As James Byam Shaw noted when he first published this drawing in 1971 (see Literature), it came from a small album of thirty-six Venetian views, assembled at the beginning of the 19th Century by Colonel Roche, an Englishman residing in Venice.1 The drawing was one of two by Francesco Guardi in this album, which otherwise contained Venetian views in gouache by his youngest son, Giacomo Guardi (1764-1825). Byam Shaw stressed the striking contrast between 'Giacomo's pedestrian little views of Venice', and the present sheet, which he describes as a 'brilliant impression by his father of the South-West corner of the Doge’s Palace.’2 He also pointed out the rarity of the view itself, continuing: '..[it] is exceptional in Francesco's work, for though he often drew and painted the vista through this arcade looking out over the Bacino di S. Marco towards S. Giorgio, I cannot recall a single other example, in painting or drawing, of the view in the opposite direction, away from the Bacino, towards the side of the Basilica.'3
In his drawings of this type, Guardi conveys all the great beauty and elegance of the monuments of Venice, enriching them through his skilful use of contrasting light and shadow, and often animating them with perfectly placed figures. Here, the artist works swiftly, his staccato pen lines and fluently applied golden brown wash, of exquisite transparency, creating a rich variety of tones, and a thoroughly rococo scene. The clothed male figures in the foreground, the child to the left and the woman and dog to the right, have all been jotted down with the same vivacity as the architectural surrounding, just a few strokes of the pen creating figures of extraordinary substance and liveliness.
The style of the draughtsmanship suggests that this is a mature work by the artist, and as Morassi pointed out (see Literature), with his unique creative and imaginative process, Guardi became ever more capable of transforming well known Venetian monuments into a sort of universal Venetian architectural 'capriccio'. Here, although the view is perfectly identifiable, the artist has indeed taken considerable liberties in his depiction of this corner of the Doge’s Palace, looking towards the side of the Basilica.
Although there are a number of paintings from the artist’s mature period with broadly similar compositions composed of different monuments, Guardi’s drawings of this type were most probably not executed as preparatory studies for any particular painted work.4 The Barnet drawing, handled so freely and with enormous bravura, must have been executed as a work of art in its own right, to be sold to collectors and foreign visitors, so many of whom admired the vivacity of these daily life scenes, drawn with such brilliance and variety, which clearly convey all the grandeur and splendour of Venice in its 18th-century prime.
1 Byam Shaw has rightly suggested that the small monogram CR. written in pen and ink, on the right margin of the drawing, must be his mark. See J. Byam Shaw, op. cit., p. 324
4 See for instance A. Morassi, Guardi. I Dipinti, Venice 1984, vol. I, p. 459, cat. 800, reproduced vol. II, fig. 732
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.