For several decades after Canaletto painted his Quay of the Piazzetta, Francesco Guardi continued producing picturesque cityscapes for the tourist trade. Although the artist was little-known in his own day, his views of Venice are now highly prized for their atmospheric qualities and broad, sketchy brushwork.
The Rialto Bridge, built in 1592 as the first stone bridge to span the Grand Canal, is the focal point of Guardi's composition, one of several versions of this popular attraction. Lined with market stalls and shops, it formed the hub of an important commercial center. Just beyond the bridge at the right is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the warehouse of the German merchants -- now a post office -- that became famous in the Renaissance when Giorgione and Titian frescoed its facade.
People poke their heads out of windows and gather on the balconies to watch the spectacle of daily life on the Rialto. The artist must have taken his view from a similar perch, looking down on the bustling scene. Market barges draped in canvas canopies are tied up at the quayside. Energetic gondoliers pole their boats up the crowded canal.
Possibly John Ingram [1767-1841], Matsala [or Marsala] House, England; probably passed to his son Hughes Ingram [b. c. 1800]; probably passed to his nephew Ingram Fuller Godfrey [1827-1916]. John G. Johnson, Philadelphia; purchased 1894 by Peter A. B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Masterpieces of Art. European & American Paintings 1500-1900, New York World's Fair, 1940, no. 29, repro.
- The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museo del Settecento Veneziano - Ca'Rezzonico, Venice, 1994-1995, not in cat. (shown only in Washington in 1995).
- Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals, The National Gallery, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010-2011, no. 62, repro.
- Berenson, Bernard, and William Roberts. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early Italian and Spanish Schools. Philadelphia, 1916: unpaginated, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 222, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 119, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 119, repro.).
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 27, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 318, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 64, as View of the Rialto.
- Arslan, Edoardo. "Considerazioni sui vedutismo di Francesco Guardi." In Problemi Guardeschi. Atti del Convegno di studi promosso della mostra dei Guardi 13-14 settembre 1965. Venice, 1967: 18.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 56, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 97.
- Morassi, Antonio. Guardi: Antonio e Francesco Guardi. 2 vols. Venice, 1973-1975: 1:408-409, no. 529; 2:fig. 512.
- Rossi Bortolatto, Luigina. L'opera completa di Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1974: 114, no. 406, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 166, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Morassi, Antonio. Tutti i disegni di Antonio, Francesco e Giacomo Guardi. Venice, 1975: 143.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:240-241, II:pl. 161, as View of the Rialto.
- Bordeaux, Jean Luc. "Baroque to Neo-Classicism." Apollo 115 (1982): 448.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 348, no. 482, color repro., as View of the Rialto.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 193, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 119, repro., as View of the Rialto.
- Succi, Dario. Francesco Guardi. Milan, 1993: 107, fig. 107.
- 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: 130-133, color repro. 131.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 238, no. 189, color repro.
The support is a somewhat coarse, medium-weight, plain-weave fabric. The ground is a pinkish layer containing coarse white particles distributed throughout, but most evident in the sky. The paint was relatively thinly applied, although the whites are somewhat thicker. In many areas the top paint layer was applied over a flat violet-colored layer that shows most clearly in the buildings and some of the boats. To paint the buildings the artist first blocked in the facades using muted, often translucent tones over the violet layer, then drew in the windows and details that give them shape with black lines. The boats, docks, and figures in the right foreground were painted over the completed water.
The painting was possibly transferred before being lined and there may only be a thin layer of gauze between the fabric and the paint layers. The tacking margins have been removed, but cusping is evident on all four sides. The painting is in good condition with relatively few losses. The edges have been completely inpainted. The varnish is clear. Discolored varnish was removed and the painting was restored in 1930 by Herbert Carmer and in 1980-1981 by Ann Hoenigswald.