Canaletto's painting depicts Venice's business and commercial center. The distant building with an arcade at ground level and many chimneys is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which served as the warehouse of German merchants. Just to the right is the foot of the Rialto Bridge, and further to the right is the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi. Then, as now, the rose-colored buildings and the spaces in front housed fruit and fish markets. This canvas is from a series of twenty view paintings that Canaletto probably painted for Joseph Smith (ca. 1674–1770), British consul in Venice from 1744 to 1760.
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Title:The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South toward the Rialto Bridge
Artist:Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) (Italian, Venice 1697–1768 Venice)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:18 1/4 × 30 1/2 in. (46.4 × 77.5 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2019
This view of the business and administrative center of old Venice includes a glimpse of the Rialto bridge, visible just to the left of the center of the composition. The top of the campanile of the church of San Bartolomeo, shown before its rebuilding in 1747, appears above the buildings beyond the bridge. The palace at the extreme left is the Ca' da Mosto, a thirteenth-century Veneto-Byzantine building, considerably altered today by the addition of a top story. From the fifteenth to the end of the eighteenth century, the Ca' da Mosto was the Albergo del Leon Bianco, the most famous hotel in pre-nineteenth-century Venice. Immediately beyond are the fifteenth-century Casa del Dolfin and the Palazzo Bollani-Erizzo, former residence of the writer Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), the "Scourge of Princes" and notorious blackmailer. Continuing on, a low, two-story house is followed by the Civran palace. Farther off, the large building adjacent to the foot of the Rialto bridge is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, now the main Venetian post office but formerly a German trading post and famous from its reconstruction in 1505 for the frescoed facade decorations by Giorgione and Titian.
To the right of the bridge is the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, built between 1525 and 1528 by the architect Guglielmo Bergamasco (d. ca. 1530). Next to it, at right, is the Naranzeria (literally, "orange store"), still the main fruit and vegetable market of Venice today. Beside it can be seen the Fabbrichi Vecchie di Rialto, whose open arcades now shelter part of the fish market. At the center of the foreground are a sailing barge and a sandaletto, a flat-keeled boat, with gondolas and sandaletti dispersed about the canal.
The Museum owns a canvas by Francesco Guardi (71.119) showing the same scene but closer to the Rialto bridge. Guardi has taken his view from a window on the first floor of the Palazzo Bollani-Erizzo, overlooking the two-story building on the left. His canvas dates from about thirty years after Canaletto's.
This is one of four Canalettos from the Wrightsman collection that come from a group of twenty, or possibly twenty-one, views of Venice, all of the same size and character, known as the Harvey series from the name of a former owner, Sir Robert Grenville Harvey (1856–1931), Langley Park, Slough, Buckinghamshire. The original owner of the series was likely Joseph Smith (1673/74?–1770), British consul in Venice from 1744 to 1760. Smith commissioned an album of prints by Antonio Visentini after paintings by Canaletto, Prospectus Magni Canalis, first published in 1735; the second edition of 1742 included etchings after several Harvey paintings. Until recently it was unclear how the Harvey series reached England. W. G. Constable (1962) believed it was purchased in Venice by the last Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1823–1889), inherited by his daughter, and then descended to members of her husband's family. Francis Russell (1999), however, surmised that the original owner was the third Duke of Marlborough (1706–1758), based on the history of a group of sporting pictures by John Wootton formerly at Langley Park. The Woottons were acquired by Sir Robert Harvey in 1788 when he purchased the house—and all its contents—from the fourth Duke of Marlborough (1738–1817); the Canalettos must have been acquired the same way. Moreover, Russell observed that the third Duke of Buckingham's sister, Diana (d. 1735), was the first wife of John, fourth Duke of Bedford, who, in 1733/36, bought a set of twenty-four views of Venice by Canaletto; so the fashion for Canaletto ran in the family. The Marlborough provenance has since been confirmed by John Harris (see Fahy 2005), who discovered in the Buckinghamshire Record Office a printed list of the paintings at Langley, which is attached to an insurance valuation of the 1890s. Five views of Venice are listed in the drawing room, followed by a note stating that "The Pictures and others by Canaletto were bought with the house from the Duke of Marlborough in 1788. In an old inventory they are described as 'twenty views in fine frames.'"
