This magnificent painting was created by the renowned Italian artist Giovanni Antonio Canal, popularly known as Canaletto (1697-1768). The painting, titled Veduta della Chiesa di San Pietro di Castello a Venezia (View of the Church of Saint Peter of Castle in Venice), depicts the Church of Saint Peter of Castle and its surroundings in the 18th century. The church, which was built in the 7th century, was located outside a lagoon bridge. Venetian boatmen piloted gondolas (traditional rowing boats in Venice) to transport passengers in the lagoon. The black-painted and flat-bottomed surface of the gondolas provided the boatmen with optimal navigation in the Venetian lagoon and canals. The men depicted in the painting wear traditional Venetian clothing, with the majority donning red hats.
Canaletto is considered the most important member of the 18th-century Venetian School, a group of artists focusing on the use of colour and figurative representation in landscapes and the vividness of figures in paintings. The Venetian School originated during the Renaissance in Venice. The city’s unique location in the Mediterranean Sea, with influences from Byzantine and Western European cultures, provided a rich environment for artists to create their works. The school flourished thanks to Venice’s economic prosperity. However, the decline of Venetian trade, caused by factors such as Western European countries searching for new trade routes and the dominance of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean, precipitated the gradual decline of the Venetian School. Eventually, France annexed Venice in the late 18th century, marking the end of the Venetian School. Nonetheless, its influence continued to inspire later art movements such as Baroque and Rococo.
A smaller version of this painting is currently in the collection of the British Museum. In recent years, some of Canaletto’s masterpieces have been sold at auctions for up to USD 22 million. Veduta della Chiesa di San Pietro di Castello a Venezia was published in the Catalogue Raisonné by Joseph G. Links, A Supplement to the Catalogue Raisonne, 1998-2004, plate 236 n. 315.