We look down on a captivating crowd of people and across the Piazza San Marco, one of Venice’s most famous landmarks. Characterful figures draw us into the scene – like the elegant couple in black cloaks who stride across the square, the gentleman dressed in a red cloak and powdered wig or the man who walks towards us puffing on a long pipe. Warm sunlight picks out the vibrant colours of the figures' clothing and the billowing white clouds above.
Guardi, like his near contemporary Canaletto, filled his work with details: tent-like shelters of street vendors sit across the square and lines of washing are strung out across the facade of the Procuratie Vecchie on the left. But Guardi’s technique was different to Canaletto’s: his brushwork is much looser, enhancing the poetic mood of his paintings.
We look down on a captivating crowd and across the Piazza San Marco, one of Venice’s most famous landmarks. We are drawn into the scene by the large and brightly coloured group of people – among them an elegant couple dressed in black carnival cloaks, a man in a pale yellow cloak with his dog, and traders with baskets of produce. Many figures have their backs to us, though we see the faces of a fashionable gentleman in a red cloak and powdered wig and a man, slightly further back, who walks towards us puffing on a long pipe. Warm sunlight picks out the vibrant colours of the figures' clothing and the billowing white clouds.
Guardi, like his near contemporary Canaletto, filled his work with detail: tent-like shelters of street vendors sit across the square and lines of washing are strung out across the facade of the Procuratie Vecchie on the left. But if you compare Guardi’s paintings with those by Canaletto, it is apparent that his technique is very different. Guardi tended to use a much looser, less precise brushwork, evoking mood instead of meticulous detail.
This is among Guardi’s earliest view paintings. Guardi has created a rhythm across the composition, emphasising the diagonals of the roofs on each side of the square and the faint white lines on the ground, although there are disparities in scale: the foreground figures are not in proportion with the arches of the colonnades and the people emerging from the shops and cafes within them. This rigid symmetry is offset with the strong shadow cast by the building on the right, the Procuratie Nuove, which leads us towards the base of the campanile (bell tower) and also focuses attention on the basilica. The mosaics on its facade shine the brightest as they catch the light while its domes glow silver.
This popular view was repeated many times by Guardi and Canaletto, with slight variations in the composition – see Canaletto’s Venice: Piazza San Marco and Venice: Piazza San Marco and the Colonnade of the Procuratie Nuove. This picture was actually given to the National Gallery as a work by Canaletto, although Guardi’s signature does appear on a piece of wood being carried by a man at the far right. Around 20 years later Guardi made a smaller, more luminous view of the same scene, painted with greater freedom.
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