Francesco Guardi
(Venedig, 1712-1793, Venedig)
Bacino di San Marco, ca. 1780/85
Oil on canvas, 62 x 93.5 cm
Morassi 288
This painting represents the scene from the Dogana di mare towards San Giorgio Maggiore, to the right, and across to the Bacino di San Marco and the adjoining Riva degli Schiavoni; it is one of Francesco Guardi’s last works. He began to devote major attention to "vedute" only after 1760 when the death of his brother Giovanantonio left him in charge of the family workshop. Even then, his intermittent approach to the disciplined perspectivistic "veduta" compositions of Canaletto had not prevented him from remaining true to his own artistic individuality. This applies all the more in the face of the almost visionary character of the Bührle Collection's "veduta", whose bright atmosphere is determined by a generally pervading silvery tone with rich blue shades, with a bit of red gleaming out here and there. To be sure, the actual scene is meticulously studied – possibly with the aid of graphic models. Nevertheless, here too we do not find Guardi ready to submit without reserve to the severely geometrical methods of Canaletto’s classical period. He does not sacrifice his colour-sensitive, painterly characterization of the material to the linear clarity of sculpturally solidified shapes, using perspectivistic means only to regulate the receding planes in the picture, but, allows rather to prevail his tendency to order the objects in the picture intuitively. Stylistically this picture belongs with a group of paintings covering the years between 1784 and 1789; it can also be compared with the view of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Institut Néerlandais in Paris.