(b. 1697, Venezia, d. 1768, Venezia)

A Regatta on the Grand Canal

c. 1732
Oil on canvas, 77 x 126 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

The picture showing traditional Venetian ceremony is from a series of 14 views of the Grand Canal painted by Canaletto and engraved by Antonio Visentini (published in 1735).

Venice's reputation as a city of festivities was amply justified. This painting, along with its companion picture (Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day, also in the Royal Collection), record two of the most spectacular. Here a gondola race which formed part of a Regatta held on the Grand Canal is depicted. Such events had been organized since the fourteenth century as part of the Carnival, and were also occasionally arranged to honour notable visitors to the city.

At the extreme left of the picture is the macchina (an ornate temporary structure) under which the winners of the races were presented with flags. It bears the coat of arms of Carlo Ruzzini who ruled as Doge of Venice from 1732 until 1735. Spectators fill boats along either side of the Grand Canal, and observe the race from the balconies of the palaces, many of which are decorated with hangings. The eight-oared barges have been specially decorated for the occasion, and a number of the figures, notably in the foreground, wear Carnival costumes, such as the tricorn hat with a white mask and black cape.

An engraving of this work was included in Canaletto's Prospectus series of 1735. The composition was clearly popular — other similarly accomplished versions of it are in the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Gallery, London.