Philippe de Montebello (Director Emeritus) and Katharine Baetjer (Department of European Paintings) discuss Piazza San Marco (1988.162) (July 2008).
Piazza San Marco, late 1720s
Canaletto (Italian, 1697–1768)
Oil on canvas; 27 x 44 1/4 in. (68.6 x 112.4 cm)
Purchase, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1988 (1988.162)
The Piazza San Marco is the principal square of the formerly independent maritime republic of Venice. Construction of St. Mark's basilica and of the bell tower was undertaken in the ninth century, while work on the buildings to the left and right, which housed government officials, began in 1514 and 1580, respectively. There are not as many windows in the bell tower as there should be and the flagstaffs are too high, but otherwise Canaletto's view is accurate. He shows elegant men and women—both locals and foreigners—merchants, beggars, children, and dogs in bright sunlight and soft afternoon shadow. The canvas must have been painted shortly after 1727, when the pavement with its zigzag pattern was completed.