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

London: Northumberland House

Oil on canvas, 84 x 137 cm
Private collection

Northumberland House at Charing Cross was the London residence of the Earl of Northumberland, who commissioned Canaletto to paint this picture. The house had recently been inherited and refashioned, and Canaletto concentrated his attention on its elegant and mellow façade. The impressive appearance of the building is enhanced by its towers which are surmounted by gilt weather vanes, and the row of obelisks that support lamps on the pavement before it. The house was eventually demolished in 1873, making way for Northumberland Avenue, and the lion above the doorway was then moved to Syon House in Isleworth, Middlesex, where it can still be seen.

Canaletto created far more than just a celebration of a particular building, however; he also provides us with an invaluable record of its surroundings, and a vivid impression of the capital coming to life early in the morning. To the right is the statue of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur (c. 1595-c. 1650) that now stands at the entrance of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square, and at the left is the entrance to the Strand and the Golden Cross Inn, which has a sign standing in front of it.

The painting was much copied and engravings were made after it; as a result of the distribution of these copies, it was to have a significant influence on the work of English artists who depicted urban scenes.