The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice, looking West, with the Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute
Oil on canvas
65 x 85.4 cm / 25 5/8 x 33 5/8 in
Acquired by James Harris, M.P. (1709-1780), for whom imported from Venice by William Hayter of London in March 1743;
His son Sir James Harris, GCB, PC, created Baron Malmesbury 1788 and Viscount FitzHarris and Earl of Malmesbury in 1800;
By descent at Heron Court, Christchurch, Hampshire to William James Harris, 6th Earl of Malmesbury, by whom sold at Christie's, London, 11 April 1986, lot 57, as 'Attributed to Bemardo Bellotto';
Private Collection, Europe.
James Harris, An Account of my Pictures, Ms., begun 1739 (Malmesbury Family), p. 7 (see note below);
S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London, 1972, II, p. 420, no. Z 116;
D. Succi, 'Bemardo Bellotto nell'''atelier'' di Canaletto e la sua produzione giovanile a Castle Howard neIlo Yorkshire' in the catalogue of the exhibition Bernardo Bellotto detto il Canaletto, Barchessa di Villa Morosini, Mirano, 23 October -19 December 1999, pp. 30 and 32, fig. 10 (colour);
D. Succi, 'La Venècia de l'altre "Canaletto": el jove Bemardo Bellotto' in the catalogue of the exhibition Canaletto. Una Venècia Imaginilria, Centre de Cultura Contemporarua, Barcelona, 20 February - 13 May 2001, p. 48;
D. Succi, 'La Venècia del otro "Canaletto": el joven Bemardo Bellotto' in the catalogue of the exhibition Canaletto. Una Venècia Imaginaria, Museo Thyssen-Bomemisza, Madrid, 29 May - 2 September 2001, p. 69.
This is one of the most securely attributed Venetian views by Bellotto, being generally accepted by the current specialists in the field, and moreover, being (with its former pendant) the only Venetian view by Bellotto whose attribution is confirmed by a contemporary document (see below). Its first owner James Harris, father of the 1st Earl of Malrnesbury, recorded in his own Account of my Pictures begun in 1739 having acquired 'Four views of Venice' including 'two ... by Antonio Bellotti [the artist's Christian name presumably mistaken for that of his uncle, Canaletto], one representing the Custom House [this painting]; the other, the Rialto' for which he paid ten guineas. 'They were painted all at Venice, & imported at my Request by Mr. Wm. Hayter of London March 1743'. Bellotto was then only twenty-one years old. The pendant, showing The Rialto Bridge from the North, was sold by the Earl of Malmesbury at Christie's, London, 13 December 1985 (lot 7) and is now in a private collection, USA (see Succi, op. cit., 1999, p. 31, fig. 9, colour; Succi, op. cit. [Barcelona], 2001, p. 48, fig. 7, colour; and Succi, op. cit. [Madrid], 2001, p. 69, fig. 7).
The attribution has also been confirmed by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk after inspection of the painting on 11 November 2005, and by the present writer; we agree in dating it to c.1738, while Succi, loco cit., suggests 1739-40. Like most of Bellotto's works during his period in the workshop of his uncle, the painting is loosely based on a smaller work by Canaletto, in this case that of c.1729-30 (measuring 183/4 x 311/4 in., 47.6 x 79.2 cm.) then in the collection of Joseph Smith in his house on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana, and now in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen (W.G. Constable, Canaletto, London, 1962, and subsequent editions revised by J.G. Links, I, pl. 36; II, no. 161; currently in the exhibition Canaletto in Venice at the Queen's Gallery, London, no. 12). Canaletto's painting was engraved by Antonio Visentini as plate six of his Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum published in 1735.
James Harris acquired at the same time two paintings by Michele Marieschi, The Piazza San Marco, looking East and The Grand Canal with the Entrance to the Cannaregio which remain in the Malmesbury family collection, along with the panoramic view of The Bacino di San Marco, also acquired by Harris, which is one of Marieschi's masterpieces (F. Montecuccoli degli Erri and F. Pedrocco, Michele Marieschi: La vita, l'ambiente, l'opera, Milan, 1999, p. 388, no. 160, p. 415, no. 185, and pp. 330-1, no. 107). Harris also owned Canaletto's magnificent view of The Old Horse Guards, London, from St. James's Park, which was bequeathed to him by the Earl of Radnor in 1757; sold by his descendant at Christie's, London, 15 April 1992 (lot 59), it is now on loan to Tate Britain from the collection of the Lord Lloyd-Webber Art Foundation (Constable, op. cit., I, pl. 76; IT, no. 415).
22 February 2006