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Western art

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The Piazza San Marco, Venice





17 Oct 1697 - 10 Apr 1768


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.




Media category


Materials used

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


Artist information


Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

The provenance of this work is under review and records will be updated as new details become available. The Gallery welcomes any information. Contact


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.

Referenced in 14 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1996, Sydney, 1996, pp 8, 21, 52, col illus p 9.

Art Gallery of New South Wales, The James Fairfax collection of old masters, Sydney, 1992, np.

Richard Beresford, Look, 'Not only great art: fascinating stories discovered behind the works on show', Sydney, Apr 2003, pp 18–21: p 19, col illus (detail) p 19.

Richard Beresford and Peter Raissis, The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Sydney, 2003, pp 48–53, no 10, col illus pp 46–47 (detail), 49. 10, illustration on pages 46-47 are a detail

Edmund Capon, Great philanthropists on trial : the art of the bequest, 'The James Fairfax collection', Melbourne, 2006, pp 126–35: p 130.

W G Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, 2nd edition, Oxford, 1976, vol 2, p 207, no 49(c). 2nd edition revised by J.G. Links.

W G Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, 2nd edition, reissued, Oxford, 1989, ol 2, p 207, no 49(c), p 727. Reprint of the 2nd revised edition published in 1976, now reissued with supplement and additional plates.

W G Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, Oxford, 1962, vol 2, p 202, no 49(c).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', Sydney, 1999, pp 17–70: p 30, col illus p 30.

Bozena Anna Kowalczyk, Canaletto: il trionfo della veduta, Rome, 2005, pp 158, 166.

G.J. Links, A supplement to W.G. Constable's Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, London, 1998, p 7, no 49(c).

Palazzo della ragione, Padua, Luca Carlevarijs: e la veduta veneziana del Settecento, Milan, 1994, p 29, illus p 28, fig 7.

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Dec 2002-Jan 2003, col illus p 11.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Apollo, vol 107, no 193, London, Mar 1978, col illus adv p 23.