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The Molo, Venice, from the Bacino di San Marco
By Giovanni Antonio Canal, (called Canaletto)
Oil on canvas
Size: 68.8 x 112.7 centimetres (27.12 x 44.37 inches)
Estimated price: $6.1-9 million

Our exhibition space in London is currently filled with the season’s masterpieces and as I walked around the other day I spent a while staring at a view of the city of Venice by Canaletto (1699-1768).

The Molo, Venice, from the Bacino di San Marco is a beautifully preserved oil painting from the artist’s famous sequence of views, showing the greatest religious and secular monuments in the heart of Venice. Bathed in a clear, luminous light, the celebrated buildings are meticulously described and are skilfully enlivened by the hustle and bustle of the boats and figures in the foreground. The observation of the figures is, as always with Canaletto, acute: the standing boatman in the large vessel on the far left is shown pulling back, straining his oar in an effort to avoid colliding with the smaller sandolo passing in front.

This exceptional canvas – one of the largest of this type of composition – was supplied to Edward Howard, ninth Duke of Norfolk (1686-1777), who was a major British artistic patron of the day; it passed by descent in the family until the 1970s.

Looking at this 18th century view of this great city I was able to compare it with this same view today as I have just returned from Venice myself. I was there with a group of collectors who had travelled there for the 56th Venice Biennale, in which leading artists from around the world showcase their talents in national pavilions. For me and for the rest of my party, it was the perfect opportunity to see the best contemporary art in one space over a few days.

As I stood before the Canaletto I was reminded of some of the things we saw during the trip, particularly the Doge’s Palace, shown in the Canaletto, where we were treated to a private tour of the Manet exhibition one evening. It was a sublime experience – to be there in the evening, away from the bustling crowds that normally fill those fabled rooms. Venice then and now remains a place of magic and charm, suspended in time!

Christie’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale will take place in London on
July 2, 2013.
For more information please visit www.christies.com

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of the DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 23, 2013.