Only circumstantial evidence supports dating for the Harvey series. They all presumably were completed before 1742, the date of publication of the second edition of the Prospectus Magni Canalis. The rather stronger coloring and less blond tonality of the Harvey paintings as compared, for instance, with the originals of the first fourteen etchings, published in 1735, suggest a date a few years later than this, perhaps soon after 1735, though doubtless the execution of so large a series must have been spread over a certain period of time. Constable believed they were painted in two batches, those of the Grand Canal in 1731–32, and those of the churches and campi in about 1735.
[2013; adapted from Fahy 2005]
[Joseph Smith, Venice]; ?Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, Langley Park, Slough, Buckinghamshire (until d. 1758); George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, Langley Park (1758?–88; sold to Harvey); Robert Bateson-Harvey, later Sir Robert Bateson-Harvey, 1st Baronet, Langley Park (1788–d. 1825); by descent to Sir Robert Grenville Harvey, 2nd Baronet, Langley Park (1887–d. 1931; trustees of his estate, 1931–ca. 1957; on loan to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1936–38; on loan to the City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1938–ca. 1957); [Colnaghi, London, until 1964; sold to Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1964–his d. 1986; cat., 1973, no. 2); Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1986–d. 2019; cat., 2005, no. 16)
City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. "Treasures from Midland Homes," November 2–December 2, 1938, one of nos. 151– 55, 157–61, 164–68, 170–74 (as "Twenty Views of Venice," by Canaletto, lent by the Exors. of Sir R. G. Harvey, Bt.).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bellini to Tiepolo: Summer Loans at The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 29–August 31, 1993, unnum. checklist.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
K. T. Parker. The Drawings of Antonio Canaletto in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. Oxford, 1948, p. 31, notes that "the whole [Harvey] series was exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum in 1936, and is now deposited at Birmingham".
F. J. B. Watson. Canaletto. 2nd, rev. ed. London, 1954, p. 11, dates the Harvey series to the mid-1730s.
Vittorio Moschini. Canaletto. French ed. (Italian ed., 1954). Milan, 1955, pp. 22, 30, 38, suggests a date of about 1741 for the Harvey series, relating the pictures to Canaletto's etchings, specifically the lagoon capriccio of 1741.
Terisio Pignatti. Il quaderno di disegni del Canaletto alle gallerie di Venezia. Milan, 1958, p. 23, states that the twenty paintings in the Harvey collection were on deposit at the Birmingham museum until recently, when they were withdrawn apparently due to their acquisition by an Italian collector.
Decio Gioseffi. Canaletto and His Contemporaries. New York, 1960, p. 65, assumes that all thirty-eight views engraved by Visentini were painted for Joseph Smith.
W. G. Constable. Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697–1768. Oxford, 1962, vol. 1, pp. 110–15, pl. 50; vol. 2, p. 262, under no. 188, p. 287, no. 240, identifies the buildings and lists three additional versions; states that it is one of a group of twenty-one paintings "said to have been bought in Venice by the last Duke of Buckingham and Chandos" which descended to Sir Robert Grenville Harvey, Langley Park, Slough, and were sold by the Harvey Trustees in about 1957; notes that they did not necessarily all belong to Joseph Smith; believes that the series was painted in two batches, dating the views of the Grand Canal about 1731–32 and the others somewhat later.
Francis Haskell. Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque. New York, 1963, p. 305, states that Canaletto painted a series of twenty views for Sir Robert Hervey [sic] during the last half of the 1730s.
"Arricchimenti nelle collezioni private." Acropoli 3, no. 3 (1963), p. 238, mistakenly states that the originals of all twenty-four etchings included in the second edition of Visentini's album were in the Harvey collection until less than two years ago, when they were separated at auction in London; illustrates the ten pictures acquired by a private collector in Milan.
W. G. Constable. Canaletto. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Toronto. [Toronto], , p. 15.
J. G. Links. "A Missing Canaletto Found." Burlington Magazine 109 (July 1967), p. 406, fig. 33 (detail).
Pietro Zampetti. I vedutisti veneziani del Settecento. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Venice, 1967, p. 150, under no. 68, p. 154, under no. 69, dates the series 1730–35.
Lionello Puppi inThe Complete Paintings of Canaletto. New York, 1968, p. 101, no. 118A, ill., as an autograph work by Canaletto, whereabouts unknown; dates it 1731–35.
