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View of Piazza San Marco
18th Century
Giovanni Antonio CANALETTO
Born 1697, Died 1768
View of Piazza San Marco
[Veduta della Piazza San Marco]
Oil on canvas
47 x 77.5 cm  [HxW]
Private Collection

This scene, which has so far remained unknown to the critics, is seen from a peculiar angle, unique in the works of Canaletto. It is taken from a certain way above the Piazzetta dei Leoni, close to the façade of the church of San Basso. On the left, it shows the first few arches of the northern side of the Basilica of San Marco, beyond which the Procuratie Nuove quay stretches out, marking the southern edge of the Piazza. Sansovino’s San Geminiano church can be seen in the background. This was pulled down in the early 19th century to make way for the construction of the Napoleonic wing. On the left-hand side of the façade, we can even observe the little sail-shaped bell-tower of the church, while the one behind, in brickwork, is that of the church of San Moisè.

This is a work of extremely high quality and can be dated with certainty to a fairly advanced period in Canaletto’s work, at the end of the 1730s or the early 1740s. Here again we find that unnatural broadening out of the perspective, which is particularly pronounced in the way the Procuratie building is made much longer than it is in actual fact. This is a feature of Canaletto’s paintings and of all those vedutisti who, like Antonio, used optical instruments (the camera obscura) to make their graphic outlines, which they then used in the studio to create their pictures. Venetian views, which mainly came from “exact” surveys, thus often became inexact when turned into paintings.

Filippo Pedrocco

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