An image of The Piazza San Marco, Venice


(Italy 17 Oct 1697 – 10 Apr 1768)

The Piazza San Marco, Venice

15th–19th c European art
Further information

Architectonic in construction and architectural in content, this magnificent 'venduta', or view, sparkles with the very light of Venice. This was subject matter tackled time and time again by Canaletto, probably with the aid of a 'camera obscura'; yet despite the artist's concern for accuracy, this painting is nowhere dull or perfunctory in its attention to detail. Having worked as a scenographic artist in the Italian perspectival tradition, and as the son of such an artist, Canaletto was ideally placed to become the greatest recorder of the physical glories of the city-state called 'La Serenissima'. This is not to say that the human glory of Venice is ignored. Canaletto, here as elsewhere, populated the Piazza with a dizzying and deliciously executed array of merchants, friars, wigged officials, masked revellers, mysterious women, children and dogs. If the majority of such views were intended for consumption by English and other tourists, this has not been to the detriment of their remarkable artistic quality.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

oil on canvas
67.5 x 119.0 cm stretcher; 85.0 x 136.0 x 9.0 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of James Fairfax AC 1996
Accession number
H.J. Spiller, pre 13 Apr 1928, London/England, [frame dealer]
Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, 13 Apr 1928-04 Jun 1928, London/England, Purchased by Arthur Tooth & Sons from H.J. Spiller, 13 April 1928. Tooth stock no. 8433. Sold to Leggatt Bros., 4 June 1928.
Leggatt Bros., London, 04 Jun 1928-1939, London/England, [dealer] Purchased by Leggatt Bros. from Arthur Tooth & Sons, 4 June 1928. Leggatt Bros. business records pre 1945 have been destroyed (information from C. Leggatt)
Christie's London, 14 Apr 1978, London/England, lot no.32, 'Property of a gentleman' £90,000. Letter sent 8 April 2003 by Christie's London on behalf of the AGNSW to the UK address on their records of 1978 (no updated address available on system). June 2003 letter returned by post office 'addresse unknown'.
Colnaghi U.S.A., 1987, New York/New York/United States of America, Sold to James Fairfax 1987. Letters sent to Colnaghi's 17 October 2001, 15 May 2002 and 15 March 2003 asking for information on when and from whom they acquired the painting. No response.
James Oswald Fairfax AC, 1987-Jun 1996, Bowral/New South Wales/Australia, Gift of James Fairfax 1996. Purchased by James Fairfax from Colnaghi, New York 1987. On formal loan to AGNSW from February 1988 - June 1996.