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Francesco Guardi, Venice: The Arsenal

Key facts
Full title Venice: The Arsenal
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Date made 1755-60
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 62.3 × 96.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Alfred A. de Pass, 1920
Inventory number NG3538
Location Room 38
Collection Main Collection
Venice: The Arsenal
Francesco Guardi

The Venetian Arsenal, a fortified shipyard and armoury, had been celebrated as a symbol of the Venetian Republic’s domination of the Mediterranean sea trade since the twelfth century. Its ornate gateway is decorated with statues of Greek and Roman gods; standing guard is the lion, a symbol of the city. Other statues of lions crouch, seeming ready to pounce on intruders and saboteurs.

High walls once shielded the Arsenal from public view, but the open window and the people coming out of the gate suggest that the once formidable security has been relaxed. By the mid-eighteenth century, Venice was no longer such a great sea power, though during Guardi’s lifetime the city’s ports and harbours remained lively trading hubs. Here, Venetians, tourists, seamen and traders gather in leisurely groups, but the hoisted bridge and large barge being pulled along the canal hint that everyday business continues.

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