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Venice: The Grand Canal facing Santa Croce
Follower of Canaletto
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Antonio Visentini engraved 38 paintings by Canaletto in his celebrated Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus, published in 1742 – this popular view was one of them. The collection of prints increased the artist’s fame and spread his work across Europe. This composition was widely reproduced in Canaletto’s studio, including by his precociously talented nephew, Bernardo Bellotto (whose version of this scene is in our collection).

Incidental details bring the scene to life. A fisherman is moored up to the right and gondoliers cross the Grand Canal. Along the quay people stroll past the pinkish facade of the church of Santa Croce (demolished in 1810) and head towards the domed church of San Simeone Piccolo, which can be seen up close in the picture painted as a companion to this one.

The inscription ‘original del Canaletto’ was uncovered on the back of this picture, but the painting lacks his refinement – it has clearly been painted in his style.

Key facts
Artist Follower of Canaletto
Artist dates 1697 - 1768
Full title Venice: Upper Reaches of the Grand Canal facing Santa Croce
Series Two Views across the Grand Canal
Date made after 1738
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 38.8 x 46.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1886
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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