fig 1.
Louis Tocqué

The National Gallery of Victoria’s impressive collection of eighteenth-century paintings has recently received the bonus of two important attributions of works that had been sitting inconspicuously in the gallery’s holdings for almost all of the last century. Both paintings, a portrait by Louis Tocqué and an early Venetian view by Bernardo Bellotto, are important discoveries because both have hitherto escaped critical notice and, for many years, public display.

Louis Tocqué

Tocqué’s Portrait of a gentleman (fig. 1) has perhaps enjoyed a more notable re-emergence from obscurity. It was already in Melbourne over one hundred and forty years ago, when it appeared in the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australia in 1866 (fig. 2). This event, which was modelled on London’s Great Exhibition in 1851 and the International Exhibition of 1862, was a fair celebrating ‘the arts, manufactures and commerce’ of the colonies in Australia.1 See Robert Wilson, Great Exhibitions: The World Fairs 1851–1937, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2007, p. 10. Thousands of exhibits including industrial machinery and implements, mineral samples, woods, furniture and attire were on display. It also featured, in a building called the ‘iron annexe’ near the present State Library, a fine arts gallery with paintings and photographs drawn from local collections, including the National Gallery of Victoria. Tocqué’s portrait, which was photographed while hanging in the exhibition, must have belonged to a local collector or dealer. It may well have been the Tocqué that was referred to in the review of the exhibition in the Melbourne Argus which noted that a ‘Mr. McDonald has a striking portrait … of the Duc de Penthièvre’.2 The Argus, 25 Oct. 1866, p. 7. If the NGV Tocqué is the portrait referred to in 1866 as the ‘Duc de Penthièvre’, this identification cannot stand, as the French duke, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duc de Penthièvre, was born in 1725, making him too young for the sitter in the NGV portrait, which can be reliably dated to the late 1740s. Moreover, other portraits of the duke do not share the same physical features as the sitter in the Melbourne portrait.

Ten years later, in 1876, the Gallery ended up buying the work for £1 15s. This purchase was made on the advice of Eugène von Guérard, the Austrian émigré landscape painter who was the Gallery’s first curator of pictures. Von Guérard, who must have remembered the painting from the Intercolonial Exhibition, spotted it ‘in a little second-hand furniture shop’. He restored the portrait and in his report offered the following opinion, ‘Considering the excellent style of the painting it may possibly be a work of Gainsborough’.3 Correspondence from Von Guérard, 30 June 1876: Von Guérard Report 6 (VPRS 1074/P0000/5 – National Gallery: Miscellaneous records. Reports for School of Painting). The author is most grateful to Michael Varcoe-Cocks for alerting him to this reference. This theory was never pursued and, from its first appearance at the Gallery, the identity of both the artist and sitter were unknown. The portrait was given the modest description of ‘Portrait of a gentleman. Painter unknown’, and was hung with a group of other anonymous portraits in the Gallery’s then-sparse collection of paintings.4 Catalogue of Oil Paintings, Water-colour Drawings, Engravings, Lithographs Photographs & c in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1879, p. 17.

The fortunes of the Gallery were transformed after 1905 by the establishment of the Felton Bequest, which saw the collections rapidly grow in both quality and quantity. This seems to have had the opposite effect on the fortunes of the portrait, because it began to disappear from display. The neglect shown to the painting over the entire twentieth century can be measured by its poor state of preservation by 1974; by then it had been given a new title, Portrait of a gentleman in a green coat. Unknown to the cataloguers, the varnish had become so discoloured that the sitter’s grey coat appeared green. For many years prior to its restoration in 2003, the painting was not in a displayable condition and it was permanently housed in the Gallery’s storage areas.

Once the painting was in the conservation studio, preliminary cleaning tests revealed that it had suffered some damage in the past. There was considerable wear in the background of the painting, though the face and figure of the sitter remained well preserved. Additionally, X-radiographs suggested that the painting had been cropped: mild cusping marks of the canvas – which often indicate the vicinity of the original edges – were evident only along the right edge, suggesting that the dimensions had been shortened on the left and bottom edges and perhaps marginally at the top. This theory is supported by the painting’s unusual dimensions (60.0 x 45.0 cm); Tocqué portraits of this type are very often of a standard size of around 80.0 x 60.0 cm. Such a reduction at the left and bottom would explain the unusual cropping of what appears to be a tricorne hat at the lower left edge of the painting. This type of partial exclusion of an important accessory is most uncommon in Tocqué’s work.5 The only artist monograph written on Louis Tocqué was published nearly eighty years ago (Arnauld Doria, Louis Tocqué, L’Art français, Paris, 1929).

