Throughout his career, Guardi made paintings of views both real and imaginary, in equal measure. Indeed, his fantasy views include some of his most alluring compositions. This particularly attractive and atmospheric drawing, with its free handling and great sense of light and movement, depicts one such capriccio,
which is also known through a variant drawing in the Victoria and Albert Museum1
and through two painted versions, one in the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, and the other in the National Gallery, London.2
Although the domed construction is derived in part from Palladio's unexecuted design for the Rialto Bridge, the other buildings seem to be pure imagination, as is the composition as a whole. In terms of details, it is the National Gallery painting (fig. 1) that is the closest to the present drawing. Both it and the Victoria and Albert Museum drawing are considered by Morassi and others to be late works, dating from circa
1770-1780, and that would also appear to be the case for this drawing.
At this late stage in his career, Guardi was a total master of light, and of the media with which he drew. His totally confident and seemingly effortless lines combine with copious amounts of judiciously applied wash, to create an image of immense beauty. Whether the view is real or imaginary, Guardi's drawings of this period capture the essence of Venice, her buildings and her light.
1. A. Morassi, Guardi, I Disegni, Venice 1975, p. 168, no. 509, reproduced fig. 508
2. A. Morassi, Guardi, I Dipinti, Venice 1993, vol. I, p. 450, nos. 754, 753, reproduced vol. II, figs. 689, 690