J. G. Links. "Secrets of Venetian Topography." Apollo 90 (September 1969), pp. 222–23, 225–26, 229 n. 1, colorpl. XVII, rejects the idea that the Harvey series was acquired in Venice by the last Duke of Buckingham (see Constable 1962), who was not born until 1823, and believes that the series did probably originally belong to Joseph Smith; dates the group to the mid-1730s; notes that this work is painted from three different viewpoints.
Frances Vivian. Il Console Smith mercante e collezionista. Vicenza, 1971, p. 32, maintains that the views engraved by Visentini for the 1942 edition of "Prospectus Magni Canalis" passed through Consul Smith's hands.
J. G. Links. Views of Venice by Canaletto, Engraved by Antonio Visentini. New York, 1971, pp. 4, 46, 48, 70, states that the Harvey series was dispersed in 1957.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, pp. 26–32, no. 2, ill. p. 27 (color), figs. 1–2 (details), agrees with Links (1969) that the Harvey series was not acquired by the last Duke of Buckingham and that the entire group probably did belong to Joseph Smith; dates the series soon after 1735.
W. G. Constable. Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697–1768. Ed. J. G. Links. 2nd ed. Oxford, 1976, vol. 1, pp. 110–15, pl. 50; vol. 2, pp. 277, 305–6, no. 240.
R. A. Cecil. "The Wrightsman Collection." Burlington Magazine 118 (July 1976), p. 518.
J. G. Links. Canaletto and His Patrons. London, 1977, p. 45, suggests that the original purchaser of the Harvey group was George Grenville, an ancester of the second Duke of Buckingham, from whom Sir Robert Grenville Harvey acquired the series following his bankruptcy; gives the total number of paintings in the series as twenty-two and considers it part of a larger set along with the twenty-four views at Woburn Abbey.
James Byam Shaw inCanaletto: disegni - dipinti - incisioni. Ed. Alessandro Bettagno. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. Vicenza, 1982, pp. 63–64, thinks there is good reason to believe that all the paintings added to the second edition of "Prospectus Magni Canalis" in 1742 were already completed before 1735, the year of the first edition.
J. G. Links. Canaletto. Ithaca, N.Y., 1982, p. 76.
André Corboz. Canaletto: una Venezia immaginaria. Milan, 1985, vol. 2, p. 614, no. P160, ill.
Dario Succi inCanaletto & Visentini, Venezia & Londra. Ed. Dario Succi. Exh. cat., Ca' Pesaro, Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna. [Venice], 1986, p. 237, under no. 20, dates the Harvey series 1730–35 and believes it was probably commissioned by Smith; states that the series was sold en bloc in about 1957 by the trustees of Robert Grenville Harvey but is now dispersed.
Katharine Baetjer and J. G. Links. Canaletto. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 181, state that although the last Duke of Buckingham may have owned the Harvey series, "it is almost impossible that he could have bought them himself in Venice, as has been stated," adding that "the original purchaser may have been George Grenville (1712–1770), whose grandson became the first Duke of Buckingham in 1822".
W. G. Constable. Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697–1768. Ed. J. G. Links. 2nd ed., reissued with supplement and additional plates. Oxford, 1989, vol. 1, pp. xlvii, 110–15, pl. 50; vol. 2, pp. 277, 305–6, no. 240.
Pippa Mason inA King's Purchase: King George III and the Collection of Consul Smith. Exh. cat., The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace. [London], 1993, p. 60, reproduces (fig. d) a detail of the frame of one of the Wrightsman pictures from the Harvey series as an example of the design of the frames supplied by Consul Smith; dates both frames and paintings 1730–35.
John Russell. "An Assortment of Very-Welcome Summer Guests." New York Times (August 6, 1993), p. C24.
J. G. Links. Canaletto. London, 1994, pp. 89–90, 102.
Alice Binion inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 5, New York, 1996, p. 597.
J. G. Links. A Supplement to W. G. Constable's Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697–1768. London, 1998, p. 20.
