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Work View of the Piazzetta, from the Steps of the San Marco Basilica

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Vue de la Piazetta, à Venise, prise des marches de la basilique San Marco

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Mancini Federica

Guardi is one of the great view painters of Venice, the most famous of whom is Canaletto. The latter's influence did not prevent Guardi from developing a personal style, his views, or 'vedute', being characterized more by freedom of line and attention to the atmosphere over the Lagoon than by an exact description of place. This View of the Piazzetta, a subject which inspired a number of remarkable pieces by Guardi, testifies to his vibrant and luminous vision of Venetian mood.

The Lagoon

The view opens onto the Piazza San Marco: scattered figures stroll through a square framed by a refined and sophisticated architecture. To the right is Sansovino's Libreria Marciana, and on the left a Corinthian column announces the Doges' Palace. The viewpoint is on top of the steps of Saint Mark's, which gives one the impression of being in the picture. Two columns help articulate depth, leading the eye into the background. The island of San Giorgio and its bell-tower are briefly sketched in the distance, in the middle of the Lagoon.

Views, caprices, and celebrations

The wide range of subjects represented in Guardi's graphic work led to difficulties of attribution: his mastery of the sketch, preparatory study and finished work led him to see drawing as an autonomous form, even a "parallel" to painting. For some critics, the sense of startling vivacity he infused in his drawings was not the result of instantaneous inspiration: even in the most original of his drawings, his creativity relied upon exceptional technique.

International renown

The dating of the View of the Piazzetta, a painting of which exists at the Albertina in Vienna, is uncertain: the drawing was executed around the 1750s. There is nothing to say whether it came before or after the period dominated by Canaletto's influence. In any event, Guardi's graphic work has always attracted the most discriminating collectors around the world, testimony to his gifts as a producer of 'vedute'.


Bacou, Dessins du Louvre, Ecole Italienne, Flammarion, Paris, 1968, notice 98.
R. Pallucchini, "Il Settecento veneziano all'Orangerie", in Arte Veneta, XXIV, 1970, pp.323-333.
R. Bacou, in Venise au dix-huitième siècle : Peintures, dessins et gravures des collections françaises, cat. exp. Paris, musée national de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, 1971, notice 100.
A. Bettagno, Francesco Guardi, Vedute Capricci Feste, Electa, Milan, 1993, pp.40-43.
A. Morassi, Guardi, I Disegni, Milan : Electa, 1993, p.138, cat. n. 340.

Technical description

  • Francesco Guardi (Venice, 1712-1793)

    View of the Piazzetta, from the Steps of the San Marco Basilica


  • Pen and brown ink and brown wash over sketch in black chalk

    H. 21 cm; W. 29 cm

  • His de La Salle Collection; gift, 1878

    RF 629

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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