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Oil painting - Venice: the Piazza San Marco looking towards S. Geminiano
  • Venice: the Piazza San Marco looking towards S. Geminiano
    Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio, born 1697 - died 1768
  • Enlarge image

Venice: the Piazza San Marco looking towards S. Geminiano

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio, born 1697 - died 1768 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John M. Parsons

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Giovanni Antonio Canal called Canaletto (1697-1867) was born in Venice and trained there by his father, Bernardo Canal, a theatrical scenery painter, and his uncle, Cristoforo. He accompanied them to Rome where he remained a few months, maybe more, and directed his artistic development towards view paintings including fantasy views and landscapes while gradually working his way into realistic view painting. He was a member of the Venetian painters' guild, the Fraglia, in 1720. He moved to England in 1746 and remained there until at least 1755, a sojourn interrupted by short visits to Venice. He trained his nephew, the view painter Bernardo Bellotto (1721-1780), who became a member of the Fraglia in 1738, and perhaps Michele Marieschi (1696-1743) and Francesco Guardi (1712-1793). He also had a certain influence on the English school of painting, especially Samuel Scott, and had established the vogue for views of London.

This painting is an early 19th-century copy after an engraved composition by Canaletto, dated 1735-46, just before his departure to England. It shows the Piazza San Marco with the Procuratie Nuove on the left and the church of S Geminiano in the background. This painting appears to be one of several copies probably derived from Canaletto's etching that documented the topography and the lifestyle of the Venetian society in the early 1740s.

Physical description

The Piazza San Marco scattered with small figures, the Procuratie Nuove on the left and the church of S Geminiano in the background.


early 19th century (painted)


Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio, born 1697 - died 1768 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 47 cm estimate, Width: 73.6 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870
John Meeson Parsons (1798-1870), art collector, was born in Newport, Shropshire. He later settled in London, and became a member of the stock exchange. His interest in railways led to his election as an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1839, and he was director or chairman of two railway companies between 1843 and 1848. Much of his time however was spent collecting pictures and works of art. In his will he offered his collection of mostly German and Dutch schools to the National Gallery (which selected only three works) and to the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington, later the Victoria and Albert Museum. The South Kensington Museum acquired ninety-two oil paintings and forty-seven watercolours. A number of engravings were also left to the British Museum.

Historical significance: Originally attributed to Canaletto, this painting forms a pair with 549-1870. It is probably a copy made in the first half of the 19th century after a composition engraved by Canaletto around 1735-1746 impression in the British Museum, London, 1838,0526.5.22). A drawing by Canaletto with variations relates to this etching (Windsor, 7423), but differs from it and from 557-1870 in showing two additional bays of the north façade of S. Marco. 557-1870 and 549-1870 may possibily be based on derivative oil paintings (particularly as the washing hanging from the second floor window on the right of 557-1870 occurs in the painting by Guardi, but not in the etching). There are fewer figures in 557-187 than in the etching but it is otherwise almost identical.

The view is framed, on the far left by the Arco di S. Alipio, the corner arch of the basilica of S. Marco, and on the right by a side view of the Torre dell'Orologio, the clock tower of S. Marco.It shows the Piazza S. Marco, looking towards the church of S. Geminiano, with the imposing facade of the Procuratorie Nuove on the left. The church of S. Geminiano, its façade designed by Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570), was demolished by Napoleon in 1810. In the centre is an improvised market with canvas canopies. The scene is bathed in a bright sunlight, with strong contrasts between light and shade, a restricted palette of blues, browns and white, enlivened by touches of red in the costume of the figures.

Several anonymous copies derived from this etching are known (e.g. formerly Galerie San Giorgio, Rome; formerly F. Leverton Harris, London; Private collection, Southampton). Joli painted a similar view (sold Christie's London, 09 Apr. 1990, lot 99) and Francesco Guardi executed two paintings of the same view probably after the etching (formerly Harris collection, London, Midy collection, Paris and Private collection, Switzerland).

Historical context note

Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697-1867), was born in Venice, where he trained under his father, Bernardo Canal, a theatrical scenery painter, and his uncle, Cristoforo. He briefly visited Rome in 1719-20, and shortly afterwards turned to view painting, strongly influenced by Luca Carlevarijs (1663-1730). He became a member of the Venetian painters' guild in 1720 and spent the years 1746-55, with interrputions, in England. His nephew and pupil was the view painter Bernardo Bellotto (1721-1780). Michele Marieschi (1696-1743) and Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) may also have been his students. He worked much for English patrons, and was influential upon English painters such as Samuel Scott. Canaletto's pictures were widely copied from the 18th century by artists including Antonio Joli and William James.

A 'veduta' is a painted, drawn or engraved composition representing a landscape or a town, largely topographical in conception. These were particularly popular during the era of the Grand Tour. Such painters were known as 'vedutisti' and sometimes employed a 'camera obscura', a box with a small hole used as an optical device, to capture effects of scenery. The 'veduta' eventually succumbed to the invention of photography.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'Venice: the Piazza San Marco looking towards S. Geminiano', after Canaletto, early 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 54, cat. no. 57
R. Bromberg, Canaletto's Etchings. Revised and enlarged edition of the catalogue raisonné, San Francisco, 1993, no. 25.
A. de Vesme, Le peintre-graveur italien,Milan, 1906, no. 22.
A. Morassi, Antonio e Francesco Guardi, Venice, 1973, cat no. 342-4.
Mario Manzelli, Antonio Joli. Opera pittorica, Venice, 1999, fig. 14.

Production Note

Acquired as by Canaletto.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Figures; Church; Piazza; Basilica; Tent




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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