04 janvier 2020

Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (Venice 1697 – 1768), A Venetian capriccio view of an oval church beside the lagoon

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Lot 68. Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (Venice 1697 – 1768), A Venetian capriccio view of an oval church beside the lagoon, oil on canvas; 23⅛ by 35¾ in.; 58.7 by 90.8 cm. Estimate: 700,000 - 900,000 USD. © Sotheby's.

Provenance: Mary, Lady Carbery (d. 1949), Castle Freke, County Cork, Ireland;
Her sale et al., London, Christie’s, 4 March 1921, lot 5 (as B. Bellotto) for 40 Guineas to F. Sabin;
With F. Sabin;
With Julius Böhler, Lucerne and Baden Baden, 1932;
From whom acquired by Thomas Harris, London, 1936;
Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, 3rd Bt. (1894-1972), Knightshayes, Devon;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
With Knoedler, New York, 7 August 1953 (advertised in The Burlington Magazine, November 1954);
From whom acquired by Caroline Ryan Foulke, New York, May 1958;
With Knoedler, New York, September 1959;
From whom acquired by Henry Fonda, New York, January 1960;
Thence by descent to Baroness Franchetti Fonda, New York;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby’s, 30 June 1965, lot 95, for £8,000 to Stein;
With Dr. Fritz Nathan and Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich (according to a label on the reverse);
Private collection, Paris, 1966 (according to Fondazione Zeri, online catalogue);
With Arthur Tooth, London (according to a label on the reverse);
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
From whom acquired by the family of the present owner.
 
Exhibited: Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, Landscape: Massys to Corot, 6 May - 3 June 1955, no. 35.
 
Literature: W.G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, Oxford 1962 (1st ed.), vol. II, p. 419, cat. no. 489; reproduced vol. I, pl. 90; revised by J.G. Links, Oxford 1976 (2nd ed.), vol. II, p. 454, cat. no. 489; reproduced vol. I, pl. 90; Oxford 1989 (3rd ed.), vol. II, p. 454, cat. no. 459;
S. Kozakiewicz, Bernardo Bellotto, London 1972, vol. II, p. 487, cat. no. Z-395, reproduced.Provenance
Mary, Lady Carbery (d. 1949), Castle Freke, County Cork, Ireland;
Her sale et al., London, Christie’s, 4 March 1921, lot 5 (as B. Bellotto) for 40 Guineas to F. Sabin;
With F. Sabin;
With Julius Böhler, Lucerne and Baden Baden, 1932;
From whom acquired by Thomas Harris, London, 1936;
Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, 3rd Bt. (1894-1972), Knightshayes, Devon;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
With Knoedler, New York, 7 August 1953 (advertised in The Burlington Magazine, November 1954);
From whom acquired by Caroline Ryan Foulke, New York, May 1958;
With Knoedler, New York, September 1959;
From whom acquired by Henry Fonda, New York, January 1960;
Thence by descent to Baroness Franchetti Fonda, New York;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby’s, 30 June 1965, lot 95, for £8,000 to Stein;
With Dr. Fritz Nathan and Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich (according to a label on the reverse);
Private collection, Paris, 1966 (according to Fondazione Zeri, online catalogue);
With Arthur Tooth, London (according to a label on the reverse);
With Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
From whom acquired by the family of the present owner.

Note: Canaletto is a name synonymous with Venice - a city that has perennially inspired artists. Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, the son of a stage set decorator, was the first major proponent of view paintings of Venice, producing some of the most famous images of her iconic landmarks, and inspiring generations of painters to come. He established the market for vedute, recognizing the demand for such works from foreign visitors and locals alike. The present painting demonstrates how Canaletto’s commercial success was not only limited to topographical, if often manipulated, compositions however. Capricci - fictitious views, which nevertheless often include one or more elements from reality - were highly prized for their artistic invention. Indeed, it is notable that the painting Canaletto presented after his election to the Accademia di Pittura e Scultura at Venice was the Capriccio with a colonnade, of 1765.1

The protagonist of this painting is the large oval church - a product of Canaletto’s sophisticated imagination. The most famous such structure known to the artist would undoubtedly have been the Pantheon, in Rome - the Classical circular temple completed in 126AD. Rotundas were clearly a source of intrigue to Canaletto and they feature in several others of his capricci. 2 In the present work, the elliptical church is topped with a tower flanked by a pair of engaged colonnettes, reminiscent of parts of the façade of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice itself.

A more definitive nod to reality comes in the form of the elegant campanile (bell tower) of the church of Santo Stefano, visible in the distance beyond the oval church. This accent in the skyline draws attention to a particularly lyrical passage of painting: the far view of the dilapidated arch and buildings, beside which a small sailing boat is moored, illuminated by gentle - perhaps early morning - sunlight. Such a detail is prescient of the small capricci that Francesco Guardi - one of the last great masters of 18th-century Venetian vedute painting - would come to paint.

The work is characterized by an elegant restraint of tone and palette. The red ground on which it is executed lends a warmth to the the limited number of pigments used to create a nonetheless variegated composition that is immediately evocative of Venetian light and atmosphere. And these qualities have also led to a dating of the picture to circa 1742, a few years before Canaletto moved to London in 1746.

It is not clear how this painting reached its first recorded owner Mary, Lady Carbery, of Castle Freke, County Cork, Ireland, whence it was sold with an attribution to Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto’s talented nephew. Afterwards recognized indisputably as a work by Canaletto himself, in the 1960s the painting came to be owned by Henry Fonda, whose wife Baroness Afdera Franchetti was the niece of the creator of the Ca’ d’Oro Museum in Venice. Having passed through the hands of some of London’s most reputable dealers, Arthur Tooth and Thomas Agnew, the canvas came into the possession of the family of the present owner around half a century ago, where it has remained since.

1. Venice, Galleria dell’Academia, inv. no. 472; see Constable 1976, cat. no. 509; possibly executed with studio assistance.
2. The painting at Worcester, which depicts a round church directly inspired by the Pantheon; and one of the views supplied for Norfolk House, for example; see Constable 1976, cat. no. 507.

Sotheby's. Master Paintings Evening Sale, 29 Jan 2020 

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