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Francesco Guardi, Venice: The Punta della Dogana

Key facts
Full title Venice: The Punta della Dogana
Artist Francesco Guardi
Artist dates 1712 - 1793
Series Two Views of Venice
Date made 1780s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 18.7 × 23.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Elizabeth Carstairs, 1952
Inventory number NG6156
Location Room 39
Collection Main Collection
Venice: The Punta della Dogana
Francesco Guardi

This scene shows the Dogana da Mar (Customs House), which was built in about 1677, and the entrance to the Grand Canal. Over the gateway to the canal is a golden globe with a weather vane in the shape of Fortune, personified as the mistress of the sea. With almost no land, Venice depended on maritime trade for its existence, and Fortune’s billowing sail indicates that the winds of fortune are inconstant. A little further back, boats arrive at the harbour and sailors unload cargo and pay customs charges to enter the city’s waterways.

Guardi has captured movement with animated brushwork – the hardworking merchants and fishermen are made up of skilful flicks of thickly applied paint – and used thinner layers of paint to capture the effects of changing light on the water. Buildings and masts, described using rough black lines, seem to pierce the light, cloudy sky.

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Two Views of Venice


Venice: The Punta della Dogana and Venice: The Guidecca with the Zitelle were painted as a pair and intended to be hung together. They show views of where the Venetian Lagoon meets the mouth of the Grand Canal on the east side of Venice (the island of Guidecca is even visible on the far left of The Punta della Dogana). In both paintings, Guardi used a soft, light touch and cool lighting to depict the buildings, summery sky and transparent water.

The small scale of these works, which are slightly smaller that an A4 piece of paper, would have made them easy to carry and transport. This may tell us about who bought such pictures, most likely tourists on their journey around Europe.