Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Grand Canal above the Rialto

Francesco Guardi (Italian, Venice 1712–1793 Venice)
mid- to late 1760s
Oil on canvas
21 x 33 3/4 in. (53.3 x 85.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1871
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 619
Guardi depicts the bridge of the Rialto with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi and the vegetable market on the right. He has created an effect of snapshot-like immediacy by arbitrarily cropping the buildings at the left. The canvas is a pendant of the view of Santa Maria della Salute (71.120).
The Rialto Bridge lies at the commercial heart of Venice. It is one of the most famous sights the city affords, and was painted throughout the eighteenth century by Luca Carlevaris, Canaletto, and Michele Marieschi as well as by Francesco Guardi. A pair of very large early views by Guardi showing the bridge from the north and from the south belonged for many years to the Earl of Iveagh, but were not widely known because they were not publicly exhibited until 1954.[1] One of them is more or less identical to—and more than twice the size of—the present work, which must necessarily be a reduced autograph replica of about the same date. In coloring the paintings are closely similar. A vivid and closely observed drawing of the view taken from the second floor balcony of a house on the opposite side of the calle from Palazzo Civran could have been used for either or both works.[2]

On April 14, 1764, the Venetian diarist Pietro Gradenigo reported that Guardi painted two views for an English client and displayed them to applause under the arcade of the Procuratie Nove in Piazza San Marco. One showed the Ponte di Rialto and buildings to the left toward Canareggio, while the other depicted the piazza looking toward the church and the clock tower.[3] With respect to the size of the paintings, Gradenigo stated that they were "non piccolo," that is, "not small." It is often alleged, but cannot be regarded as certain, that one of the pictures was Lord Iveagh’s. Both paintings from his collection show the bridge, and despite the fact that we know nothing of their earlier provenance, they are likely to have been together always. One might also ask if the phrase "non piccolo" should be taken to mean six feet wide.

The date mentioned by Gradenigo, 1764, which was at the beginning of Guardi’s career as a vedutista, is about right for the Iveagh pictures and for ours. The most important buildings in this view from the north are the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (the warehouse of the German merchants), to the left of the bridge, and to the right, the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi (which housed the city treasurers) and the Fabbriche Vecchie di Rialto. The wide campo in front on the opposite side of the canal was and still is used in the early morning hours for the fruit and vegetable markets and also for the fish market. Canaletto, when painting the same view, had introduced a repoussoir at the left edge of his picture. Guardi shows more: the brick-colored side wall of Palazzo Civran in bright sunlight; an open third-floor window with shutters held in place by a narrow rod; a half-open second-floor window; and the top floor and sloping tile roof of a much smaller building in the foreground. He also shows the supports for the cornice of the palace roof and the balconies as seen from below, an audacious abstract detail. The buildings still stand. One window in the side wall has been closed and the chimney pot in the foreground has disappeared.

[Katharine Baetjer 2017]

[1] The painting, which is signed " Guardi"at lower left, is included in the catalogue for the sale at Christie’s, London, of July 6, 2017.
[2] The drawing was split in half and the two halves are in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, and the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. See J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Francesco Guardi, London, 1951, pp. 20, 59–60, nos. 12, 13, and pls. 12, 13. Byam Shaw did not at the time know the Iveagh picture and therefore identified the sheets as a study for ours.
[3] "Notizie d’arte tratte dai notatori e dagli annali del N. H. Pietro Gradenigo," Lina Livan, ed., in Miscellanea di Studi e Memorie 5 (1942), p. 106.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Franco / De' Guardi; inscribed (reverse, upper left, in a later hand): Vuduta del Sante di Rialto / in Venezia / del Guardi (view of the Rialto [Bridge] in Venice by Guardi)
?Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 5th Earl of Shaftesbury, Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset (until d. 1811); ?his brother, Cropley Ashley-Cooper, 6th Earl of Shaftesbury, Wimborne St. Giles (1811–d. 1851); ?his son, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Wimborne St. Giles (1851–at least 1869); [Léon Gauchez, Paris, with Alexis Febvre, Paris, until 1870; sold to Blodgett]; William T. Blodgett, Paris and New York (1870–71; sold half share to Johnston); William T. Blodgett, New York, and John Taylor Johnston, New York (1871; sold to MMA)
Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," December 1, 1948–January 23, 1949, no catalogue.

Madison. Memorial Union Gallery, University of Wisconsin. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," February 15–March 30, 1949, unnumbered cat.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," April 24–June 30, 1949, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 132.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Guardi Family," January 13–February 16, 1958, no. 11.

Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "Mostra dei Guardi," June 5–October 10, 1965, no. 88.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 32).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 326.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.

Miami. Center for the Fine Arts. "In Quest of Excellence: Civic Pride, Patronage, Connoisseurship," January 14–April 22, 1984, no. 82.

Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 9.

Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 7.

Treviso. Casa dei Carraresi. "Canaletto: Venezia e i suoi splendori," October 23, 2008–April 5, 2009, no. 76 (as "Il ponte di Rialto con il Palazzo dei Camerlenghi").

Pietro Gradenigo. Journal entry. April 25, 1764 [published in "Notizie d'arte tratte dai notatori e dagli annali del N. H. Pietro Gradenigo," ed. Lina Livan, Venice, 1942, p. 106], writes that Guardi is exhibiting two paintings, one of which may be this picture, in the Piazza San Marco, and that the works were commissioned by an Englishman.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. Diary entry. 1869 [see letter of July 23, 1973 in archive file], in a list of the paintings at St. Giles House, includes two separate entries reading "View in Venice by Guardi - bought in Venice by 5th Earl".

