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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… 显示更多 Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

The Piazza San Marco, Venice, looking east towards the basilica

24 ½ x 37 ½ in. (62.2 x 95.3 cm.)
(Probably) Marshall Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, Palazzo Loredan, Venice; sale, Christie’s, London, 13 April 1775, lot 49 or 50.
John Christopher Cankrien, Hull; sale, Christie’s, London, 4 June 1853, lot 67 (as ‘an important work of high quality’).
Henry Farrer, London (acquired at the above sale).
The Reverend Frederick Leicester; sale, Christie’s, London, 19 May 1860, lot 155 (as ‘A work of the most brilliant quality’).
Henry Farrer, London (acquired at the above sale).
Col. the Hon. Edward Douglas Pennant, later 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandygai, Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales (by 1860).
Hugh Napier Douglas-Pennant, 4th Baron Penrhyn (by descent from the above).
Lady Janet Douglas Pennant (by descent from the above).
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above, August 2009); sale, Sotheby’s, London, 3 December 2014, lot 11.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
(Probably) G. Redford, Art Sales, vol. II, London, 1888, pp. 221-222.
A. Douglas Pennant, Catalogue of the Pictures at Penrhyn Castle and Mortimer House in 1901, Bangor, 1902, no. 76.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford, 1962, vol. II, p. 188, no. 9 (with incorrect provenance: incorrectly said to have been in the Higginson collection at Saltmarshe and offered Christie's, London, 4-6 June 1846).
L. Puppi, L'opera completa del Canaletto, Milan, 1968, p. 97, no. 84D.
G. Berto, Canaletto, Milan, 1981, no. 84d.
A. Corboz, Canaletto. una Venezia immaginaria, Milan, 1985, vol. II, p. 626, no. P 199 (illustrated).
Manchester, Art Treasures Exhibition, 1857, no. 830.
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.


Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas


Few subjects gained Canaletto the recognition as the greatest vedutista of his age like his views of the Piazza San Marco looking towards the basilica. The present painting is a particularly successful and early example of this quintessential view.
Canaletto first depicted the Piazza San Marco in an exceptionally large-scale canvas measuring more than two meters in width, which is today in the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. The painting is generally regarded as the signal masterpiece of Canaletto’s early career, the prime example of his rough and ready approach to painting in the period. It can be securely dated by the fact that the square’s pavement is in the process of being replaced by the white geometrical design of Andrea Tirali (1660-1737), work on which commenced in 1723. Between 1725 and 1727 the decorative paving on either side of the central zone, shown in an unfinished state in the Madrid painting, had been completed. Canaletto next treated the subject in a work datable to the end of the 1720s, now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Already in the work in New York, Canaletto’s palette has changed from the subtle earth tones of the Madrid painting to a scheme that is lighter and more colorful. The present painting, with its more refined handling of paint and crisply delineated architectural elements, probably dates to between the example in New York and the slightly later canvas from the series of views at Woburn Abbey, which is datable to circa 1733-36. A fifth example in the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is likewise traditionally dated to the first half of the 1730s. Several further paintings probably date to the years around 1740 or later, including: Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2013, lot 39 (datable to 1738-39); Fitzwilliam Collection, Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire (engraved by Antonio Visentini in 1742) and Christie’s, New York, 12 January 1996, lot 38 (datable to the early 1750s). Constable (loc. cit.) also mentions a replica of the present version sold Christie’s, London, 28 June 1974, lot 78.
Though there has been no unanimity on the dating of this painting, scholars have generally associated it with the early years of the 1730s. Lionello Puppi (loc. cit.) was the first modern scholar to propose a date for the painting, describing it as a version of the Woburn canvas which he dates to circa 1730-31, when the Duke of Bedford was in Venice. André Corboz (loc. cit.) believed the painting to have been executed at the beginning of what he defined as Canaletto’s second phase between 1731 and 1746, while neither W.G. Constable nor J.G. Links proposed a precise date. At the time of the painting’s 2014 sale, Charles Beddington confirmed his belief that the painting dates to around 1730.
While Canaletto frequently subordinated topographical accuracy to pictorial concerns, here he provides a highly accurate rendering of the site viewed from the tower of the church of San Geminiano, since replaced by the Ala Napoleonica of the Palazzo Reale which today houses the Museo Correr. The only notable change is the removal of one window on the Campanile. The Piazza San Marco, punctuated on its eastern side by the basilica and Campanile, has, for centuries, been among the most recognizable monuments in the world. The basilica, dedicated to the city’s patron saint, was begun in or around 1063 and combines disparate influences—Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Islamic—into a unified whole that reflects the Piazza’s central position as a convening space for Venetians and foreign visitors alike. The Campanile, the tallest structure in Venice, reached its final height in 1514 when the belfry and spire were rebuilt in the Renaissance style to an earlier design by Giorgio Spavento (d. 1509). Immediately to the south (right) of the Campanile is the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s residence and, until Napoleon, the seat of Venetian government. The arcades of the Procuratie Vecchie (completed 1532) enclose the north side of the square, while those of the Procuratie Nuove (completed 1640), viewed through the long shadow of a late spring afternoon, run along its southern edge. At the far end of the Procuratie Vecchie is the Torre dell’Orologi (clock tower). Beyond is the Merceria, leading to the Rialto and the city’s commercial heart. Canaletto tirelessly depicted the square’s incidental details: clothing lines to dry laundry, market stalls outside the basilica and a broad spectrum of characters from all parts of society who go about their daily activities. In contrast to the static figures found in Canaletto’s later works, here they contribute to the sense of Venice as a kinetic, bustling city with people on the move.
While nothing is known of the painting’s provenance before the mid-nineteenth century, it may very well be one of two views of the Piazza San Marco that were included among roughly 150 paintings sold from the collection of Marshall Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg at Christie’s on 12-13 April 1775 (the Canalettos were lots 49 and 50 on the second day and were described as from "the best time of the master"). Schulenburg, along with Consul Smith, was the greatest foreign patron of painters and collector of pictures in Venice in the eighteenth century and came to own six works by Canaletto. Schulenburg’s records indicate that he paid Canaletto thirty-two and thirty zeccini for the two views on 10 March and 30 April 1731, respectively (see A. Binion, ‘From Schulenburg’s Gallery and Records,’ The Burlington Magazine, CXII, no. 806, May 1970, p. 303). The paintings were each said to measure 4 by 6 quadri, or roughly the size of the present canvas.
Whether or not the painting arrived in England at the time of the Schulenburg sale, it subsequently passed through the hands of several particularly distinguished English collectors. Its first recorded owner was John Christopher Cankrien, recorded in his posthumous sale as "Late Consul for the Netherlands, at Hull". This painting proved to be the second most expensive lot in his sale, behind only Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s Intruding puppies.
The painting was next owned by the Reverend Frederick Leicester, son of Charles Leicester (c. 1767-1815), the younger brother of John Fleming Leicester (1762-1827), 1st Baron de Tabley of Tabley House, Cheshire, who coincidentally was the first owner of Cankrien’s Landseer. In 1828, Frederick married the baron’s widow, Giorgiana-Maria, the youngest daughter of Lt. Col. Cottin. Leicester’s collection was modest in scale but of exceptional quality. This painting achieved one of the highest prices at Leicester’s sale, exceeded only by works by or given to Aelbert Cuyp (The Wallace Collection, London), David Teniers II (National Gallery, London), Gonzales Coques and Jan and Andries Both.
The Canaletto was probably acquired from Leicester’s sale by the London dealer Henry Farrer (1798-1866) on behalf of Colonel Edward Douglas-Pennant (1800-1886), later 1st Baron Penrhyn. Penrhyn had made a fortune in the Welsh slate industry by developing one of the two largest slate quarries in the world and was then outfitting Penrhyn Castle in Llandygai, Gwynedd, North Wales, a neo-Norman structure built by his father, George Dawkins-Pennant, from 1822 to 1837. The first Baron assembled a particularly fine collection of Old Master paintings from a variety of schools, including further view paintings by Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto, Rembrandt’s 1657 Portrait of Catharine Hooghsaet and Jan Steen’s Burgher of Delft and his Daughter.

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