After cleaning, the artist’s rendering of this handsome and self-assured sitter became evident, revealing a refined and distinctive painting manner, contrasting a pastel-like tonality and softness with a crispness of highlights in the reflections of the eyes and the edges of the clothing. Such qualities are readily identifiable with Tocqué’s style.6 Xavier Salmon, curator, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, has commented on the painting: ‘The work effectively presents all the stylistic characteristics of Louis Tocqué. You can legitimately propose this acquisition’ (trans.). Email message to the author, 21 July 2004. Considered the most highly respected portrait painter in France in the middle years of the eighteenth century, Tocqué’s work favoured the relaxed representation of the sitter over the formal, departing in this respect from his immediate predecessors Nicolas Largillierre and Jean-Marc Nattier, the latter being his teacher and father-in-law.7 See Inna S. Nemilova, ‘Largillierre and his followers’, in Myra Nan Rosenfeld (ed.), Largillierre and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 1981, p. 346. The face in the Melbourne portrait shares the same serene glow of his Madame Dangé tying knots in the Louvre, with delicate and almost imperceptible highlights along the edge of the bottom lip and eyelids.

Similarly, the crisp articulation of the lace jabot is a feature of many of Tocqué’s male portraits, along with his treatment of the grey velour coat and the waistcoat embroidered with metallic braid. At least a dozen Tocqué male portraits from the mid 1740s onwards show the same half-length format with each sitter wearing exactly the same garments and powdered wig, so it seems appropriate to date the painting to around 1747–50, when the closest examples appear to have been painted. Certainly this portrait must pre-date 1756, the time of Tocqué’s departure for St Petersburg, where he was to spend two years at the Russian Imperial Court. The portrait, which was previously housed in a nineteenth-century composition-moulding frame, has recently been reframed with an antique French Louis XV frame.8 The Louis XV straight-sided carved oak frame is dated ‘second and third quarter of the eighteenth century’. Its water-gilded surface is in ‘excellent original condition’ (Examination report, Holly MacGowan-Jackson, NGV, 2007). It was purchased in 2007 from Paul Mitchell Ltd, London.

Bernardo Bellotto

In July 1918 the Gallery’s London-based Felton Bequest adviser, Robert Ross, wrote to the secretary of trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria with a list of works recommended for purchase.9 R. Ross, letter to the secretary to the trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 2 July 1918, Felton Bequest Files 2/2, 1918. He commented on the difficulties of finding works of art of the highest quality because of the depressed art market during the First World War. Nevertheless, he enthusiastically put forward two Canaletto paintings that were on offer from the London art dealer and restorer Horace Buttery. Canaletto appears to have been a priority for the Gallery during the early years of the bequest, because both were purchased at the same time. The first, described by Ross as a ‘brilliant’ view of the Forum in Rome, is now unanimously accepted as a key early work by Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto’s nephew and precocious pupil.10 See Carl Villis, ‘Bernardo Bellotto’s seven large views of Rome, c.1743’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLII, no. 1163, Feb. 2000, pp. 76–8; see also Bozena Anna Kowalczyk (ed.), Canaletto Il trionfo della veduta, Palazzo Giustiniani, Rome, 2005, pp. 182, 188. Ironically, the second painting, a view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, considered by Ross a ‘very pretty’ Canaletto-studio piece, is now also accepted as a significant early work by Bellotto (fig. 3).

Despite Ross’s opinion that the Grand Canal view was a workshop replica, the NGV at first gave the work to Canaletto himself, but by 1948 it was changed to ‘School of Canaletto’. Like the Tocqué portrait, this painting was thereafter often relegated to the Gallery’s storage areas or decorative arts rooms, and became difficult to assess because of a heavily discoloured varnish. When it was cleaned in 1996, the painting’s qualities immediately became evident, from the highly accomplished rendering of the facade of Jacopo Sansovino’s Palazzo Dolfin-Manin on the far right to the gentle reflected light on the surfaces of the buildings along the Fondamenta del Vin on the left. Broadly speaking, Canaletto’s meticulous technique was recognisable throughout, though it was equally evident that the painting was not by the hand of the artist: the modelling of the paint in the clouds was very different from Canaletto, whose clouds tend to be more airy and more smoothly blended into the blue of the sky. The clouds in this work are distinctly different in execution; the artist of the Melbourne view applied fluid, almost dripping, lead white highlights with an erratic movement of the brush to define the form (fig. 4). In the middle tones of the clouds, passages of restless zigzag strokes are also evident, suggesting a sense of wind and motion. These clouds would be the first feature of the work to suggest Bellotto’s hand.

