Once thought to have been painted by the young Francesco Guardi (1712–1793), who was very much better known as a painter of vedute
or views, this small altarpiece is in fact the work of his elder brother Giovanno Antonio. Antonio, a gifted and original figurative painter who was responsible for the running of the family workshop in Venice after their father Domenico's death in 1716. The problem of distentangling Franceso's works from those of his family has always attracted much scholarly discussion. The present canvas should be compared to Antonio's signed altarpiece of the Death of Saint Joseph
originally painted for the oratory of the Villa Mocenigo-Gaspari at San Michele al Tagliamento and today in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.1
The characteristic almond-shaped features of the Madonna recur in several other works given to Antonio, for example the oval canvas of the Annunciation
formerly with Galerie Cailleux in Paris, which is generally dated to the early 1750s.2
1 F. Pedrocco and F. Montecuccoli degli Erri, Antonio Guardi, Milan 1992, p. 125, cat. no. 27, reproduced figs 28–32 and in colour plates VIII–IX.
2 Pedrocco and Montecuccoli degli Erri 1992, p. 132, cat. no. 80, reproduced fig. 98.