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Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793), The Entrance to the Grand Canal, oil on panel, 9½ x 14 in. (24.1 x 35.6 cm.). Estimate $150,000 – $250,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Acquired by Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley, during his tenure as British Ambassador to Madrid (1811-1822), and by descent to his son
Henry Richard Wellesley, 1st Early Cowley (1804-1884), British Ambassador in Paris (1852-1867); Christie’s, London, 18 July 1885, lot 46 (with a pendant to Colnaghi), returned to the family and by descent to his daughter
Feodorowna Cecilia (d. 1920), wife of Francis, 1st Viscount Bertie of Thame (d. 1919), and by descent to their son
Vere, 2nd and last Viscount Bertie of Thame (d. 1954), Shirburn Lodge, near Watlington, Oxfordshire, and by inheritance to his widow
Nora, Viscountess Bertie of Thame; Christie’s, London, 10 December 1954, lot 58, where acquired by the following.
with Hallsborough Gallery, London.
with Agnew’s, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, 25 March 1977, lot 66.
Private collection, Europe; Christie’s, London, 5 July 1996, lot 57 (£117,000).
with Richard Green, London, 1996.
Private collection, UK, 1996.

Literature: B. Nicolson in Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions, The Burlington Magazine, XCVII, no. 625, April 1955, p. 124 « a splendid Guardi panel of the Dogana and S.M. della Salute from the collections of Lord Cowley and Viscountess Bertie of Thame ».
A. Morassi, Guardi. I dipinti, Venice, 1973, I, p. 400, underno. 479.
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures, London, 1985, I, p. 296, under no. P518.

Notes: This sparking veduta is a fine example of Francesco Guardi’s fully mature work. Throughout the 1770s and 1780s, Guardi’s palette lightened and brightened. He rearranged topography and employed entirely whimsical lighting, exaggerated the effects of perspective, and increasingly emphasized the surface of his painting with ever more frenetic and irregular brushwork, all of which become the marks of his distinctive, mature style. His images softened into a suffused pale glow which bathes his whole composition. He set the city floating, as Michael Levey observed: « frail yet with bubble-like buoyancy, between great expanses of water and watery sky … Nothing is quite still. Boats dart, flags flap, and the buildings themselves seem to unwind like so much ribbon along the Grand Canal. » From the first, Levey concludes, Guardi: « intended to interpret Venice rather than reproduce it, and his best views of it capture a sparkle of light and a sense of eternal movement which Canaletto never quite caught, and which is certainly part of the city. » (M. Levey, Painting in eighteenth-century Venice, Oxford, 1980, pp. 127-130).

The present work was accompanied until 1954 by a pendant showing the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Punta della Giudecca, which was sold separately as lot 57 (2,600gns. to N. Bellesi) and subsequently listed by Morassi as in a private collection in Bergamo (Morassi, op. cit., I, p. 396, no. 455). Morassi’s disparate comments about the two pictures, which he does not relate to each other although he describes both as late works, are contradicted by the high quality of the present painting (which he presumably never saw) and by the significantly higher price paid for it at the 1954 sale. Smaller variants also on panel are in the Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Bissey Collection, Paris (ibid., I, pp. 401-2, nos. 485-6; II, figs. 489-490). A view of theEntrance to the Grand Canal and the Salute from the West on a panel of identical size to the present picture and of similar date was sold at Christie’s, London, 10 December 1993, lot 66 (£160,000).

he attribution of the present work has been confirmed by Dario Succi (written communication, 30 July 1996), who will include it in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of paintings by Francesco Guardi. Succi dates the present work to c. 1785, comparing it to the version of the composition now in the Wallace Collection, London, also fully autograph and datable to c. 1780-1782 (see D. Succi, Francesco Guardi: itinerario dell’avventura artistica, Milan, 1993, fig. 103).

Christie’s. OLD MASTER PAINTINGS PART I, 28 January 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

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