[Henry James]. "Art: The Dutch and Flemish Pictures in New York." Atlantic Monthly 29 (June 1872), p. 763 [reprinted in John L. Sweeney, ed., "The Painter's Eye," London, 1956, p. 65].

F[ritz von]. Harck. "Berichte und Mittheilungen aus Sammlungen und Museen, über staatliche Kunstpflege und Restaurationen, neue Funde: Aus amerikanischen Galerien." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 11 (1888), p. 73.

B[ernard]. Berenson. "Les peintures italiennes de New-York et de Boston." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 15 (March 1896), p. 199, mentions two excellent paintings by Guardi in the Museum.

Bernhard Berenson. The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1897, p. 102.

George A. Simonson. Francesco Guardi, 1712–1793. London, 1904, pp. 6, 16, 81, 93, no. 171, ill. opp. p. 14, finds it impossible to identify the two works exhibited by Guardi in the Piazza San Marco in 1764, according to Gradenigo [see Ref. Gradenigo 1764]; mentions a similar view in the museum at Strasbourg.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 275, calls it a pendant to "Santa Maria della Salute" (MMA, 71.120) and notes that both are "comparatively early works".

James Byam Shaw. The Drawings of Francesco Guardi. London, 1951, pp. 20, 60, states that it could have been exhibited by Guardi in 1764; identifies drawings in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, and the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, as parts of the same study for this picture.

Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 231, no. 132, colorpl. 132.

Edoardo Arslan. Letter. April 21, 1952, rejects the attribution to Guardi and dates it to the first half of the nineteenth century, calling it close to Ippolito Caffi.

Vittorio Moschini. Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1952, p. 18, sees a close relationship to Canaletto.

European Masters of the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1954, pp. 27–28, under no. 50, calls it a version of the larger painting in the Iveagh collection, and agrees with Byam Shaw [see Ref. 1951] that either may have been exhibited by Guardi in 1764.

J[ames]. Byam Shaw. "Guardi at the Royal Academy." Burlington Magazine 97 (January 1955), p. 15 n. 5, mentions another version in the Greve sale, Lepke, Berlin, October 12–13, 1909; believes that, because of its larger size, the Iveagh picture is likely to have been the one exhibited by Guardi.

Pietro Zampetti. Mostra dei Guardi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi. Venice, 1965, p. 174, no. 88, ill., as possibly one of the two works mentioned by Gradenigo, but more likely a replica.

Rodolfo Pallucchini. "Note alla mostra dei Guardi." Arte veneta 19 (1965), p. 231, calls it a replica of the Iveagh picture.

J. G. Links. "A Missing Canaletto Found." Burlington Magazine 109 (July 1967), p. 406, fig. 30.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 96, 493, 605.

Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 28–29, pl. 26, call it an early work and close to Canaletto, especially a painting in the Pillow collection, Montreal; believe that the Iveagh picture, which they call a repetition, is probably referred to by Gradenigo.

Antonio Morassi. Guardi: Antonio e Francesco Guardi. Venice, [1973?], vol. 1, pp. 233–34, 413, no. 554; vol. 2, fig. 530, dates it about 1760–65.

Luigina Rossi Bortolatto. L'opera completa di Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1974, pp. 103–4, no. 233, ill.

Michelangelo Muraro. "Giacomo Guardi." Colóquio, 2nd ser., 16 (December 1974), pp. 8–9, 17, figs. 13, 14 (detail), calls it the prototype of a group of pictures that he assigns to Giacomo Guardi, with foreground figures by Francesco.

Dario Succi. Francesco Guardi: itinerario dell'avventura artistica. [Milan], 1993, p. 48, fig. 43 (color), believes that the Iveagh painting was the version exhibited by Guardi.

Francesca del Torre in Francesco Guardi: vedute, capricci, feste. Exh. cat., Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. Milan, 1993, p. 110, under no. 32.

Katharine Baetjer. "Buying Pictures for New York: The Founding Purchase of 1871." Metropolitan Museum Journal 39 (2004), pp. 173, 182, 218, 244–45, appendix 1A no. 145, ill. p. 218 and fig. 23.

Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, p. 64, fig. 1, states that Guardi painted this picture from a window on the first floor of the palazzo Bollani-Erizzo.

Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 12, 58–61, no. 9, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 15, 40–41, no. 7, ill. (color)].

Dario Succi in Canaletto: Venezia e i suoi splendori. Ed. Giuseppe Pavanello and Alberto Craievich. Exh. cat., Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso. Venice, 2008, p. 213, believes that the painting in the Iveagh collection was exhibited by Guardi, and calls the present painting a replica.

Katharine Baetjer in Canaletto: Venezia e i suoi splendori. Ed. Giuseppe Pavanello and Alberto Craievich. Exh. cat., Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso. Venice, 2008, pp. 284–85, no. 76, ill. p. 222 (color).

Bozena Anna Kowalczyk in Venice: From Canaletto and Turner to Monet. Ed. Martin Schwander. Exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler. Basel, 2008, pp. 34, 37 n. 43.

F[rancis]. R[ussell]. in Old Master & British Paintings: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. July 8, 2014, p. 70, dates this work and its pendant about 1782–84; identifies them as the smaller of two pairs of views of Venice listed in an undated catalogue of pictures in the Shaftesbury collection at St. Giles, valued at £30.

Old Master Paintings. Sotheby's, New York. June 5, 2014, p. 94, under no. 78.

Old Masters: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. July 6, 2017, p. 104, fig. 6 (color), under no. 25.

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