Bernardo Bellotto received the perfect artistic training for an eighteenth-century view (veduta) painter. He literally grew up in the studio of his famous uncle, observing first-hand how Canaletto made drawings, prepared canvases and composed his vedute of Venice. From Canaletto Bellotto would learn how to combine creativity and inventiveness with a rigorously methodical technique. By the time he was sixteen, Bellotto had already been inducted into the Venetian painters guild, the Fraglia dei pittori, and had begun to sell works under his own name, though he appears to have retained his place in Canaletto’s studio.11 See Kowalczyk, ‘Il Bellotto veneziani nei documenti’, Arte Veneta, 47, 1995, p. 75, n. 32. He is known to have benefited from Canaletto’s clientele in these early years, but it was not long before he left Venice to establish his own career, first across Italy and later throughout Europe. He would eventually attain a status to rival and, in some ways, surpass his illustrious uncle and mentor.

In recent years there has been a great deal of research into Bellotto’s early Venetian output, particularly by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk and Charles Beddington who, in separate studies, have identified a substantial number of pictures painted by Bellotto during these years spent in or around Canaletto’s studio. Charles Beddington has described in clear detail the many painterly characteristics that define Bellotto’s manner in this period – including the clouds, the ‘w’-shaped ripples on the surface of the water, Bellotto’s preference for black in the shaded tones, and the somewhat superimposed appearance of boats moving across the water. Each of these characteristics is present in the Melbourne Grand Canal view.12 See Charles Beddington, ‘Bernardo Bellotto and his circle in Italy. Part I: Not Canaletto but Bellotto’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLVI, no. 1219, Oct. 2004, pp. 665–4; Charles Beddington, who viewed a high-resolution image of the painting with the author in late Jan. 2007, confirmed that the Melbourne painting displays Bellotto’s painterly characteristics. Likewise, the Grand Canal view shares several similarities in materials, technique and manner with Bellotto’s later, c.1743, Roman Forum view in the NGV collection: a comparison of the details such as the rooftops, chimneys, windows and building surfaces found these aspects of the two works almost indistinguishable from each other.13 See Villis, ‘Materiali, tecnica e procedimento esecutivo nell’opera del giovane Bernardo Bellotto’, in Kowalczyk (ed.), Canaletto e Bellotto: L’arte della veduta, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, 2008, pp. 23–35. Quite different, however, is the treatment of the sky. The two paintings demonstrate how, within the space of five years, Bellotto’s skills in the rendering of skies underwent a rapid development, leading to a richness and refinement to match Canaletto’s.

Like many of Bellotto’s earliest paintings, Grand Canal derives from a Canaletto prototype that would later be reproduced in a famous volume of engravings of Canaletto’s views of Venice by Antonio Visentini, commissioned by Joseph Smith in 1742. Several Canaletto or Canaletto-studio versions of this archetypal view are known: assessing all of these within the Canaletto/Bellotto/Canaletto-workshop oeuvre is a highly complex exercise that merits a study of its own in terms of resolving their chronological order and the attribution of particular works.14 Around a dozen versions of this view are known, though W. G. Constable considered only five of these to be by Canaletto himself: the Trotti, Musée Jacquemart-André, the Wallace Collection, Galleria nazionale in Rome and the Bisgood version (see n. 22 below). The original version that inspired Visentini’s engraving (fig. 5) would appear to be either one last held by Galerie Trotti, Paris, in 1930, or another currently in the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris.15 See Kowalczyk, ‘Il Bellotto veneziano: “Grande intendimento ricercasi”’, Arte Veneta, 48, 1996, pp. 87–8. Both of these paintings are problematic as prototypes for this view: the Trotti version is said to be signed and dated 1744, later than the NGV’s Bellotto view and the Visentini drawings and engravings. The Musée Jacquemart-André version has been described by both Links and Kowalczyk as ‘mechanical’ in execution. Several of the other views have minor variations in the placement of some of the staffage (incidental figures) and boats but remain faithful to the original composition.

