Bacino di San Marco, Venice
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) (Italian (Venetian), 1697–1768)
124.5 x 204.5 cm (49 x 80 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Out on Loan
On display at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: Legion of Honor, February 10, 2018 – May 28, 2018
Affluent eighteenth-century visitors to the enchanting city of Venice delighted in taking home painted topographical views known as vedute. Canaletto, one of the foremost vedute painters, here animates the entrance to Venice with cargo boats and gondolas that lead the eye back to precisely rendered buildings along the shore. Clearly identifiable are the gothic intricacies of the Doge’s palace at left and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore at right. Light from the cloudy sky, dappling the water with shadow, gives the view grandeur and unity.
About 1738/1739, possibly Henry Howard (b. 1694 - d. 1758), 4th Earl of Carlisle, Castle Howard, North Yorkshire, England (original commission), or in 1768, acquired in Italy by Frederick Howard (b. 1748 - d. 1825), 5th Earl of Carlisle [see note 1]; by descent within the family to the Hon. Geoffrey William Algernon Howard (b. 1877 - d. 1935), Castle Howard [see note 2]; 1939, sold by the Trustees of the late Hon. Geoffrey Howard through Spink and Son, Ltd., London, to the MFA for $11,731.25. (Accession Date: September 8, 1939)
 Exactly when and how the painting entered the Carlisle collection is unclear. The bulk of the art collection at Castle Howard was acquired by Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle, who traveled to Italy in 1768. However, at least some of the paintings by Canaletto may have been acquired by his father, as several unspecified views of Venice by the artist were recorded at the Castle in 1745. The 4th Earl of Carlisle arrived in Venice on his Grand Tour in November, 1738, and he may have commissioned the paintings at that time. This hypothesis is supported by details of the painting's topography, which suggest that it was executed about 1738/1739, that is, when the cupola of the church of S. Antonin was in its final phase of construction. To the right of San Zaccaria one can see the church with scaffolding still on the steeple, and the cupola near completion. On Canaletto paintings in the Howard collection, see W. G. Constable, "Canaletto", 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), vol. 2, pp. 203 and 250, cat. no. 131. On the representation of S. Antonin and the dating of the painting to the late 1730s, see Alessandro Bettagno, "In margine a una mostra," Notizie da Palazzo Albani XII, nos. 1-2 (1983), pp. 227-228, supported by Katharine Baetjer and J. G. Links, "Canaletto" (New York, 1989), pp. 192-196, cat. no. 51. The suggestion that the 4th Earl of Carlisle commissioned the views of Venice from Canaletto in 1738/1739 was made by Charles Beddington (correspondence to the MFA, February 23, 2005).
 There may have been as many as sixteen paintings by Canaletto in the Castle Howard collection by the early twentieth century. This painting has been identified by Constable (as above, n. 1) as the composition singled out from the collection in 1854 by G. F. Waagen: "Large View of Venice. In every respect one of the best works of this master." See Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. 3 (London, 1854), p. 323, no. 64. It may also be the "General View of the Harbour in Venice. One of the best works of the master" recorded there in 1851; see Henry Ibbotson, The Visitor's Guide to Castle Howard, pt. 1 (Ganthorpe, 1851), p. 17.
Abbott Lawrence Fund, Seth K. Sweetser Fund, and Charles Edward French Fund