Giovanni Antonio Canaletto, Al Dolo, an etching

Italy, around AD 1745

Etched view of the lock basin at Dolo

Canaletto (1697-1768) created an image of Venice which had a particular appeal to English grandees on the Grand Tour of Europe. In the 1740s, war in Europe put a stop to the Grand Tours of his clients, so Canaletto temporarily gave up painting and began etching. The thirty-one prints he published in an album dedicated to Joseph Smith, the British consul in Venice, are among the most attractive etchings ever made. Some are views of particular locations, while others are drawn from his imagination. This lock, on the Brenta canal, was the embarkation point for boats travelling to Venice from the mainland.

Canaletto could make a richly satisfying etching without a grand monument as its subject, unlike his younger compatriot Piranesi. As his needle passed through the etching ground, it defines form, texture, and shadows in one movement. Thus the building on the right has crumbling plaster and crisply defined shutters, which cast deep shadows, leaving the unmarked paper to blaze with sunlight. The fine couple in the foreground are drawn rapidly by lines that vividly describe both clothes and shadows. The uneven paving on which they stroll is represented by irregular lines that seem to seethe with life. Canaletto invents a different combination of strokes, without any use of cross-hatching, for every surface he depicts, so that every part of his etching is full of interest.

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More information


R. Bromberg, Canalettos etchings (London, 1974)


Height: 294.000 mm
Width: 428.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1838-5-26-4 (6)



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