(b. 1697, Venezia, d. 1768, Venezia)
San Marco: the Crossing and North Transept, with Musicians Singing1766
Pen and ink with washes, 47 x 36 cm
"I Zuane Antonio da Canal, made the present drawing of the musicians who sing in the ducal church of San Marco at the age of 68, without spectacles, in the year 1766.' This inscription, at the bottom of the sheet, seems to indicate the artist's defiance in the face of oncoming old age, and the work itself, which is his last dated picture, certainly illustrates no lessening of his skills as a draughtsman.
He had first recorded a similar view of the interior of the church in oil, over thirty years earlier (Royal Collection, Windsor). In the painting Canaletto showed it thronged with people, in contrast to the drawing where he has concentrated on the careful placement of a few legible figures. In the drawing the choristers can be seen enthusiastically following the music in the enormous book which is propped up before them, while below a beggar is seated beside an altar, and to the left a kneeling man holding a rosary performs his devotions. Close to him a little dog - a by now indispensable detail in Canaletto's works - listens to the music.
The artist died two years later, but he was not sufficiently revered to be buried in a church as magnificent as this. He was instead interred in the more modest surroundings of San Lio, where he had been baptized.