Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto
- Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto
- Venice, the Campo San Zaccaria;
Venice, the Campo Santa Maria Formosa
- a pair, both oil on canvas, in their original Venetian carved and gilded frames
- each 47 x 77.7 cm.; 18 1/2 x 30 5/8 in.
By inheritance to his cousin Claire Victoria Hope-Edwardes (1851–1924), wife of Major Robert Hanson Coldwell (1827–1899);
By descent to their granddaughter Clare Mary Hope-Edwardes, née Coldwell (1912–1994), later Lady More, Netley Hall and subsequently Linley Hall, Shropshire;
Acquired from the descendants of the above by Simon Dickinson, London;
From whom acquired by the present owner.
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable’s Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697–1768, London 1998, p. 28, no. 280*, reproduced in black and white as plate 266, and pp. 32–33, no. 329*, reproduced in black and white as plate 271 (both with incorrect dimensions).
Canaletto’s view of Campo S. Zaccharia is a unique composition of which no other versions are known. Its importance is reflected in the fact that it was the only new subject to have been brought to Links’ attention since the publication of the catalogue raisonné in 1969. Its pendant, the view of Campo S. Maria Formosa, adopts a vista that exists in four versions, of which the one most closely related to it in style and date is the picture bought by John, 4th Duke of Bedford (1710–71) between 1732 and 1736, as one in a series of vedute now at Woburn Abbey.1 The latter is a work of similar format and dimensions. The other two versions are in the collection of Earl Cadogan, Scotland (a larger picture with different lighting from the right), and in an Italian private collection (paired with a view of the Scuola di S. Rocco).2 The principal differences that distinguish this from the same view at Woburn are to be found in the slightly higher viewpoint (here, for instance, two figures reach into the fountain at the centre, while in the Bedford version the fountain is more remote); the arrangement of staffage; and in numerous tiny details (such as the presence in this work of scaffolding on the rooftops, a sunlit attic’s shuttered window, and the low platforms – perhaps temporary stages – erected at the far end of the campo).
Two related drawings at Windsor are preparatory for the composition of Campo S. Maria Formosa, both executed in pen and ink over pencil and of similar dimensions.3 The differences between them are minor (there are variations for example in the shading, the roof tiles and the figures). There exists also a sequence of diagrammatic drawings for the composition that form part of a sketchbook in the collection of the Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice. The buildings to the left and right of the church were carefully drawn on its pages and annotated by the artist to serve as aides-mémoire for the execution of the painted composition.4 These annotations often comprise colour notes and sometimes indicate particular motifs, such as the type of shop or seller. The shorthand colour annotations on the pages relevant to this painting – for example ‘rosa vechio e machiato’ (‘pink old and stained’) inscribed on the house next to the campanile – offer particularly vivid insights into Canaletto’s working practice.
While no preparatory drawings appear to have survived for Canaletto’s view of Campo S. Zaccharia, there is one other isolated instance of him depicting the subject in a grand drawing of the visit of the Doge to San Zaccaria on Easter Day. The sheet, today in the British Museum, is preparatory for one of the engravings in the series of twelve by Giovanni Battista Brustoloni after Canaletto of ducal ceremonies and festivals (c. 1763–66).5 A densely crowded scene teeming with people, it could not differ more in spirit and mood from this peaceful view of everyday life in the quarter of San Zaccaria, painted by Canaletto some thirty years earlier.
Both squares depicted in this pair of paintings – with their vividly contrasting areas of light and shadow – capture less common views of the city: the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a bustling city square to the north-east of Saint Mark’s Basilica, and the Campo San Zaccharia, a similar distance to the east. In the former, the view is taken from Palazzo Ruzzini at the northern end of the campo facing south, with the church and the campanile at the far end. Santa Maria Formosa, rebuilt to the designs of Mauro Codussi (c. 1440–1504) on the plan of a Greek cross, was founded in the seventh century on the site of a vision of a particularly beautiful Madonna: hence ‘formosa’ meaning ‘shapely’. The façade overlooking the campo was added in the early seventeenth century. Its importance is reflected in being one of the Venetian churches visited annually by the Doge on the feast of the Purification of the Virgin. To the left of the church, beyond the bridges, is the Palazzo Malipiero Trevisan. On the left side of the campo, are the Palazzo Donà (truncated at the picture’s edge) and the Palazzo Vitturi, their gothic façades in deep shadow. The perimeter of the campo is animated with shops that include a grocer, a fruitseller, a shop that sells mirrors and a rag-and-bone shop (‘straciarol’), which accord with Canaletto’s annotations in his sketchbook.
The view of Campo San Zaccharia is taken from directly opposite the original church's main door (long since blocked up, its walls roughly rendered). One of the city’s oldest bell towers stands to the right. The new church’s imposing façade, with its great lunette as the crowning element, was also designed by Codussi, when he took over the building project. The cloister building on the north side of the campo later became shops. In Canaletto’s scene, one of these is open and a carpenter is labouring at his bench. The campo is punctuated by a column and a well-head. Beautifully preserved, with many fine passages, the scene is animated with lively details of Venetians engaged in their day-to-day business. An elegant couple makes its way towards the church entrance; two clerics stop to converse with a gentleman in red stockings; two women lean over the well, copper pail at the ready; at the far right, deftly rendered, a woman in black holding a fan, has been painted in with a few rapid strokes – a detail added by Canaletto after executing the railings. Vivid touches of red, blue and yellow give colour to clothing, while a subtle range of tones evokes the polychromy of this imposing church. Just visible in the distance is the pointed tip of the belltower of San Francesco della Vigna, while to the left beyond the tree are the rooftops and chimneys of Venice’s skyline.
