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View of San Giorgio Maggiore
18th Century
Francesco GUARDI
Born 1712 Italy, Died 1793
View of San Giorgio Maggiore
[L'isola di San Giorgio Maggiore]
c 1755
Oil on canvas
49 x 83.5 cm  [HxW]
Museo Civico "Luigi Bailo", Treviso

In his younger years, Francesco Guardi dedicated his attention to figure painting, working mainly for the Giovanellis, a family from Bergamo who had come to Venice, where they became part of the local patrician class during the 17th century. We do not know exactly when he made the decisive move to take up landscape painting, but he may well have started in the mid-1750s, when tourists started coming back to Venice (foreigners were those most willing to purchase views of the city) after the Austrian War of Succession had come to an end. His oldest known view dates back to 1758: it is now housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and depicts the Night Procession in Piazza San Marco to celebrate the ascension to the papal throne of a Venetian, Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico (who became Pope Clement XIII), which took place in the summer of that year.

The painting in the Treviso museum, which is signed “ Francesco Guardi fecit ” lower left, is stylistically similar to the view in Oxford and can thus also be dated to the late 1750s. It clearly shows how, at the beginning of his career, Francesco Guardi paid close attention to the works of Canaletto: the atmosphere is peaceful and luminous, the buildings are shown with great precision, and the figures are lively, each with its own clear character.

Filippo Pedrocco

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