The most avid customers for Canaletto's views of Venice were the English gentlemen who flocked to the city as tourists during the eighteenth century. The buyer of the Entrance to the Grand Canal from the Molo, Venice (and its pendant, The Square of Saint Mark's, Venice, also in the National Gallery) was, in fact, the Earl of Carlisle, who incorporated them into the decor of his country house, Castle Howard.
It was Canaletto's loving transcription, detail by detail, of his native city that made his paintings so popular: each view vividly calls to mind a particular time and place. Here it is morning activity on the quay near St. Mark's Square that Canaletto recreated with such specificity. Groups of people idle along the landing dock while a fishmonger shows the day's catch of eels to a bewigged pair of gentlemen. Gondolas and ocean-going vessels ply the waterways. Canaletto conveyed the sunlight that drenches Venice in fair weather, sparkling off the canals and revealing fine-etched details of the tiles on distant rooftops or the bricks beneath peeling stucco. Across the lagoon toward the Island of San Giorgio appear (left) the domed church of the Redentore by the sixteenth-century architect Palladio, the double domed church of Santa Maria della Salute, designed by Longhena in the seventeenth century, and (center) the Customs House.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/italian-paintings-17th-and-18th-centuries.pdf
on cartellino on stone wall at lower left: A.C.F. (Antonio Canal Fecit); on reverse of lining canvas: Bought of Lord Carlisle / 1825 Gower
Probably Henry Howard, 4th earl of Carlisle [1694-1758], or Frederick, 5th earl of Carlisle [1748-1825], Castle Howard, Yorkshire; by descent to Hon. Geoffrey William Howard [1877-1935], Castle Howard, Yorkshire; sold 1938 by the Trustees of Geoffrey Howard to Barbara Hutton, the countess Hangwitz Reventlow [1912-1979], Winfield House, London; gift 1945 to NGA.
- Catalogue of Oil Paintings & Drawings by Antonio Canal, The Magnasco Society, Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1929, no. 9.
- Canaletto: Il trionfo della veduta, Palazzo Giustiniani, Rome, 2005, no. 49, repro.
- Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals, The National Gallery, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010-2011, no. 27, repro. (shown only in Washington).
- Duthie, John. Manuscript catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard. 2 vols. [Pictures arranged numerically.] Castle Howard Archives H2/1/11-12, 1878: no. 63.
- Duthie, John. Manuscript catalogue of the pictures at Castle Howard. 2 vols. [Pictures arranged numerically; superseded 1878 catalogue.] Castle Howard Archives H2/I/13-14, 1880: no. 57.
- Browning, H. Ellen. "The Canaletto Collection at Castle Howard." Art Journal 68 (1905): 343-344, repro. 344.
- Carlisle, Rosalind, 9th countess of. Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard. Castle Howard Archives H2/I/28, 21, 1918: no. 57.
- Jones, Leif. Manuscript catalogue of pictures at Castle Howard. 2 vols. [Follows numbering system used in 1880 and 1918.] Castle Howard Archives H2/I/37-38, 1926.
- Constable, W. G. "Canaletto at the Magnasco Society." The Burlington Magazine 55 (July): 46.
- Estate Duty Office File. List of Pictures. Castle Howard Archives F10/74, 2, 1935: no. 57.
- Moschini, Vittorio. Canaletto. Milan, 1954: 30, fig. 147.
- Pallucchini 1960, 108, fig. 283.
- Constable, William George. Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768. 2 vols. Oxford, 1962: 1:pl. 35; 2:248, no. 154.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 22.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 15, repro.
- Puppi, Lionello. The Complete Paintings of Canaletto. Milan, 1968: 103, repro., no. 142A.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 43, as by School of Canaletto.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 52, repro.
- Constable and Links 1976, 1:pl. 35; 2:260, no. 154.
- Pignatti, Terisio. Antionio Canal detto Il Canaletto. Milan, 1976: 197-198, pl. 73.
- Links, J. G. Canaletto and His Patrons. London, 1977: 42, pl. 60.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 60-61, pl. 34, as Venice, the Quay of the Piazzetta
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:103, no. 887, 2:pl. 70 (as "Venice, The Quay of the Piazzetta").
- Links, J. G. Canaletto. Oxford, 1982: 83-84, pl. 76.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 348, no. 481, color repro., as Venice, the Quay of the Piazzetta.
- Corboz, André. Canaletto: Una Venezia immaginaria. Catalogue compiled by Anna Tortorelo. 2 vols. Milan, 1985: 2:636, repro., no. P 250.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 72, repro., as Venice, the Quay of the Piazzetta.
- Constable, W. G. Canaletto: Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768. 2d edition revised by J. G. Links, reissued with supplement and additional plates. 2 vols. Oxford, 1989: 1:pl. 35; 2:260, no. 154.
- Cornforth, John. "Castle Howard, Yorkshire." Country Life 186 (4 June 1992): fig. 9.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 115, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of A rt, Washington, Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.,1995: 114, repro.
- Varriano, John. "Venice and Rome: Canaletto, Piranesi, and the Italian Veduta." In Two Views of Italy: Master Prints by Canaletto and Piranesi. Exh. cat. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1995: 31, fig. 10.
- De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 24-31, color repro. 27.
The support is a coarse, loosely woven plain-weave fabric with some irregular threads. The ground is a moderately thick orange-yellow layer. No incised lines or compass holes are discernible. The sky (visible beneath the dome of Santa Maria della Salute) preceded the architecture, which in turn was painted before the figures and details such as the foreground pilings and the boats. The paint was applied smoothly in a paste consistency, with texture evident mainly in the whites and light colors. The final linear elements of brickwork were made with fluid paint drawn with a very fine brush over the completed underlying forms. X-radiographs and surface texture reveal several changes of contour: these include a shift of the dome of the Redentore to the right; a reduction in size of the second, smaller dome of Santa Maria della Salute; and a reduction in the size of its belltower. Minor changes were also made in the roofline and chimney of the Seminario Patriarchale to the right of the Dogana.
The original tacking margins are intact. There is a large vertical loss at the center of the painting extending through the cupola of the Dogana to the ornamental wood extension of the masonry wall in the foreground. The area of damage corresponds to a similar loss in the companion painting; the paintings were face to face when the damage occurred. (Confirmation is provided by the fact that traces of the flagpole in the companion picture were discovered adhering to the surface of the present painting.) There is generally heavy abrasion in the paint layer throughout the upper half of the sky. Faint indications of the statue of Fortune atop the Dogana were strengthened to reconstruct the statue during inpainting. The painting was treated by Michael Swicklik in 1993.