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Canaletto, Venice: The Grand Canal with S. Simeone Piccolo

Key facts
Full title Venice: The Upper Reaches of the Grand Canal with S. Simeone Piccolo
Artist Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Date made about 1740
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 124.5 × 204.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Farnborough, 1838
Inventory number NG163
Location Room 38
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Venice: The Grand Canal with S. Simeone Piccolo

Canaletto’s sweeping view takes in everyday life on the Grand Canal. A stout helmsman stands aboard a finely decorated passenger barge to the left, while fishermen draw their nets in the centre. A boat carrying two women seems about to collide with one of the fishing vessels.

Across the canal to the left is the imposing church of San Simeone Piccolo, with its green copper dome. The church was inaugurated in April 1738, and Canaletto probably painted this view sometime afterwards – though there’s still a workmen’s hut beside the steps. Women and children gather nearby, and several other figures take a look at the new church.

The painting’s grand scale – it’s over two metres wide – is matched by the careful observation of crisp details, light effects and varied textures: shimmering roof tiles, crumbling facades and delicate ripples and reflections on the water.

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