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Venice: The Punta della Dogana
Francesco Guardi
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The huge dome of the church of S. Maria della Salute dominates the entrance of the Grand Canal. Just in front is the Dogana da Mar (Customs House), built in the 1670s and shaped like a ship’s bow. Above its entrance is a weathervane in the form of Fortune, a personification of the Venetian Republic’s supremacy over the Adriatic Sea.

The water is a hive of activity: large boats carrying cargo sail beside a flurry of smaller vessels. On the shore, merchants remove goods from their boats and secure passage into the Grand Canal. A little way along the quay, locals walk towards the church.

The scene is full of light as well as movement: the sky is luminous and sunlight flickers on the water. Guardi has used a variety of tones and colours to create the rippling, reflective surface of water.

Key facts
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Full title Venice: The Punta della Dogana with S. Maria della Salute
Group Two Views of Venice
Date made about 1770
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 56.2 x 75.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by the Misses Cohen as part of the John Samuel Collection, 1906
Inventory number NG2098
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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