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Canaletto, Venice: The Feast Day of Saint Roch

Key facts
Full title Venice: The Feast Day of Saint Roch
Artist Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Date made about 1735
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 147.7 × 199.4 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG937
Location Room 38
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Venice: The Feast Day of Saint Roch

A crowd watches as state dignitaries and foreign ambassadors emerge from the church of San Rocco on the right of this painting. They have just attended a mass in honour of Saint Roch as part of the saint’s feast day, which was held in Venice every year on 16 August to celebrate his role in bringing the plague of 1576 to an end. The doge (the elected head of the Venetian state) is dressed in a golden, ermine-lined ceremonial robe; other figures wear sumptuous draperies and white powdered wigs. Many of those gathered to watch the grand procession face away from us, giving us the impression that we are part of the crowd watching the festivities.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which houses one of the city’s religious and charitable organisations, dominates this picture’s background. An exhibition of paintings – a tradition of feast day – hangs on the Scuola’s facade and the houses nearby, attracting the attention of passersby.

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