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Work The Molo, Seen from the San Marco Basin

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

The Molo Seen from the Bacino di San Marco

© 1998 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Italian painting

Corinne Dollfus

Canaletto painted some ten versions of this subject, the most similar to this one being in the Uffizi in Florence. The prototype for the series can be dated to around 1730.

Accurate topography

Beginning in the 15th century, and especially in the 18th century, Venetian painters delighted in depicting parts of their city in exact detail. The Rome-trained painter Luca Carlevaris (1663-1730) adopted the tradition in Venice and handed it on to his apprentice Antonio Canal, who combined it with experience gained from his father, a theatre set designer. Canaletto's views of Venice are lively and picturesque.

Light as the source of life

The emphasis here is on the reflections of light on water and the city as seen from the sea. Boats are moored along the dock occupying the lower quarter of the picture, notable among them being the Bucentaur, the Doge's craft. Two gondolas and a fishing boat enliven the area of water in the foreground.
To the right rise the prisons of Venice and in the background the San Marco Basilica and the Campanile. On the left can be seen the library and the mint. The buildings are bathed in a gentle light that floods the canvas; it is filtered through a gray mist rising into the blue sky that fills three-quarters of the composition, in the manner of the Flemish seascapes of the 17th century.

A realistic repertory

This work from the artist's mature period was doubtless one of the commissions flooding in from clients, many of them English, who were undertaking the Grand Tour of Europe. Here, Canaletto uses a personal technique, covering his canvas with blue before using a camera obscura to obtain exact shapes and perspective directly from real life.
While his rival Guardi adopted a more baroque and unorthodox approach, Canaletto worked with a classical rigor that neither undermined his poetic message nor impeded his quite considerable success.

Technical description

  • Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as CANALETTO (Venice, 1697 - Venice, 1768)

    The Molo Seen from the Bacino di San Marco

  • H. 0.47 m; W. 0.81 m

  • Gift of André Péreire, 1949 , 1949

    R.F. 1949-7

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Venetian festivities
    Room 723

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