Bellotto’s connection with Canaletto’s original has been established by two preparatory drawings that closely replicate the Trotti and Jacquemart-André versions of this view, right down to the positioning of the boats on the Grand Canal (fig. 6).16 One of these preparatory drawings, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, was identified by Stefan Kozakiewicz in 1972, and a nearly identical drawing, thought to be slightly earlier, was identified by Kowalczyk and auctioned at Christie’s in London on 4 July 1995. It is now in a private collection. Kowalczyk has dated both drawings to 1740. Bozena Anna Kowalczyk, in an article written in 1996, anticipated the existence of a version painted by Bellotto of this view based on these two preparatory drawings.17 See Kowalczyk, Arte Veneta, 48, 1996, pp. 87–9. Curious about the closeness of Bellotto’s drawings to the Jacquemart-André version, she examined the Paris painting, datable to around 1740, and found it was attributable not to Bellotto but to Canaletto, leaving open the idea that there must yet be a Bellotto version in existence.18 The present author first discussed the NGV painting with Bozena Anna Kowalczyk in March 2005. She has since confirmed the attribution of the view to Bellotto: ‘I am completely happy to confirm the notion of Bellotto’s authorship also of the view of the Grand Canal with the Palazzo Dolfin-Manin’ (trans.). Email message to the author, Apr. 2006. NGV curatorial files. See also Kowalczyk (ed.), Turin, 2008, p. 68.

Given the utter fidelity of Bellotto’s two preparatory drawings to the Canaletto prototype, one would expect Bellotto’s painted version – the newly attributed Melbourne view – to be a faithful transcription of the original; but instead, a surprising number of adjustments are apparent. So much so that one must question whether the drawings played any part in the creation of the Melbourne view and were they perhaps used for another, more faithful rendering of Canaletto’s original painting?

Changes in composition, proportion and detail are all to be found in the Melbourne Grand Canal painting. Compositionally, Bellotto shifted the buildings and water downwards so that the sky takes a greater proportion of the painted surface: of the several versions of this view, this one has the largest proportion of sky.19 The sky proportions were determined by taking a measurement from the nearer flagpole at the top of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to the top of the canvas and measuring it against the height of the painting. The other paintings measured this way were the versions in the Wallace Collection, the ex-Trotti Collection, the Visentini drawing and the Musée Jacquemart-André. The version sold at Sotheby’s, London, in 1997 (formerly in the Bisgood Collection) has a similar proportion of sky to the Melbourne Grand Canal view (see n. 22 below) Several later paintings by Bellotto demonstrate his awareness of how to enhance the dramatic impact of a sky on a scene by making it take up a greater proportion of the painted surface.20 Bellotto’s versions of the view of Campo Santo Stefano (c.1740, Castle Howard Collection, York) and the Capitol with Santa Maria in Aracœli (c.1742–44, Petworth House, Sussex) – both deriving from Canaletto prototypes – are just two of numerous instances of Bellotto diminishing the proportions of the architecture in relation to the sky.

Some unusual changes in shape and proportions of the architecture are also evident. The shape of the Rialto Bridge has been compressed, with the rise of the span steeper and the arc of the underside more circular (figs 7 & 8). It is not clear why Bellotto made this alteration, which does not accurately reflect the true shape of the bridge. This, and the disproportionately oversized figures and boats on the canal, may signal some difficulty on Bellotto’s part in adapting Canaletto’s original idea to a slightly squarer format.21 Charles Beddington commented on similar infelicities in another painting by Bellotto datable to around 1738 (see Beddington, p. 667).

Two further details of the Rialto Bridge stand out as deliberate departures from Canaletto’s versions: Bellotto painted in a slash of sunlight clipping the underside of the bridge (fig 3); Canaletto’s versions have the same detail in complete shadow (fig. 8). Additionally, Bellotto redesigned the steps that spill out from the bridge onto the right embankment towards the Fondamenta del Ferro. In the Canaletto versions the steps are foreshortened more steeply, while Bellotto painted the balustrade of steps flowing downwards to the embankment at a gentler angle and in a slightly different direction. These changes, while small, nevertheless signal Bellotto’s determination to enrich Canaletto’s original image with his own observations.22 Of the group of paintings relating to this view, the Melbourne version stands apart from the other Canaletto and workshop versions on account of its compositional adjustments and painterly peculiarities. It is important to note here however that the Melbourne painting shares a near-identical design with another version given to Canaletto, formerly in the Bisgood Collection and sold at auction at Sotheby’s, London, 3 Dec. 1997. The author believes that this painting, and its pendant view of Piazza San Marco, are characteristic of Bellotto but of a later date, c.1742–43.

