Chronology : 1730-1739 1740-1749 1750-1759
1733 The Grand Canal by Canaletto
2005 SOLD for £ 18.6 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Around 1723, he paints two very large views, 141 x 204 cm and 144 x 207 cm, certainly as pendants for a single client.
He chooses the panoramic view of the Piazza San Marco with the basilica to illustrate the grandiose architecture, and the view of the Grand Canal between Palazzo Balbi and the Rialto bridge to show the life on the gondolas. The canal rotates at a right angle at that place. It is seen from full front when we look through a window from one of the three floors of the Palazzo Foscari.
On July 7, 2005, Sotheby's sold for £ 18.6M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 6M a view of the Grand Canal between Balbi and Rialto, in excellent condition, lot 47. This oil on canvas 86 x 138 cm is dated around 1733 by considerations of style, and is the very last large size example painted by Canaletto with this specific position. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The provenance of this painting was reconstructed before the sale. It had been listed as early as 1736 in the collection of Robert Walpole, who was the very first British statesman to exercise the function of a prime minister. Walpole belonged to the whig party opposed to royal absolutism and certainly considered Venice, which he had not visited, as a model of a republican regime.
early 1730s Sunny Light on the Piazza San Marco
2014 SOLD for £ 5.5M including premium
Canaletto displayed the Piazza as the actual center of activity in the city. The Venetians go to their business, alone or in groups, wealthy or workers, children and even dogs. Clothes are drying on some palace windows.
In the early 1730s, Canaletto works better on the effects of light and shadow. The sunny atmosphere of the Piazza is perfect in the oil on canvas 59 x 92 cm for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 3, lot 11 estimated £ 5M. The topographical accuracy of the monuments is very good.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1730s Everyday Life in front of the Molo
2013 SOLD 8.5 M£ including premium
Carlevarijs transfered to Venice the tradition of the paintings of views already appreciated in Rome by the English tourists. In Venice, the Molo is logically their favorite subject.
Canaletto learned his craft from Carlevarijs. He added very realistic details of monuments with high care brought to the relative position of the buildings and the beauty of light.
Tourists love monuments but also festivals, and precisely the feast of the Bucentaur happens on the sea. In the 1730s, the large format compositions of Bucentaur Day when the basin is covered with boats and gondolas are the masterpieces by Canaletto.
They are supplemented by smaller formats for ordinary days, where the animation is almost similar but more laborious than contemplative. An oil on canvas of this period in middle size format, 69 x 113 cm, is estimated £ 4M, for sale by Christie's in London on July 2.
This view is even a rare opportunity within this theme for showing an anecdotal detail. In the foreground, a boatman makes a desperate attempt to avoid a collision with another boat. Traffic accidents are not exclusive to our automotive civilization!
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good subject, reasonably large and great period for this artist : this interesting Canaletto was sold for £ 8.5 million including premium.
1738 Canaletto painted the City of Venice
2008 SOLD 3.8 M£ including premium
He was not the first artist to paint realistic images of Venice. Gaspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), perhaps better known for his views of Rome, had preceded him. But the accuracy and realism of the views of Canaletto, who composed his paintings with a camera obscura, are unsurpassed. Without too much research, I remember only one predecessor, Gerrit Berckheyde, who represented Haarlem in the seventeenth century.
Canaletto had a wonderful city as a model, and viewpoints from where he made his works are endless. One of the two paintings of Christie's is the Piazzetta (est. £ 4 million), the other the Grand Canal (est. £ 3 million). Both are animated, respectively by walkers and gondolas.
The artist had a protector and agent who offered him the access to the market of English travelers, and who was so influential that his name is still remembered by art historians: Joseph Smith. Both paintings are part of a group of four that Smith supplied in 1738 to one of his English customers. Two of them were separated several decades ago, including a view of Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, 47 x 78 cm, which, returned to the market, was sold £ 7.7 million including expenses by Christie's on December 13, 2000. The catalog of Christie's sale of December 2000 said, quoting Constable, that the four paintings are of the same size and same technique.
The view of the Grand Canal that Sotheby's sold £ 18.6 million including expenses on 7 July 2005 was much larger: 86 x 138 cm.
