(b. 1697, Venezia, d. 1768, Venezia)
London: Whitehall and the Privy Garden from Richmond House1747
Oil on canvas, 106,7 x 116,8 cm
This work and its companion picture (The Thames and the City of London from Richmond House), have become the most widely admired paintings executed by Canaletto during his stay in England. They were painted for the Duke of Richmond, and probably based upon sketches made from views from the upper windows of his London home, Richmond House. The Duke himself is depicted with a servant in the courtyard at the lower right.
Whitehall is shown as an open space surrounded by small buildings, unfamiliar to modern Londoners accustomed to vast government offices covering the area. The Tudor Treasury Gate at the left was demolished in 1759 to ease the flow of traffic, but the Banqueting House, left of centre in the middle-distance, and church of St Martin-in-the-Fields beyond and to the right of it, remain.
A sense of order has been imposed on the urban sprall; the main buildings lie parallel to the picture plane, and the perspective is conveniently established by the walls and pathways which run towards the centre of the composition. Everything - from the chickens in the foreground to the houses half a mile away - is observed with a crispness of equal insistence, so creating a vivid record of this unexpected view of the capital during the reign of George II.
Canaletto later reinterpreted the scene from a lower viewpoint, and produced an even wider panorama (one of his most spectacular), which includes a view of the Thames at the left.