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Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto

Capriccio: a courtyard with a double-arched portico surmounted by an elaborate pediment

Auction Closed

July 6, 10:38 AM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 GBP

Lot Details


Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto

Venice 1697 - 1768

Capriccio: a courtyard with a double-arched portico surmounted by an elaborate pediment

Pen and golden brown ink and shades of grey wash, over light indications of perspective in black chalk, within brown ink framing lines;

bears signature, possibly autograph, in brown ink, lower left margin: Antonio Canal del:

227 by 335 mm

Poniatowski collection (according to an old inscription on the backing sheet: An Arcade - Antonio Carnalette - / ?6 ma:o/ Poniatowski collection);
Sir Robert Mond (1867-1938),
by inheritance to his daughter, Mrs F.H. Brackley, Norfolk;
Private collection, USA
T. Borenius and R. Wittkower, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings...formed by Sir Robert Mond, n.d., p. 11, no. 40 ('A drawing of excellent quality') reproduced pl. V;
W.G. Constable and J.G. Links, Canaletto. Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), 2nd edition, Oxford 1976, vol. II, p. 609, no. 826, reproduced vol. I, pl. 156, fig. 826
Matthiessen Gallery, London, Venetian Paintings and Drawings, 1939, no. 125, reproduced (lent by the Executors of the late Sir Robert Mond);
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery and Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Eighteenth Century Venice, 1951, no. 19 (lent by Mrs. F. Brackley) 

Canaletto demonstrates in the present sheet not only his mastery of light, but also his unparalleled dexterity in creating a refined perspectival structure, to suit his ambitious designs. This complex and elaborate capriccio has as its focus a richly ornamented, double-arched, pillared and vaulted portico, through the openings of which can be seen a view onto a walled garden, and beyond that, a church tower. 

Resembling a proscenium, the arched porticos to the right and left lead towards the central ornamental colonnade, which is surmounted by a coat of arms bearing a chevron, tucked underneath a canopy that is itself inserted just below an architectural pediment, with sculpted figures. 

Around the top of the entire structure, a balustrade completes the architecture, the onlookers that lean over it set against the scudding clouds of the sky, which are ingeniously executed only in wash, in contrast to the masterly use of pen and ink that we see throughout the rest of this elaborate composition. Several figures of men, women and children animate the scene in the courtyard, along with three dogs, one seated - such a familiar motif in Canaletto's drawings and paintings alike. A number of statues, placed below the two arched porticos, add yet more variety to the scene. 

The composition is strongly lit from the left, creating a captivating contrast between the two sides of the drawing and enlivening still further the perfected and detailed design, in which the dramatic skills that Canaletto must have learned early in life from his father, a theatrical set-designer, are greatly in evidence.

The technique employed by Canaletto in this sheet is extremely rich and varied. Much of the design is defined in some detail with the pen, using a subtle golden shade of brown ink, but the artist has also employed vertical, horizontal and diagonal perspective lines, faintly laid down in black chalk with the aid of a ruler, to help define the complex architecture and the different planes. The abundant gray wash adds a vibrant touch to the entire composition.

Though this drawing is not closely comparable in conception to any of Canaletto's other capricci, it is not entirely dissimilar to one in the Albertina, Vienna, Capriccio: a garden seen from a baroque vestibule, which is slightly larger, but executed in the same combination of media.1  An engraving by Giovanni Battista Brustolon, related to the Albertina sheet, is, as Constable and Links have noted, numbered N3 suggesting that it is one of a series.2 Though not numbered in the same way, and engraved by a different artist (Jacobus Monaco), an undated print that follows exactly the present drawing was published by Ludovico Furlanetto (1766-1777), and may originally have formed part of the same or another series of prints after Canaletto's works of this type. 


1. Vienna, Albertina, inv. no. 1921; see Constable and Links, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 609-610, no. 826, reproduced vol. I, pl. 156, fig. 828

2. Loc. cit.