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Gallery Text

By the mid-eighteenth century, Venice was renowned as the center of vedute, or paintings of views. These pictures were popular with travelers on the Grand Tour. Like postcards or posters, they reminded their owners of their travels; but they also confirmed the worldly status of people whose rooms they adorned. Guardi, one of the greatest painters of this genre, chose the minor island of the Madonnetta to create a poetic — almost melancholy — picture of the lagoon. Although the painting shows the architectural complex on the island in fairly accurate detail as well as the topography of the lagoon with the island of Murano in the distance, Guardi’s treatment of them looks back to the painterly effects of great Venetian masters, such as Titian and Giorgione. Thus the captivating picture is a nuanced amalgamation of things Venetian and not a simple snapshot of the city.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Francesco Guardi, Italian (Venice, Italy 1712 - 1793 Venice, Italy)
The Isola della Madonnetta on the Lagoon of Venice
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Island on the Lagoon, The Isola della Madonetta on the Venetian Lagoon
Work Type
c. 1785-1790
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
sight: 35.6 x 55.2 cm (14 x 21 3/4 in.)
frame: 55.5 x 75.5 x 6.3 cm (21 7/8 x 29 3/4 x 2 1/2 in.)
Richard Wallace, Paris (? - 1938), sold; [through unidentified intermediary]; to [Wildenstein, Paris, (1938 - 1945)] sold; to Charles E. Dunlap, New York, gift; to Fogg Art Museum 1959.

Dates of acquisition from R. Wallace and sale to Dunlap provided by Wildenstein, per correspondence in the spring of 2010.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Charles E. Dunlap
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Hermann W. Williams, "Drawings and Related Paintings By Francesco Guardi", The Art Quarterly, Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, 1939), II, no. 3, p. 272, note 14

H. Travers Newton, "A Technical Comparison of Three Paintings by Francesco Guardi: Isola de Madonnetta, Canale della Giudecca con le Zattere, and Capricio: Landscape in Ruins" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1979), Unpublished, pp. 1-22 passim

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990)

Jane Martineau and Andrew Robison, The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, 1994), pp. 318-319, repr. in color fig. 215

Charles Beddington and Amanda Bradley, Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals, exh. cat., National Gallery (London, 2010), cat. no. 64, repr. color p. 147

Exhibition History

Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009

Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals, National Gallery, London, 10/13/2010 - 01/16/2011; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 02/20/2011 - 05/30/2011

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

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