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A large open plaza, in front of a cathedral, and flanked by colonnaded three storey buildings on either side

In the foreground, a wide piazza opens, filled with small groups of people coming and going. Directly across it is a large cathedral with a row of tall arches on the front facade, a roof with multiple domes topped with crosses, and at right, a spire that rises several times taller than all buildings around it. The spire rises to a platform surrounded by columns which are topped with a tall, sharply angled roof on which a winged statue stands. Under a fair, blue sky, the scene is lit by bright sunshine, the building at right casting a short shadow onto the piazza.

Gallery Text

Canaletto, celebrated for his views of Venice (vedute), depicts the city’s principal square of San Marco, which was described by Napoleon as “the finest drawing room in Europe.” The Basilica of Saint Mark, with its Byzantine architecture, and the imposing bell tower dominate the scene as symbols of the rich history of the Venetian Republic. Canaletto adjusts for the trapezoidal shape of the piazza by reinforcing the perspective created by the ornamental marble pattern of stone pavement that had recently been laid. This painting represents a timeless view of Venice while also capturing a slice of eighteenth-century daily life.

Among Canaletto’s most important patrons were English aristocrats who visited the city on the Grand Tour, often bringing home as souvenirs contemporary depictions of the cities they visited. This painting was bought by the fourth Duke of Leeds after he visited Venice in 1734. When the duke returned to England, he had the painting placed within this type of Scotch pine frame that he favored for works in his collection.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, Italian (Venice, Italy 1697 - 1768 Venice, Italy)
Piazza San Marco, Venice
Work Type
c. 1730-1734
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Veneto, Venice
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
76.2 x 118.8 cm (30 x 46 3/4 in.)
framed: 109.6 x 148.5 cm (43 1/8 x 58 7/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: back of frame, paper and ink, handwritten: No. 10
  • inscription: back of frame, white chalk, handwritten: N


Recorded Ownership History
Thomas, 4th Duke of Leeds Osborne, Yorkshire, England, 1735, by descent; to George Godolphin, 10th Duke of Leeds Osborne, sold [Christies's, London, 1920, no. 3 (sold as a pair with another view of the Piazza)]; to Arthur J. Sulley, London, 1920, sold; to Daniel H. Farr, 1921 (with its pendant); to [Scott & Fowles, New York, NY, 1922], sold; to Thomas B. Cochran, New York, NY, sold; to [Schneider-Gabriel Galleries, 1942], sold; to [Julius H. Weitzner, New York , NY], sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, 1942, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art


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Publication History

  • Historical and descriptive catalogue of pictures belonging to his grace the Duke of Leeds (England: Darling, 1902), no. 240, p. 77
  • Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit, brochure, Detroit Institute of Arts (November 1943), p. 16
  • Chinese Sculpture, Bronzes, Jades, Paintings and Drawings, Egyptian and Persian sculpture, Pre-Columbian art; selected from the collection of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1943), p. 9
  • Venice in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1948), no. 3
  • Lionello Puppi, The Complete Paintings of Canaletto, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, 1968), cat. 165, p. 105
  • Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 102-103, no. 78, repr. p. 103
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 41
  • William G. Constable, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canaletto 1697-1768, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1976), pp. 191-192, no. 14
  • William G. Constable and J. G. Links, Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1989), pp. 191-192, no. 14
  • 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), p. 56, color plate; pp. 101, 357, repr. b/w cat. no. 772
  • Filippo Pedrocco, Canaletto e i Vedutisti Veneziani, Scala (Florence, Italy, 1995), pp. 26-31; repr. in color fig. 31, p. 26
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Dorothea Terpitz, Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697-1768), Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft (Köln, Germany, 1998), pp. 22-23, repr. in color as fig. 14; detail repr. as fig. 15
  • Dario Succi and Annalia Delneri, Canaletto Una Venècia Imaginària, exh. cat., Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain, 2001), p. 114, related to cat. # 38
  • Filippo Pedrocco, Il Settecento a Venezia: i Vedutisti, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy, 2001), pp. 92-93, repr. in color
  • Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), p. 30, repr. as fig. 21
  • Roberto Contini, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Italian Painting: the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Philip Wilson (London, England, 2002), p. 258; repr. as fig. 1, p. 259
  • Graziano Alfredo Veragni, "Splendori in laguna: Canaletto e i vedutisti del Settecento a Venezia", La rappresentazione della città nella pittura italiana, Silvana Editoriale (Milan, Italy, 2003), pp. 237-267, repr. pp. 248-249
  • Rinio Bruttomesso, "Venedig, oder: Das schwere Schicksal einer 'Serenissima'", Der Traum von der Stadt am Meer: Hafenstädte aus aller Welt, Hamburg Museum (Hamburg, Germany, 2003), pp. 112-125, details repr. 112, 114, inside back cover
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), repr. in color p. 34 as fig. 35
  • Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), repr. in color p. 42, as fig. 34
  • R. Ward Bissell and Andrea Derstine, Masters of Italian Baroque Painting, Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI, 2005), pp. 335-36, under no. 11, repr. as fig. 1
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 115, repr.
  • Satoshi Hagishima, Canaletto Paintings from the Viewpoint of Urban Landscape Design Theory (Japan, 2010), repr. p. 38 as fig. 2.2.12
  • Sotheby's: Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale, London 4 December 2013, auct. cat., Sotheby's, London (London, 4 December 2013), Lot 39; p. 150
  • Sotheby’s: Old Master Paintings Evening Sale, London 3 December 2014, auct. cat. (London, 2014), p.50
  • Lucio Fontana: Concetto spaziale, In piazza San Marco di notte con Teresita, 1961, auct. cat., Christie's, London (London, 2017), pp. 48-49, repr.
  • Renata Fox and John Fox, A Journey into the Levant as It Once Was, Rowanvale Books Ltd (Cardiff, 2019), p. 35, repr. as fig. 9
  • Sandra Pisot, Goya, Fragonard, Tiepolo: Die Freiheit der Malerei, exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle and Hirmer (Hamburg, 2019), pp. 117, 119, 121, repr. p. 119 as Abb. 5
  • Casper J. Erkelens, "Perspective on Canaletto's Paintings of Piazza San Marco in Venice", Art & Perception, Brill Academic Publishers (Boston) (2020), vol. 8, pp. 49-67, pp. 54-56, 60-61, 63, repr. pp. 54 and 55 as figs 3 and 4.
  • "La Serenissima": Who were the greatest painters of Venice?, website, Simon C. Dickinson Ltd., 2023, discussed and repr. [electronic newsletter]

Exhibition History

  • Chinese sculpture, bronzes, jades, paintings and drawings, Egyptian and Persian sculpture, Pre-Columbian art : selected from the collection of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/01/1943 - 02/28/1944
  • Venice in the Eighteenth Century, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 05/05/1948 - 06/10/1948
  • Masterpieces of European Art, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 06/22/1985 - 09/15/1985
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project
  • Collection Highlights

Verification Level

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