The Melbourne painting is datable to between 1738 and 1740. Kowalczyk has dated the work to around 1739, while Beddington dated two very similar works, a view of Piazza San Marco to c.1737 (fig. 9), and another view of the Rialto from the Ca’ da Mosto to c.1738.23 See Beddington, pp. 666–8, figs 15, 17. Another recently discovered Bellotto view of the Grand Canal (from the other side of the Rialto Bridge), with similar tone, colour and handling, has been dated to around 1740.24 This painting, which measures 65.1 x 86.0 cm, was auctioned at Sotheby’s, New York, 24 Jan. 2008, lot 114. Its authorship was established by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk.

With the attribution of the Melbourne Grand Canal view now settled, two remaining issues will require further investigation. The first is the work’s provenance. So far, no trace of the painting before 1918 has been found. However, the vigorous research now being carried out into Bellotto’s early career, and the knowledge that Bellotto sold directly to buyers while still in Canaletto’s studio, should provide a means for tracing the earliest owners of the view.25 The Sotheby’s catalogue entry for the painting (n. 22), quotes James Harris importing two Bellotto views in 1743. Kowalczyk noted four Bellotto views bought by Von der Schulenburg, marshall of the Venetian Republic, in Nov. 1740 (see Arte Veneta, 47, p. 74; see also Important Old Master Paintings including European Works of Art, Sotheby’s, New York, 24 Jan. 2008, Sale N08404, lot 114, n. 4). The other outstanding matter, which may follow as a consequence of the first, is to determine whether the painting once formed part of a pair or even larger group. There are very strong grounds for this: the view of Piazza San Marco (fig. 9), formerly in the Sobell Collection, identified by Charles Beddington in 2004, has almost identical dimensions and a sky painted in startlingly close manner to the Melbourne Grand Canal view; it clearly belongs to the very same moment in Bellotto’s career. A pairing of this view is further suggested by the fact that the Musée Jacquemart-André Canaletto Grand Canal is paired with the same Piazza San Marco view and indeed, another pair (which may also be by Bellotto, formerly in the Bisgood Collection) is made up of the same Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco views. This might also suggest the Melbourne view was part of a larger group, as Beddington has justifiably linked the Sobell San Marco with another view of the Bacino di San Marco.26 Beddington, p. 668. Research and documentary evidence has shown that Bellotto created and sold works in pairs and larger groups, so there is a distinct possibility that the complete story behind this important painting will one day become fully known.

Carl Villis, Conservator of European Paintings before 1800, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2008)

NOTES

1 See Robert Wilson, Great Exhibitions: The World Fairs 1851–1937, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2007, p. 10.

2 The Argus, 25 Oct. 1866, p. 7. If the NGV Tocqué is the portrait referred to in 1866 as the ‘Duc de Penthièvre’, this identification cannot stand, as the French duke, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duc de Penthièvre, was born in 1725, making him too young for the sitter in the NGV portrait, which can be reliably dated to the late 1740s. Moreover, other portraits of the duke do not share the same physical features as the sitter in the Melbourne portrait.

3 Correspondence from Von Guérard, 30 June 1876: Von Guérard Report 6 (VPRS 1074/P0000/5 – National Gallery: Miscellaneous records. Reports for School of Painting). The author is most grateful to Michael Varcoe-Cocks for alerting him to this reference.

4 Catalogue of Oil Paintings, Water-colour Drawings, Engravings, Lithographs Photographs & c in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1879, p. 17.

5 The only artist monograph written on Louis Tocqué was published nearly eighty years ago (Arnauld Doria, Louis Tocqué, L’Art français, Paris, 1929).

6 Xavier Salmon, curator, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, has commented on the painting: ‘The work effectively presents all the stylistic characteristics of Louis Tocqué. You can legitimately propose this acquisition’ (trans.). Email message to the author, 21 July 2004.

7 See Inna S. Nemilova, ‘Largillierre and his followers’, in Myra Nan Rosenfeld (ed.), Largillierre and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 1981, p. 346.

8 The Louis XV straight-sided carved oak frame is dated ‘second and third quarter of the eighteenth century’. Its water-gilded surface is in ‘excellent original condition’ (Examination report, Holly MacGowan-Jackson, NGV, 2007). It was purchased in 2007 from Paul Mitchell Ltd, London.

9 R. Ross, letter to the secretary to the trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 2 July 1918, Felton Bequest Files 2/2, 1918.

10 See Carl Villis, ‘Bernardo Bellotto’s seven large views of Rome, c.1743’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLII, no. 1163, Feb. 2000, pp. 76–8; see also Bozena Anna Kowalczyk (ed.), Canaletto Il trionfo della veduta, Palazzo Giustiniani, Rome, 2005, pp. 182, 188.

