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Two Venetian Ceremonial Scenes


This pair of paintings – A Regatta on the Grand Canal and The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day – captures two of the most popular annual festivals in eighteenth-century Venice: the gondola races and the Wedding of the Sea ceremony. Both fell into decline during the late eighteenth century but were revived in 1965 and are still enjoyed today.

Both events celebrate the history of the Venetian Republic. The regatta commemorates a naval victory against the forces of Dalmatia (modern-day Croatia) around the year 1000; the Wedding of the Sea relates to a peace treaty of 1178 between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy, witnessed by the Doge (elected head) of Venice. He received a blessed ring from the Pope.

The paintings were made around 1740, when Canaletto produced his most commercially successful works. They were designed to appeal to wealthy foreign visitors as a reminder of Venice’s outstanding beauty and unique entertainments.