Notable Sales European Paintings
Canal, Giovanni Antonio , called Canaletto
The Grand Canal, Venice, looking South-West from the Palazzo Grimani to the Palazzo Foscari
57.5 x 92.7cm
Welbore Ellis, the Second Earl of Normanton (1778 - 1868), Somerly, Ringwood, Hants, and thence by descent.
Private collection, Washington.
Private collection, London.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Canaletto, 30th October 1989 - 21st
January, 1990, No.50, illustrated p.191.
Terisio Pignatti, Il Quaderno di Disegni del Canaletto alle Galerie di Venezia, 1958, pp.56-57, no.49, illustrated; Lionello Puppi, L'Opera Completa del Canaletto, 1968, no.248, illustrated; J.G.Links, Canaletto, 1982, pp.92-94, fig.83 (where Links dates this painting c.1735); Andre Corboz, Canaletto Una Venezia immaginaria, 1985, Vol.II, p.690, no.352, illustrated; W.G. Constable, Canaletto, 2nd edition revised by J.G. Links, 1989, Vol.I, pl.46, no.218, Vol.II,p.291, no.218
The far left of the composition begins at the rust coloured facade of the Palazzo Valmarana which is somewhat dwarfed beside the magnificence of the neighbouring Palazzo Grimani. The powerful Renaissance facade of the Palazzo Grimani was designed by Sanmichele in the 1550's and built by GianGiacomo de' Grigi. It now houses the Court of Appeal.
At that time the Grimani's were at the height of their power in Venice. A prosperous trading family, they had a dozen palaces around Venice. The Palazzo seen here apparently resulted in a taunt from the future father-in-law of Procurator Gerolamo Grimani, the owner of the fine Palazzo Coccina-Tiepolo (on the right of the composition with the distinctive obelisks), that the Grimani did not have a palace on the Grand Canal. The young Grimani was later to boast that any one of his principal windows were bigger than his father-in-law's portal. The palace later became the Post Office and had the rare distinction for a Renaissance building of earning John Ruskin's approval.
To the right are Palazzo Businello and the already mentioned Palazzo Coccina-Tiepolo which was also built by GianGiacomo de' Grigi in the Renaissance tradition.
In the far distance on the bend of the Canal is Ca'Foscari, described by John Ruskin as 'the noblest example in Venice of the fifteenth century Gothic'. It was built between 1428-37, for Fr. Foscari, Doge for thirty-four years and is now the seat of the University Institute of Economics and Commerce. To the right is the Palazzo Balbi, probably built by Allesandro Vittoria between 1582-90, and now the seat of the Regional Government.
Canaletto made a number of detailed preparatory drawings related to this painting in a sketchbook which is now in the Accademia, Venice. Five double pages are devoted to drawings of both sides of the Grand Canal including on the left, the Palazzo Grimani and on the right the Palazzo Coccina-Tiepolo (see J.G. Links, op.cit., 1982, pp.92-95, figs.84a-h, and Constable/Links, op.cit., 1989, Vol.I, pls.169-170, 54v-58r, Vol.II, p.638). In addition to topographical details, some of the drawings are studies of shipping and rigging. Indeed on the right side of the painting is a group of barges which corresponds remarkably closely with the studies in the sketchbook. In fact, as Links points out, some of the rigging in the sketch (57v) is missing from the painting; when the painting was restored this piece of rigging was discovered under the surface to have originally extended above the roof of the Ca'Foscari, but Canaletto clearly found this detail too obtrusive and painted it out.
Canaletto painted several similar views to this painting; one of these is in the Collection of H.M. The Queen, Windsor, entitled Grand Canal: Looking South-West from the Rialto Bridge to the Palazzo Foscari (see: Constable/Links, op.cit., 1989, Vol.I, pl.46, no.219, Vol.II, pp.291-2, no.219). Another was included in the important Collection of twenty-one paintings by Canaletto, formerly owned by Sir Robert Grenville Harvey (1856-1931), of Langley Park, near Slough, entitled Grand Canal: Looking South-West from the Palazzo Coccina-Tiepolo to the Palazzo Foscari (see: Constable/Links, op.cit., 1989, Vol.I, pl.46, no.217, Vol.II, p.291, no.217).
This painting was originally accompanied by a pendant entitled Riva degli Schiavoni: Looking East, also owned by the Earl of Normanton. Another version of the pendant is in the Wallace Collection, London, inv.no.509 (see: Constable/Links, op.cit., 1989, Vol.I, pl.29, no.112, Vol.II, p.241, no.112).
Although this view corresponds closely to Visentini's engraving included in the second edition of his Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarium, published in 1742, part II, no.9, there are fewer boats on the Canal and they are differently disposed.
This magnificent painting has been dated by J.G. Links (see above literature) to 1735. The 1730's are generally regarded as Canaletto's finest decade. He was at the height of his popularity in his native Venice, having already received commissions from such distinguished English patrons as the Fourth Duke of Bedford. (The twenty four Bedford paintings currently hang in the dining room at Woburn Abbey).