- Francesco Guardi
- Venice, Piazza San Marco, looking east towards the Basilica
- oil on canvas
Le comte de Feuilhade de Chauvin, Paris;
Federico Gentili di Giuseppe (1868–1940), Paris;
Anonymous sale ('Monsieur G... di G...'), Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 5 April 1938, lot 32, reproduced, for 70,100 French francs;
With Newhouse Galleries, New York, from whom purchased by the family of R. Stanton Avery;
R. Stanton Avery (1907–1997), by 1976;
Sold posthumously ('Property from the R. Stanton Avery Foundation'), New York, Christie's, 22 May 1998, lot 176, for $244,500;
Where acquired by the present owner.
Guardi depicts the Piazza San Marco seen from the west, with its magnificent cathedral at the far end, and before it the three flagstaffs. The sixteenth-century campanile rises to the right, with vendors' booths at its base, their awnings partly in shadow. To the left is the Torre dell'Orologio. The piazza is flanked on the left side by the sixteenth-century public offices, the Procuratie Vecchie, and on the right by the Procuratie Nuove, with shops and cafés on either side. Between the campanile and the Procuratie Nuove is the Doge's Palace. The whole scene is animated with figures that are lively in their handling and rendered largely in tones of yellow, ochre, black and white.
In his art Guardi often revisited this landmark site. Works of comparable scale that treat the same subject listed by Antonio Morassi include two paintings, one in Bergamo, the other formerly in a private collection in New York.1 Of the larger works to depict this view a signed painting now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is among the most celebrated.2 This painting differs from those examples in date and also in mood. Pronounced shadows from the left bisect the composition in two and distinguish it from the numerous other treatments of the subject.
With its striking afternoon light and in terms of its scale, one of the works this painting recalls most closely is Guardi's view of the Piazza San Marco, now at the National Gallery, London.3 In both, the Procuratie Vecchie are in shadow, so too the left half of the piazza. However here the dark tonality is more emphatic and the colour palette more restricted. This picture includes the silhouetted detail of the bell and giants at the top of the Torre dell'Orologio, which is curiously omitted from the National Gallery's version. The latter, also considered to be a late work, was assigned a dating after 1780. Here the disposition of the foreground figures – in particular the gesticulating boy who holds the hand of the gentleman at his side, and the three elegant figures arranged together towards the right – recalls similar groupings in, for instance, the wider view in the John G. Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as a painting recorded in Paris at the Galerie Cailleux.4 No other version appears to feature the figure of a woman who stands in the shadowy mid-foreground to the left. With a deft white stroke using the tip of a brush Guardi has painted in her hands what appears to be a closed fan.
When the painting was acquired from Newhouse Galleries, it was reportedly accompanied by a certificate from Antonio Morassi, who had not known the work when compiling his catalogue raisonné published in 1973. In the certificate Morassi supported the attribution and stated that he intended to include it in the supplement to his book, a project which remained unfinished at his death in 1976. At the time of the 1998 sale, Dario Succi endorsed the attribution to Guardi and dated the work to about 1788–90, noting that the painting is 'of a high level of quality'. Of Guardi's many versions of this landmark view, Succi noted that this was one of the latest in date.
1. Morassi 1993, cat. nos 315 and 316.
2. 50.145.21; oil on canvas 68.9 x 85.7 cm. Morassi 1993, cat. no. 317.
3. No. 2525; oil on canvas, 34.9 x 53.4 cm. Morassi 1993, cat. no. 323, reproduced as fig. 352.
4. Morassi 1993, cat. nos 328 and 332.