The Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio
(Bernardo Bellotto)


The problem of Bellotto’s production while he worked in his uncle’s studio has exercised scholars for some time. It was until recently believed that Bellotto produced no Venetian views of his own during this period but there is now a greater consensus among scholars that he indeed repeated or adopted some of his uncle’s compositions. Exactly how often they may have collaborated on the same work it is still uncertain although no. 000 exhibited here would appear to be a case in point and The Grand Canal, the Salute and the Dogana from the Campo Sta. Maria Zobenigo (J. Paul Getty Museum; Links 1998, op. cit., no. 180; see below) may be another. Bellotto’s paintings tend to be marked particularly by a colder, grayer tone in the palette that becomes more pronounced in later years, stronger shadows and a distinct treatment of the figures, which are handled quite differently to those painted by the older artist. Such elements are clearly present in three nearly identical views, datable to 1740-43, of the Grand Canal looking toward the Bacino, one in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,[1] another formerly in the Otto Hirsch Collection, Frankfurt,[2] while a third unpublished version was sold at auction in Christie’s, New York, in January 1995.[3] The near replication of these views, themselves similar to a composition until recently given to Canaletto but probably largely by Bellotto as latterly accepted by Links [4] (now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California) provides ample evidence of Bellotto’s practice of producing several versions with minor differences of compositions originally conceived by his uncle. Nonetheless, in each of them, as in the painting reproduced here, the works of the nephew are distinguished by more subtle differences, particularly in the arrangement of the figures and boats, the placement of shadows and the cast of light.

Our painting, whose attribution to Bellotto has been confirmed by Professor Dario Succi [5] is similar to two views given to Canaletto, nos. l88 [6] and 190 in the Constable/Links Catalogue Raisonée. Both these latter works show the whole quayside in the right foreground, but without the shadow, while the balcony is similar to that portrayed in no. 188 but absent in no. 190. The view (no. 188) was engraved by Antonio Visentini as no IV in the Prospettive di Venezia produced for and dedicated to Consul Smith in 1742.[7] It is important to note that, while all the other known versions of this view follow the viewpoint and design of the 1742 Visentini engraving, the exhibited picture alone introduces a number of changes to the viewpoint, the figures and above all to the positioning of the boats, so that it may well pre-date the engraving. Professor Succi,[8] in describing this panorama of the Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio, identifies the Palazzo Corner, the Basilica of the Salute and the point of the Customs in the distance, identifies it as ‘a most beautiful and important work, securely and totally autograph by Bernardo Bellotto’. He notes its particular significance in documenting the style and technique of the youthful Bellotto, dating the work to 1738/9 when he was seventeen years old and demonstrating the precocious abilities, which earned him election to the Venetian Fraglia. Professor Succi remarks on the characteristic cold gray palette, strong shadows and the elongated figures as well as the unique distribution of the various vessels which differentiate the painting from other similar views by Canaletto. This view of the Grand Canal may be regarded as a notable addition to the known oeuvre of the young Bellotto.

The painting has been included in the Supplement by J. G. Links as being executed in Canaletto’s workshop at a time when Bellotto was active there.


[1] Kozakiewicz, Op.cit., Vol. II, pp. 11 and 13, no. 7.

[2] Kozakiewicz, Op.cit., Vol. II, pp. 11 and 13, no. 8.

[3] Christie’s, New York, January 11, 1995, lot 25, oil on canvas: 24 ½ x 38 inches ($1,325,000).

[4] J. G. Links, 1988, Op. cit., no. 180.

[5] Letter of December 16, 1995.

[6] One of a group of 21 paintings of the same size (18 ¾ x 30 ½ inches) painted between 1730 and 1735 and said to have been bought in Venice by the last Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. The painting subsequently became the property of the latter’s nephew-in-law, Sir Robert Grenville Harvey of Langley Park, but were dispersed from the latter collection in the 1950’s. See W. G. Constable, revised by J. G. Links, Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, Second Edition, Oxford, 1986, 2 Vols, Vol I, plate 41, Vol II, pp. 277-8, nos. 188 and 190. Amended Version 1998.

[7] Canaletto & Visentini, Exhibition Catalogue, Cà Pesaro, Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, 1986-87, by Prof Dario Succi, p. 225.

[8] Letter cited above, note 7.

25 ¾ x 33 5/8 in. 76.7 x 85.5 cm
Oil on canvas

PROVENANCE: Leggat Brothers, London, circa 1960 (as follower of Canaletto); Private Collection, England.


LITERATURE: W. G. Constable, revised by J. G. Links, Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, Second Edition, Oxford, 1986, 2 Vols, Vol I, Plate 41, Vol II, pp. 277-8, nos. 188 and 190; J. G. Links, A Supplement to W. G. Constable’s Canaletto, Giovanni Antonio Canal 1697-1768, London, 1998, p. 20, no. 188a.

Where is It?
Acquired from Matthiesen Gallery by a New York Collector
Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Italian - Venetian
1996-Paintings 1600 - 1912.
26 colour plates, 144 pp. £12 or $20 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
Sold or not available