Canaletto’s View of the Campo S. Maria Formosa was engraved by Antonio Visentini and published by Smith in the 1742 edition of the Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum (fig. 1).6 The first edition of Visentini’s Prospectus, comprising engravings of fourteen views by Canaletto, was issued in 1735; it served as a fine advertisement for the artist’s work and for Smith’s services as agent. Visentini’s preparatory drawings after Canaletto’s paintings are likely to be earlier, for many of the originals are datable to the mid-1730s, as is the case with Campo S. Maria Formosa. In aspects such as the higher horizon line and the inclusion of the building at the far left, the engraving of Campo S. Maria Formosa follows this painting more closely than the version at Woburn, and suggests it was based on this.
Besides the longstanding business relationship between Canaletto and Smith, there is one other compelling indication that Smith acted as intermediary in the purchase of the present view and its pendant, namely their frames. They are Venetian carved and gilded rococo frames of the first half of the eighteenth century. Of identical design, both have a repeating ‘C’ scroll and husk ornament, with acanthus leaves in the corners and a rope twist on the back edge. The same ‘C’ scroll pattern is also found on the series of twenty-two views of the Grand Canal made for the Duke of Bedford, now at Woburn, and on the twelve views of the Grand Canal in the Royal Collection. The pattern was also used on a series of nineteen reduced versions, in grisaille, of allegorical tombs of illustrious Englishmen commissioned by Owen McSwiney when he was in Venice; and for five pictures formerly part of the Harvey series.7 Datable to the first half of the 1730s, the frames correlate with the date of the paintings to 1730–35.
It appears to have been Consul Smith’s practice to offer to supply frames for pictures bought by his clients, and with their agreement and at their cost he would have the frames made in Venice.8 He shipped pictures that he negotiated to John Smith, his brother, in London. Those that were not framed in Venice were presumably framed and delivered by John. This elegant pair of frames is of the type associated with Consul Smith. Unlike the examples cited above, the frames on this pair of Canalettos retain their original form. By contrast, the Woburn frames have a nineteenth-century moulding added to the back edge in order to increase their width; and all the frames of this type in the Royal Collection were also given additions in the nineteenth century. These frames, therefore, are of particular interest as they are the only ones to remain intact: rare survivors of changes in taste.
It is not known what price was paid by the original owner of this pair of views, but by the time they were acquired in the early 1730s, the prices reached by Canaletto’s works were markedly on the rise.9 The success of Canaletto as a viewer painter in the 1730s was largely due to the demand for his works from English patrons orchestrated for him by Consul Smith. Although the precise circumstances of this pair’s acquisition are not yet known, the quality of the pictures aligns them with Canaletto's best work for Smith. The first owner of these paintings succeeded in obtaining two highly original views by the eighteenth century’s pre-eminent painter of vedute.
1. Oil on canvas, 47 x 80 cm.; W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697–1768, second ed. rev. by J.G. Links, with supplement and additional plates, Oxford 1989, vol. II, p. 327, no. 278, reproduced vol. I, pl. 54. For the bills relating to the 4th Duke of Bedford’s purchases of the series of Canalettos, see F. Russell, ‘The Pictures of John, Fourth Duke of Bedford’, Apollo, June 1988, pp. 401–06.
2. Constable and Links (ed.) 1989, vol. II, pp. 327–28, nos 279 and 280, the former reproduced in black and white, vol. I, pl. 55.
3. RCIN 907478 and RCIN 907479; Constable and Links (ed.) 1989, vol. II, pp. 515–16, nos 604 and 605, the latter reproduced in black and white, vol. I, pl. 110. Both pen and ink over pencil, 27.1 x 37.8 cm. and 27 x 37.6 cm respectively. K.T. Parker, The Drawings of Antonio Canaletto in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, Oxford and London 1948, nos 38 and 39, reproduced in black and white as figs 19 and 20.
4. Relevant folios from the sketchbook are listed in Constable and Links (ed.) 1989, vol. II, p. 515, under no, 605; see p. 635, folios 36v–37r, 37v–38r and 39r, reproduced in vol.I, pl. 167.
5. 1910,0212.21; pen and brown ink and grey wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, 38.7 x 55 cm.; Constable and Links (ed.) 1989, vol. II, p. XX, no. 639, reproduced in black and white, vol. I, pl. 116.
6. A. Visentini, Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum, Pars Tertia, VIII, 1742. According to Charles Beddington, the view of Campo S. Maria Formosa is said to be the closest of all four versions to Visentini’s engraving. We are grateful to him for his comments.
7. P. Mason, ‘Smith’s picture frames’, in A king’s purchase: King George III and the collection of Consul Smith, exh., Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London 1993, pp. 59–62. We are also grateful to Michael Gregory, at Arnold Wiggins & Sons, for information from the Wiggins Picture Frame Archive.
8. See for example his letter to Lord Essex of August 1733, in which he asks if Lady Essex wishes for her two pictures (now finished) to be framed and if so, what the gilt frames will cost. A month later he wrote to her: ‘As soon as I received your Ladyships Commands I gave order for making the Frames for the two Pictures and they will be finished in a few days’. See Mason in A king’s purchase..., 1993, p. 59.
9. For comparative prices of paintings sold by Canaletto in the first half of the 1730s, see G. Knox, ‘Four Canaletti for the Duke of Bolton and two aide-mémoire’, Apollo, vol. CXXXVIII, no. 380, October 1993, p. 249.