11 See Kowalczyk, ‘Il Bellotto veneziani nei documenti’, Arte Veneta, 47, 1995, p. 75, n. 32.

12 See Charles Beddington, ‘Bernardo Bellotto and his circle in Italy. Part I: Not Canaletto but Bellotto’, The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXLVI, no. 1219, Oct. 2004, pp. 665–4; Charles Beddington, who viewed a high-resolution image of the painting with the author in late Jan. 2007, confirmed that the Melbourne painting displays Bellotto’s painterly characteristics.

13 See Villis, ‘Materiali, tecnica e procedimento esecutivo nell’opera del giovane Bernardo Bellotto’, in Kowalczyk (ed.), Canaletto e Bellotto: L’arte della veduta, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, 2008, pp. 23–35.

14 Around a dozen versions of this view are known, though W. G. Constable considered only five of these to be by Canaletto himself: the Trotti, Musée Jacquemart-André, the Wallace Collection, Galleria nazionale in Rome and the Bisgood version (see n. 22 below).

15 See Kowalczyk, ‘Il Bellotto veneziano: “Grande intendimento ricercasi”’, Arte Veneta, 48, 1996, pp. 87–8. Both of these paintings are problematic as prototypes for this view: the Trotti version is said to be signed and dated 1744, later than the NGV’s Bellotto view and the Visentini drawings and engravings. The Musée Jacquemart-André version has been described by both Links and Kowalczyk as ‘mechanical’ in execution.

16 One of these preparatory drawings, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, was identified by Stefan Kozakiewicz in 1972, and a nearly identical drawing, thought to be slightly earlier, was identified by Kowalczyk and auctioned at Christie’s in London on 4 July 1995. It is now in a private collection. Kowalczyk has dated both drawings to 1740.

17 See Kowalczyk, Arte Veneta, 48, 1996, pp. 87–9.

18 The present author first discussed the NGV painting with Bozena Anna Kowalczyk in March 2005. She has since confirmed the attribution of the view to Bellotto: ‘I am completely happy to confirm the notion of Bellotto’s authorship also of the view of the Grand Canal with the Palazzo Dolfin-Manin’ (trans.). Email message to the author, Apr. 2006. NGV curatorial files. See also Kowalczyk (ed.), Turin, 2008, p. 68.

19 The sky proportions were determined by taking a measurement from the nearer flagpole at the top of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to the top of the canvas and measuring it against the height of the painting. The other paintings measured this way were the versions in the Wallace Collection, the ex-Trotti Collection, the Visentini drawing and the Musée Jacquemart-André. The version sold at Sotheby’s, London, in 1997 (formerly in the Bisgood Collection) has a similar proportion of sky to the Melbourne Grand Canal view (see n. 22 below).

20 Bellotto’s versions of the view of Campo Santo Stefano (c.1740, Castle Howard Collection, York) and the Capitol with Santa Maria in Aracœli (c.1742–44, Petworth House, Sussex) – both deriving from Canaletto prototypes – are just two of numerous instances of Bellotto diminishing the proportions of the architecture in relation to the sky.

21 Charles Beddington commented on similar infelicities in another painting by Bellotto datable to around 1738 (see Beddington, p. 667).

22 Of the group of paintings relating to this view, the Melbourne version stands apart from the other Canaletto and workshop versions on account of its compositional adjustments and painterly peculiarities. It is important to note here however that the Melbourne painting shares a near-identical design with another version given to Canaletto, formerly in the Bisgood Collection and sold at auction at Sotheby’s, London, 3 Dec. 1997. The author believes that this painting, and its pendant view of Piazza San Marco, are characteristic of Bellotto but of a later date, c.1742–43.

23 See Beddington, pp. 666–8, figs 15, 17.

24 This painting, which measures 65.1 x 86.0 cm, was auctioned at Sotheby’s, New York, 24 Jan. 2008, lot 114. Its authorship was established by Bozena Anna Kowalczyk.

25 The Sotheby’s catalogue entry for the painting (n. 22), quotes James Harris importing two Bellotto views in 1743. Kowalczyk noted four Bellotto views bought by Von der Schulenburg, marshall of the Venetian Republic, in Nov. 1740 (see Arte Veneta, 47, p. 74; see also Important Old Master Paintings including European Works of Art, Sotheby’s, New York, 24 Jan. 2008, Sale N08404, lot 114, n. 4).

26 Beddington, p. 668.