POST SALE COMMENT
The view of the Grand Canal has achieved an excellent price: £ 3.8 million including expenses. The view of the Piazzetta, estimated to be more expensive, has not been sold. My preference was to the painting of the Canal, which I found more attractive. I am happy with the result.
1738-1739 Views and Figures of Venice
2013 SOLD 9.6 M£ including premium
In the late 1730s, his best works are altogether the most realistic topographic views of the monuments of Venice, a sunny atmosphere that appeals to tourists and the summary of all aspects of everyday life in the city. The great skill of this artist is to provide a perfect balance between all these topics.
A pair of canvas painted in 1738 or 1739 in his most usual format, 47 x 77 cm, displays on one of them the Piazza San Marco and for the other the Canal Grande to the Rialto. These two focal points of the Venetian activity are the best excuse to offer a picturesque scenery with unlimited entertainment.
The first customer of this pair has not been identified. The fact that they deal with the two most classic Venetian views may suggest that they were not extracted from a larger set. Their condition is pristine. This lot is estimated £ 8M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 4.
This period marks the greater maturity of the art of Canaletto when he teaches his craft to a gifted apprentice, his young nephew Bernardo Bellotto, causing a healthy rivalry between the two artists.
POST SALE COMMENT
This pair of views of Venice painted in one of the best periods of Canaletto was sold for £ 9.6 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's, showing many details of these exceptional scenes:
1748 The English Garden
2020 SOLD for $ 915K including premium
England is in the midst of the industrial revolution while remaining firmly attached to its cultural traditions. The artist is not at all disturbed by this architecture which leaves a place for vast spaces, so different from the accumulation of palaces beside the canals of Venice. He is so passionate about the transformations of St James's that his views can be dated according to the modifications of the buildings.
Upon his arrival he is pampered by the young nobles who want to modernize their residence. The 8th Baron Brooke is one of them. He inherited the very prestigious historic castle of Warwick, and will be awarded the recreation of the title of Earl of Warwick when it becomes vacant in 1759. He was made in 1746 Earl Brooke of Warwick Castle.
Canaletto visits Warwick Castle at least twice. The first visit, in 1748, is evidenced by a payment for some drawings. At that time Lord Brooke has just started the interior renovation in the neo-Gothic style, entrusted to the architect Daniel Garrett. He is probably already in touch with Capability Brown, the inventor of the English garden, to whom he will soon commission the transformation into a landscaped garden on the banks of the Avon in front of the castle.
Canaletto works in three phases. He takes sketches on the site, then makes large drawings showing the whole perspective, before making the paintings. He does not hesitate to anticipate constructions, such as for example at the Westminster Bridge.
On January 28 in New York, Christie's sells a view of the south front of Warwick Castle, lot 75 estimated $ 800K. This large drawing 32 x 58 cm preceding three paintings was probably executed on the occasion of the first stay in 1748.
The medieval castle is depicted with an almost photographic realism. Quiet visitors take advantage of the vast garden crossed by the river, perhaps anticipating Brown's work. Contrasts and shadows very skilfully interpret a bright sunshine.
Canaletto’s exceptionally large ‘View of the South front of Warwick Castle’ depicts Warwick Castle, the building in England most often depicted by Canaletto in his works. View more from our upcoming Old Master & British Drawings sale in #NewYork: https://t.co/4OEywHcUM0 pic.twitter.com/9GBbaO3D4h— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 22, 2019
1749 View of London by Canaletto
1992 SOLD 10 M£ including premium by Christie's
1749 Canaletto at Saint-James's
1997 SOLD for £ 1.1M including premium by Christie's
Canaletto sold his views of Venice to British tourists who were very active in the 1730s. When the Austrian Succession War reduced the travel opportunities of his patrons, he moved his studio to London, in 1746.
Being a foreigner in this big city in perpetual transformation, he did not try to express the atmosphere of remote districts and focused on a limited number of topics including the banks of the Thames and the great plaza of St. James's Park.
The view of the Horse Guards across St. James's is one of his masterpieces by its monumental size, 117 x 236 cm. This oil on canvas was sold for £ 10M including premium by Christie's on April 15, 1992. It is currently on long-term loan to the Tate Gallery by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.
