This beautiful view of the Redentore and the church of San Giacomo in Venice, not seen on the market since 1986, was painted by Canaletto in the years 1747-55. By the early 1730s the artist had already established himself as the Serenissima's foremost view painter and had quickly became a favorite of the British Grand Tourists who were to commission works from him throughout his career, usually through the British consul, John Smith, who acted as agent. Perhaps the most celebrated of Canaletto's clients among the Grand Tourists was the 4th Duke of Bedford and another similar view of the Redentore, whcih was commissioned directly by him in Venice in the 1730s as part of a series of twenty-four canvases, still hangs in Woburn Abbey today.
According to Corboz (see Literature), the present view was probably painted some fifteen to twenty years after the Woburn painting, during Canaletto's stay in England where he had moved to pursue further commissions from his patrons, often with the aide of introductory letters from Smith. While he turned his attention to the English countryside and produced such masterpieces as Old Walton Bridge over the Thames (London, Dulwich Picture Gallery),1 he continued to produce views of Venice, such as the present work, to satisfy his patrons' constant demand for views of the city. The painting originally hung as one of a pair with A View of the Bacino di San Marco from the Riva degli Schiavoni, though despite being of very similar size, the two are not natural pendants since they differ in scale and horizon level. The two were acquired together circa 1780 (see Provenance) and were subsequently sold as consecutive lots in 1960 at Sotheby's London. The view of San Marco was later sold at Christie's, New York in 1995.2 Both the Woburn and the present view of the Redentore display Canaletto's customary attention to detail, and show that he is equally successful depicting movement, such as the gentle glide of the gondoliers entering the composition lower right, as conveying the imposing elegance of the church. Both vedute are lit from the right and describe a similar sunny mood, but the important differences in design suggest that during his English period Canaletto did not merely reuse earlier compositions but rather reworked them and improved them. Most notably perhaps, while in both paintings the Redentore is placed off-center and slightly to the left of the design, the Woburn painting appears rather unbalanced. Canaletto addresses this by shifting the man-of-war from the left in the Woburn painting to the right, as seen here. By taking a viewpoint slightly further away and including a greater part of the ship, thereby giving it greater prominence within the work, a more harmonious effect is achieved by counterbalancing the Redentore. The unusual man-of-war appears in at least three other autograph views of the Redentore which all share a viewpoint closer than the present work: the painting sold New York, Christie's, 25 January 2002, lot 78 (as one of a pair), the work in the Manchester City Art Gallery, and the painting sold London, Christie's 13 December 1996, lot 81.3 These three versions are accompanied by more natural pairs: the first has as its pendant a view of the prisons while the other two were conceived as pendants for the the church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The Redentore, or officially the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, is arguably Andrea Palladio's (1508-1580) masterpiece. It was built on the Island of Giudecca in the years 1577-92 and was commissioned by the Venetian Senate to give thanks to God for the deliverance of the city from the major plague of 1575-76 which had decimated around one quarter of the city's population, and had claimed the life of many of the city's luminaries, including that of Titian. The Senators vowed to visit the church annually and to this day the Festa del Redentore is celebrated: each year on the third Sunday of July a temporary causeway made from barges is erected across the Giudecca for people to attend Mass. To the right we see the spire of the church of San Giacomo which was demolished in the 19th century.
Peter Baker, the first recorded owner of the painting, probably acquired it in 1779, the year in which he became Member of Parliament for Arundel, Wooton Bassett and Corfe Castle. That year through marriage he acquired the estate of Ranston in Dorset and he commissioned a full-length portrait of his wife by Thomas Gainsborough which is now in the Frick Collection.4
The present work has been requested for the exhibition Canaletto, Itinéraire Vénitien, to be held at Musée Maillol, Fondation Dina Vierny, from 19 September 2012 to 10 February 2013.
1. See Constable, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 427-28, cat. no. 441, reproduced vol. I, plate 83.
2. A View of the Bacino di San Marco from the Riva degli Schiavoni, sold, New York, Christie's, 11 January 1995, lot 38; see Constable, op. cit., vol. II, p. 247, cat. no. 124*, reproduced vol. 1, plate 194.
3. See Links, op. cit., p. 32, cats. no. 318, 318** and 318*** respectively.
4. See The Frick Collection. An Illustrated Catalogue, New York 1968, vol. I, Paintings, pp. 51-53, reproduced.
Oil on canvas
Giovanni Antonio Canaletto Canal Canaletto
23 by 37 in.; 60 by 94.5 cm.
W.G. Constable, Canaletto, ed. J.G. Links, 1989, vol. II, p. 347, cat. no. 318*, reproduced vol. 1, plate 203;
A. Corboz, Canaletto, Una Venezia immaginaria, Milan 1985, vol. II, p. 714, cat. no. P399, reproduced, where dated 1747-55;
J.G. Links, A Supplement to W.G. Constable's Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal, London 1997, p. 32, cat. no. 318*'
C. Beddington, Canaletto in England: A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755, exhibition catalogue, New Haven and Dulwich, 2006-7, p. 26.
Acquired by Peter William Baker M.P. (d. 1815) shortly after he moved into Ranston House, near Blandford, Dorset, in 1779;
Thence by descent to Mrs. W.H. Gibson Fleming;
By whom sold London, Sotheby's, 23 March 1960, lot 36, for 20,000 GBP to Leggatt (the previous lot had been its pendant, sold for 32,000 GBP to L. Koetser);
Mrs. Nora Prince-Littler, Chestham Park, Henfield, Sussex;
Her deceased sale, London, Christie's, 2 December 1977, lot 73;
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Lady"), London, Christie's, 11 April 1986, lot 54;
There purchased by Lord and Lady Forte.