Francis Russell. "Review of Links 1998." Burlington Magazine 141 (March 1999), p. 181, states that all the Harvey paintings "are, or were, in matching frames of the kind favored by Consul Smith" and believes that they must have left Italy before the lifetime of the last Duke of Buckingham (1823–1889); suggests that they were acquired with the contents of the house when Sir Robert Harvey bought Langley Park from the fourth Duke of Marlborough in the 1780s.
Bozena Anna Kowalczyk inBernardo Bellotto and the Capitals of Europe. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. Exh. cat., Museo Correr, Venice. New Haven, 2001, p. 12 n. 18, dates the Harvey series 1738–40.
Filippo Pedrocco. Il Settecento a Venezia: i vedutisti. Milan, 2001, pp. 107, 109, states that the Harvey series was acquired in Venice in the middle of the nineteenth century by the last Duke of Buckingham; believes that the series passed through Smith's hands before arriving in England.
Charles Beddington. "Review of Pedrocco 2001." Burlington Magazine 144 (July 2002), p. 440, points out that "there is good reason to doubt that the 'Harvey' series was bought in Venice in the mid-nineteenth century".
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 61–64, no. 16, ill. (color), notes that the Marlborough provenance of the Harvey series has been confirmed by John Harris (as relayed to him by Francis Russell in May 2000), who discovered an inventory of the pictures at Langley from the 1890s stating that five views of Venice in the drawing room "and others by Canaletto were bought with the house from the Duke of Marlborough in 1788. In an old inventory they are described as 'twenty views in fine frames'".
Old Masters: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. July 6, 2017, p. 101, under no. 25.
Robin Pogrebin. "The Met is Given Hundreds of Artworks." New York Times (November 16, 2019), p. C3 [online ed., "A Trustee Leaves Trove of Old Masters Works to the Met," November 13, 2019; https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/arts/design/bequest-met-museum-wrightsman.html].
Hakim Bishara. "A Glorious Gift of European Artworks Is on Display at the Metropolitan Museum." Hyperallergic. November 19, 2019, ill. (color, installation views) [https://hyperallergic.com/528444/a-glorious-gift-of-european-artworks-is-on-display-at-the-metropolitan-museum/].
The Private Collection of Jayne Wrightsman. Christie's, New York. October 14, 2020, p. 12.
The Ann & Gordon Getty Collection: Volume 1, Important Pictures and Decorative Arts, Evening Sale. Christie's, New York. October 20, 2022, p. 183, under no. 37.
Retains the eighteenth-century Venetian frame—a narrow Rococo molding with a carved leaf and flower bracketed by "C" scrolls and with acanthus leaves in the corners—that is identical to those Joseph Smith chose for the Canalettos now in the English Royal Collection and the Duke of Bedford's collection (see Mason 1993).
There are four versions of the composition: 1) Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Guglielmo Lochis bequest (540). Oil on canvas, 24 x 35 3/8 in. (61 x 90 cm). By Canaletto, early 1730s. Constable and Links 1989, no. 240(a). 2) Lord Wharton, England. Oil on canvas, 17 1/2 x 25 3/4 in. (44.5 x 65.5 cm). Constable and Links 1989, no. 240(b). 3) Formerly Rodolphe Kann, Paris; Henry Oppenheimer, London; Mrs. Eric Oppenheimer (sale, Christie's, London, June 21, 1968, no. 87, as by Canaletto, for 18,000 gns. to Assheton-Bennett); Mrs. E. M. Assheton-Bennett, London (posthumous sale, Christie's, London, November 26, 1976, no. 26, as by Bellotto, bought in; sale, Christie's, New York, June 15, 1977, no. 92, as by Bellotto, bought in). Oil on canvas, 23 1/4 x 35 7/8 in. (59 x 91 cm). By Bellotto, ca. 1737–40. Constable and Links 1989, no. 240(c). 4) Formerly Major A. F. Clarke-Jervoise; sale, Christie's, London, June 27, 1975, no. 6, as by Canaletto, for 29,000 gns.; sale, Sotheby's, London, November 1, 1978, no. 52, as by Canaletto, bought in; [Colnaghi, New York, in 1983]; [E. V. Thaw, New York, in 1984]; [Harari and Johns, London, in 1987]. Oil on canvas, 23 x 36 1/2 in. (58.4 x 92.7 cm). Constable and Links 1989, pp. 733–34, no. 240*.
This work may not be lent, by terms of its acquisition by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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