paintings), London, Langford’s, 20 – 22 March 1754.
6.  C. Beddington, under Literature, op. cit., p. 45.
7.  Ibid.