(b. 1697, Venezia, d. 1768, Venezia)
Grand Canal: Looking North-East toward the Rialto Bridgec. 1725
Oil on canvas, 146 x 234 cm
This is one of the largest canvases Canaletto ever painted. It shows the view from the first floor of Palazzo Garzoni on the Grand Canal at the corner of Rio di Sant'Angelo. To the left, on the opposite side of the water, is the entrance to the Rio di San Polo, with Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza in the lefthand corner and behind it the steeple of San Polo. At the end of the row of façades in the distance is the Rialto Bridge and, on the far right, the corner of Palazzo Corner Spinelli and the entrance to the Rio di Sant'Angelo.
There are many gondolas on the water, busily crossing the Grand Canal and, in one case, nearly colliding with a rowboat. Directly in front of Palazzo Corner Spinelli lies a cluster of barges of various kinds, tied together for lack of space to dock; the narrow quay on the right is apparently reserved for gondolas. The northwestern light is pale and damp; the sky seems to be clearing after a rainy afternoon.
It would still be possible to enjoy this view, were it not for the fact that there are two views involved. The right half of the composition was taken from the northeastern corner window of Palazzo Garzoni, the left half from that in the northwestern one. Canaletto must have made two preparatory drawings and then combined them in one composition, with the result that the picture encompasses an angle of almost ninety degrees.
Various features of this picture are arranged like the lighting and props in an operatic production, in order to create a compelling rather than simply descriptive image. These features perhaps refer to Canaletto's early experience in the theatre. The ominous sky provides an element of menace and restlessness rare in his work, and the unlikely grouping of boats in the right foreground seem to have been placed for picturesque, rather than a realistic, effect.