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Canaletto, Venice: A Regatta on the Grand Canal

Key facts
Full title Venice: A Regatta on the Grand Canal
Artist Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Date made about 1735
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 117.2 × 186.7 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG938
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Venice: A Regatta on the Grand Canal

This exhilarating scene shows the annual regatta (boat race) along Venice’s Grand Canal, and Canaletto has successfully captured the crowd’s excitement as the competitors skilfully manoeuvre their craft up the canal. Although many of the figures in the foreground have their backs to us, we still get a sense of their mood: most stand in a state of suspense, arms raised or pointing.

The sharply receding view intensifies the drama of the race: we feel like we're watching the boats speed away. Intense sunlight picks out the tightly packed spectators along the waterfront and in buildings, displaying brightly coloured cloths. We see wealthy Venetians in colourful rowing boats and ordinary folk in smaller gondolas.

This picture was painted in about 1735, and the scene was obviously popular among Canaletto’s clients – he returned to the subject in a later version, also in our collection, made around 1740.

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