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

Dolo on the Brenta

c. 1730-35
Oil on canvas, 80,5 x 96,5 cm
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

Twenty kilometres to the west of Venice lies Dolo, a village on the river Brenta, which flows from Padua into the Lagoon at Mestre. The friendly Brenta, with its many country houses, was a favourite destination for excursions by boat. Canaletto immortalized the Brenta in numerous drawings, etchings and paintings.

This is one of the earliest and most beautiful of these paintings. The subject is the mills built in the Brenta River near Dolo. Canaletto represented the view towards the east from a tall house located on the dam in the river. The sun shines from the west, as indicated by the shadow of the house where the artist sat, which falls to the right in the foreground. On the left the quay, lined with the most prominent houses, the inn and the campanile of San Rocco, makes a wide curve. On the other side of the Brenta are some free-standing buildings and a covered wharf. In front of these on the right, outside the image, begins the canal through which the traffic is led round the mill by way of the sluices. Arriving in the background is a 'burchiello' with a striped cover glides along the bend at the right, and a third boat with a red roof disappears just around the corner. Boats and small barges are moored to the banks on either side of the river.

In the foreground we see the mill complex with a couple of unused millstones on the left and the basin which powers the paddles; the gates have been lowered. It is late afternoon and the villagers seem to have finished their work for the day. They take their ease on a sack of flour, do a bit of fishing or chat with neighbours. A lady dressed in red is greeted by a couple whose servant protects them from the sun with a parasol. This group in particular attracts our attention. They are apparently prosperous towns-people out for a leisurely visit in the country.

The serenity of the scene is achieved by means of the composition; in a very restful and astonishingly well-ordered fashion all the anecdotal and topographical elements have been grouped round the Brenta, which occupies only a small portion of the entire painting. Most of the composition is reserved for the blue and white of the sky, which harmonize wonderfully well with the browns and greens of the foreground, enlivened by the contrasting touches of red, white and blue of the elegant burghers.