Canaletto showed the old red brick building of the Horse Guards. Two sketches that have been preserved assess that the artist had been appealed by the announcement of the imminent destruction of the building in 1749.
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells another view on the same theme, less panoramic and better focused on the Old Horse Guards and on the spring green of the Park. This oil on canvas 47 x 77 cm is estimated $ 4M, lot 98. It had been sold for £ 1.1M including premium by Christie's on July 4, 1997, lot 121.
Really passionate about this fate of a monument, Canaletto observed again this scenery three years later with the scaffolding of the new building. This oil on panel 59 x 110 cm remained unsold in 2012 at Dorotheum despite a conservative lower estimate of € 2M.
1747-1755 Churches and Gondolas
2012 SOLD 5.7 M$ including premium
On January 26 at Sotheby's in New York, he takes us to see the Giudecca, and more specifically one of his favorite views. The huge Church of the Redeemer (Redentore) is a masterpiece of Palladio. Next door, the bell tower of San Giacomo will be demolished in 1837.
This oil on canvas painted between 1747 and 1755 is nicely animated, with carefully spread gondolas gliding on the quiet canal. The composition is bold, with a warship at anchor that masks the lower part of San Giacomo.
Considering these qualities, the work is estimated $ 5M. It is shown in the release shared by AuctionPublicity.
Many works by Canaletto had been prepared as pairs. This one was separated from its pendant after 1960. It is neither shocking nor surprising: the conservation of pairs is not essential to the appreciation of his art.
The catalogue is online. Here is the size : 60 x 95 cm.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price, $ 5.7 million including premium, confirms that this work is in the high end for this famous and prolific artist.
1754 Bucintoro on Ascension Day by Canaletto
2005 SOLD for £ 11.4M including premium by Christie's
1766 Interior View of San Marco
2019 SOLD for £ 3.13M including premium
His drawings are thus the best memory of the real atmosphere in Venice in his day. For example, a 25 x 37 cm drawing showing the Campo San Giacomo di Rialto could be dated after 1758 by the shape of the pavement. It was sold for £ 1.95M including premium by Sotheby's on July 4, 2012.
The enthronement of a new doge gives rise to important celebrations. The 118th Doge is elected in 1763. Canaletto prepares a series of twelve drawings on this theme for the purpose of an edition by engraving under the title Feste Ducali. None of them has been transposed into painting by Canaletto. Guardi will do it a few years later.
These twelve works, delivered in two successive groups to the editor in 1766, are masterpieces of Venetian drawing. On a large size 39 x 55 cm, the sharpness of the pen lines and the beauty of the three shades of gray wash with chalk heightening are incomparable. The framing lines are in brown ink.
The festive crowd is in the foreground, so the group with the Doge is secondary. The artist shows the life in Venice without being interested in official celebrities. These images certainly do not result from direct testimony, which makes plausible the three-year delay between the ceremonies and the completion of the series.
The Coronation of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti was sold for £ 2.63M including premium by Sotheby's on July 5, 2017. The Presentation of the Doge in San Marco, an interior view of the basilica, is estimated £ 1.5M for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3, lot 338.
Please note that the lower estimate has been increased to £ 2.5M before the sale.
1766 Venetian Celebration
2017 SOLD for £ 2.63M including premium
The artist compensates the absence of colors by subtle hues of gray wash. As in the paintings from all his career the monuments are shown as much as possible in the greatest extension of their facade. The characters are divided into small groups.
The Feste Ducali followed the election of a Doge which took place in April 1763. The publisher Furlanetto announced the twelve images for sale in March and July 1766 and commissioned their printing.
On July 5 in London, Sotheby's sells the original 39 x 55 cm drawing of the view with the coronation of the Doge at the Palazzo Ducale, lot 44 estimated £ 2.5M. This grand view is also a beautiful study of perspective and light. The Scala dei Giganti is seen in a slight angle, improving the effect of the shadows.
The group with the Doge is very far, at the top of the monumental staircase. Canaletto chose a position as if he were in the crowd of the anonymous spectators. Indeed this commercial artist had no official recognition. His reception at the Accademia veneziana di pittura e scultura took place in 1765 after a difficult election in September 1763.