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Canaletto, The Stonemason's Yard

Key facts
Full title Venice: Campo S. Vidal and Santa Maria della Carità ('The Stonemason's Yard')
Artist Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Date made about 1725
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 123.8 × 162.9 cm
Acquisition credit Sir George Beaumont Gift, 1823; passed to the National Gallery, 1828
Inventory number NG127
Location On loan: National Treasures, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Stonemason's Yard

This intimate view of Venice, weatherbeaten and dilapidated, is one of Canaletto’s masterpieces. In the early morning sun, workmen chisel away at pieces of stone. Everyday life continues around them: a mother rushes to comfort her crying child, watched by a woman on the balcony above.

This square – the Campo San Vidal – was not usually a mason’s yard: it appears to have been temporarily transformed into a workshop while repairs are done to the nearby church of San Vidal. The church of Saint Maria della Carità and its campanile (bell tower) are visible on the far side of the Grand Canal.

Painted during the late 1720s, this is one of Canaletto’s finest early works. He has skilfully described various materials and textures: the crumbling plaster, exposed brick, and rough timber in a subtle range of colours. The buildings of different styles and heights, the animated figures and the areas of light and shadow in this theatrical picture may recall the stage sets Canaletto painted at the very beginning of his career.

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