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Venice: S. Simeone Piccolo
Follower of Canaletto
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We look across the Grand Canal towards the facade of the domed church of San Simeone Piccolo, completed in 1738 – it dwarfs the surrounding houses and a small workmen’s hut to the left. People potter along the quayside and climb the church’s steps to take a closer look. On the canal, several gondolas pass a fishing boat, their oars stirring the rippling water.

This small work lacks the refinement of Canaletto’s paintings; it is considered an imitation of his style. For a comparison, look at the way Canaletto could evoke a face in just a few brushstrokes in Venice: The Grand Canal with San Simeone Piccolo, versus the excessively simplified faces and figures here.

This composition may derive from an original painting by Canaletto, its location now unknown. Canaletto’s detailed sketch in the Royal Collection at Windsor shows a similar view, but the steps leading to the entrance of the church are unfinished and surrounded by pieces of stone.

Key facts
Artist Follower of Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Full title Venice: S. Simeone Piccolo
Group Two Views across the Grand Canal
Date made after 1738
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 38.8 x 47 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1885
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Views across the Grand Canal

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We don’t know who painted Venice: San Simeone Piccolo and Venice: The Grand Canal facing Santa Croce, though it’s likely they were made by a contemporary follower of Canaletto, eager to take advantage of his success by producing small-scale copies of his work, or by one of Canaletto’s pupils as a studio copy.

Inscriptions on the back of each canvas, uncovered during conservation work, state they are genuine works by Canaletto. These were presumably added by an unscrupulous artist or owner: the paintings have clearly been produced by someone imitating Canaletto’s style, though rather crudely. Pictures like these formed part of a burgeoning market in Venice during the 1730s and 1740s, enabling visitors who couldn't afford Canaletto’s high price tag to take home a souvenir from their travels.

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