The painting represents a view of the ducal palace in Venice, with a partial view of Piazza San Marco. The Marciana library, Basilica of St. Mark and Palazzo Dandolo can be seen on the left.
This type of view became very successful and Canaletto repeated the theme in various versions, like in those that can be found in Puskin Museum in Moscow and in a private collection in Milan. A similar view was repeated on the engraving Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum in 1735, with the addition of Bucintoro on the right side.
This historical representation of the City of Venice shows the hard-working side of the citizens and dedication to trade, with the gondolas teeming in the canal of San Marco in the forefront. The painting is almost photographic and faithful to its theme, thanks to camera obscura, an instrument that was used to depict realistic scenes with mathematical precision. Canaletto used clear and transparent light and bright colors to retain a luminous view.
This well-defined and luminous painting depicts the buildings and the gondoliers in the foreground, which shows some evolution in Canaletto’s painting, who concentrated more on the atmosphere and shadows and had clear and clean vision on his works. The work also satisfied he demands of his clients, most of them English noblemen in Venice for their Grand tour, who were more than happy to buy authentic views of the city as a souvenir.
The artwork was completed before 1755, when the clock tower, which is still incomplete in the painting, was finished. Canaletto probably painted it in the mid-1730s’, most certainly before his trip to London in 1746.
The painting comes from Villa Poggio Imperiale (Florence). It was moved to the Uffizi Gallery on 18 May 1796, when the Grand Duke Ferdinando III wanted to enrich the collection in the gallery.
Canaletto was born in 1697 in Venice, where he started to paint theatrical scenes with his father Bernardo and brother Cristoforo.
On his trip in Rome in 1719 he met landscape painters Gaspar van Wittel, Giovanni Paolo Pannini and Viviano Codazzi. When he came back to Venice he started to paint city views which were influenced by the works of Luca Carlevrijs and Marco Ricci, even though soon he found his own individual style, quite different from the others.
In the 1740s’ he met English consul and merchant Joseph Smith and thanks to him Canaletto stayed in London for several years (1746 – 1756) painting city views and English country landscapes based on perspective and the use of camera obscura, paying attention on atmospheric representation. Among his important clients were the dukes of Richmond, the dukes of Beaufort and those of Northumberland.
After his return in Venice he dedicated himself mainly to his Capricci, such as famous Capriccio palladiano (Parma, Galleria Nazionale), where he combines real elements with alternative places, such as Rialto Quarter and Basilica of Vicenza, but also fantasy elements like Rialto Bridge by Palladio, which was never built.
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them.
The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes.
The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family.
The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.
Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.
After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.
During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives.
In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.
The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.
In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.