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Venice: The Doge's Palace and the Molo
Francesco Guardi
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Guardi delighted in capturing the charm of his beloved Venice, and here he has given it a soft, powdery appearance and dreamy atmosphere. Trade is the focus in the foreground – the basin of San Marco and the quayside is a hive of activity. Lively brushstrokes evoke the bustle of the city at work, from the movement of boats as they glide across the lagoon to that of the tiny figures dotted along the quayside.

In the left corner, a large barge filled with goods is at anchor; its graceful white sail frames the scene. A group of tightly packed vessels on the far right almost merge with the shops behind; the men are little more than daubs of colour, but Guardi still managed to portray their industriousness. Gondoliers ferry passengers and await clients beside the Molo (a broad stone quay), with the Doge’s Palace and campanile (bell tower) of San Marco beyond.

Key facts
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Full title Venice: The Doge's Palace and the Molo from the Basin of San Marco
Series Two Views of Venice
Date made about 1770
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 58.1 x 76.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel Collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2099
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Views of Venice

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Venice: The Doge’s Palace and the Molo from the Basin of San Marco and its companion picture Venice: The Punta della Dogana with S. Maria della Salute were intended to be hung together. Paintings like these were a reminder of Venice’s impressive architecture and bustling atmosphere, and fulfilled a taste for poetic views of the city among locals and foreign collectors.

Guardi shows Venice here as a prosperous city, although by the second half of the eighteenth century the Venetian Republic’s control of the Mediterranean sea trade was growing weaker. For centuries its maritime power had been unrivalled, its economic growth achieved by receiving goods from the east by sea and selling them in the growing European market.

By the 1770s, when these paintings were probably made, Guardi had moved away from the influence of the famed Venetian artist Canaletto in terms of technique. He continued to paint similar parts of the city, but with a more free-handed approach and a particular interest in atmospheric effects.

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