GUARDI, Francesco
(b. 1712, Venezia, d. 1793, Venezia)

The Grand Canal with San Simeone Piccolo and Santa Lucia

Oil on canvas, 48 x 78 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

In this view of San Simeone Piccolo, Francesco Guardi depicted the same part of the Grand Canal as in its companion, the Grand Canal with Santa Lucia and the Scalzi (also in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), but seen here from another angle. The vantage point of the painter is no longer on one side or the other of the canal; rather, this view seems to have been taken from a boat on the water. The eye is led towards the left bank, dominated by the large brass dome of Santi Simeone e Giuda, generally called San Simeone Piccolo to distinguish it from San Simeone Profeta. In the left foreground are Palazzo Foscari-Contarini and Casa Adolo, while in the centre of the composition the bridge over the Rio della Croce and the church by the same name mark the bend in the Grand Canal toward the northwest. Santa Lucia can be seen on the right side, its façade strongly foreshortened. Guardi sat with his back toward the house in the narrowing of the Grand Canal; to his right, just out of view, were the Scalzi and the Rio dell'Isola.

Remarkably, in both this painting and its companion the quay on the opposite side of the canal describes a virtually identical curve, starting at the left edge of the image. By choosing a vantage point on the water, which allowed the houses on both banks of the Canal to be seen simultaneously, Guardi made the Grand Canal seem much broader in this picture than in its pendant. Given that one experiences a distinct sense of width once the narrow section of the canal near the Fondamenta Grotta is left behind, this effect, though exaggerated, is nonetheless justified.