Giovanni Antonio Canal, CANALETTO
(Venice 1697 - Venice 1768)
An Architectural Capriccio
211 x 339 mm. (8 1/4 x 13 3/8 in.)
Datable to the early 1740s, the present sheet is closely related to a slightly larger variant of the same composition, with several significant differences, in a private collection in New York. As has been noted of that drawing, ‘In his mature years Canaletto made a specialty of such architectural capricci, in which he crowded together buildings of the most disparate nature, transforming monuments he had seen in Venice, Rome, and England. Here the buildings are largely of Venetian inspiration, though the triumphal column at right is surely a Roman recollection.’ Both the present sheet and that in New York are in turn related to a small capriccio oil painting by Canaletto, probably slightly later in date, in the collection of the Earl Cadogan in Perthshire, Scotland.
This exceptional pen and wash drawing, in superb condition, may be grouped with other stylistically and thematically comparable drawings of the veduta ideata type by Canaletto such as a view of Houses by a Porch in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, two drawings of a Watermill Near a Ruined Tower by a Stream and a Hill with a Village Street Leading Past a Church in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a Lagoon Capriccio with a Church, Tower and a Bridge in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a Capriccio with a Lock Gate on a River in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and a House and Fountain Adjoining a Ruined Arch in the Royal Collection at Windsor. As W. G. Constable has noted, these pen and wash drawings ‘have [a] distinctive character…elaborately composed, full of detail put in with a mannered though lively touch, and are in a high key without strong contrasts of light and shade...the different groups of drawings produced by Canaletto in the earlier forties…makes clear the remarkable range and variety of his work at this period, and emphasizes how much his attention was concentrated upon the graphic arts, to some extent dwarfing his activities as a painter.’
A talented and prolific draughtsman, Canaletto produced both rapidly drawn compositional sketches (which he called scaraboti), and elaborate, highly finished drawings, many of which were conceived and sold as independent works of art. Many of Canaletto’s finished drawings were acquired by Consul Smith for his own collection, while others were purchased by such English collectors as the Earl of Warwick and Sir Richard Payne Knight. Smith’s remarkable collection of drawings, purchased from him by King George III in 1762 and now in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, is today the largest single surviving group of drawings by Canaletto.
Private collection, France.