- Museum number
View of the Arch of Constantine, Rome; with part of the Colosseum at right, figures in the foreground including one on a horse
Pen and brown ink, with grey wash, over black chalk
- Production date
Height: 159 millimetres
Width: 229 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For the attribution and the history of the 22 BM Roman views see the curator's commentary for 1858-6-26-221
The drawing shows the south side of the Arch of Constantine with the church of San Pietro in Vincoli visible through the central span, and the Colosseum to the right. In the jumble of letters which Canaletto filled the space given over to the dedicatory inscription on the arch he added a date - Augusto X 1720. This makes this Canaletto's first dated drawing. The depiction of the arch is broadly accurate here, although he has not bothered with the finer details of the decoration as is clear from his impressionistic treatment of the various reliefs which decorate the façade. This sheet served as the model for a later highly finished drawing, now in the Petit Palais, Paris (Constable-Links 716; illustrated in colour in 2006 Montpellier catalogue, p. 167), inscribed by the artist in the lower margin 'Veduta dell'Arco di Constantino, e parte del'Anfiteatro Flavio/ Vespasiano'. The Paris study differs from this one in showing the arch from a slightly less acute angle; the structure is brought further forward; and the scale of the figures is increased. (Constable mistakenly believed that the north front of the arch is depicted in the Paris study because it shows the dedicatory inscription, but in fact this is repeated on both sides).
The drawing is closely related to a painting in a private collection (Constable-Links 382*; illustrated in colour in Cini catalogue 2001 p. 91), which Constable published in 1964 as an early work dating from the period following his return to Venice from Rome. Both works are lit in a similar fashion, except for the shadow introduced into the foreground of the painting. The painting differs from the drawing only in minor details: the type and number of the figures; the buildings visible through the central arch; and the addition of more vegetation growing on top of the arch. Canaletto also added buildings in the background between the arch and the Colosseum; an urn on a tall pedestal in the right corner; and a half-obelisk and a fountain adorning the wall on the left. An X-ray of the painting shows that the obelisk was an afterthought as beneath it is visible a wall, like that in the drawing, running from the fountain to the arch.
The present drawing most likely served as the starting point for a painting in the Royal Collection, one of a set of five upright Roman views which are dated 1742 (Constable-Links 382; illustrated in colour in exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Canaletto', 1989, p. 213). Canaletto made various adjustments to accommodate the change in format from the horizontal drawing to the vertical canvas. These include the Colosseum being moved to the left, and slight changes made to the position and perspectival recession of the wall on the left. Although the drawing and the canvas are very different in detail their general viewpoint from the left side, and the details of lighting, with the sun low in the sky creating long shadows, are closely comparable. The artist certainly cannot have relied solely on the drawing for his painted representation as is shown by his accurate rendition in the Windsor canvas of the various sculpted reliefs (which are, in any case, from the north side), and of the inscriptions on the arch. Such details must have been supplied by study of engravings of the north façade of the arch perhaps, as Corboz suggested, that from Antoine Desgodets's 'Edifices antique de Rome' published in 1682 (Corboz 1985, p. 71, fig. 54). A more capricious treatment of the two buildings is shown in the painting, dating from the artist's English period (1746-55), in the J.Paul Getty Museum (Constable-Links 383). The drawing also seems to have been the source for a painting dated 1741 by the 'Master of the Langmatt Foundation Views' offered at Christie's, London, 10 December 2003, lot 49.
David Marshall has recently argued that all the BM series are Caneletto workshop drawings done in the mid 1750s or later.
Literature: T. Ashby and W.G. Constable, 'Canaletto and Bellotto in Rome - II', 'The Burlington Magazine', XLVI, June 1925, p. 294; W.G. Constable, 'Canaletto', Oxford, 1962, II, no. 713(222, 2) (ditto 2nd edition revised by J.G. Links, 1976); M. Levey, 'The Later Italian Paintings in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen', London, 1964, under no. 370 (ditto 2nd edition, 1991); W.G. Constable, 'An Early Painting of Rome by Canaletto', 'The Burlington Magazine', CVI, 740, November 1964, p. 509, fig. 35; A. Morassi, 'La giovinezza del Canaletto', "Arte Veneta", XX, 1966, pp. 213-14; L. Puppi, 'L'opera completa di Canaletto', Milan, 1968, under no. 2; R. Pallucchini, 'Per gli esordi del Canaletto', "Arte Veneta", XXVII, 1973, p. 159; W.L. Barcham, 'The Imaginary View Scenes of Antonio Canaletto' (1974 New York University Ph.D thesis published by Garland), New York and London, 1977, p. 84, fig. 86; O. Millar, in exhib. cat., London, Queen's Gallery, 'Canaletto, Paintings and Drawings', 1980, under no. 33; A. Corboz, 'Canaletto. Una Venezia immaginaria', Milan, 1985, p. 69, pl. D.1/2; K. Baetjer, J.G. Links in exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Canaletto', 1989-90, under no. 59; D. Succi, in exhib. cat., Belluno, Palazzo Crepadona, 'Marco Ricci e il paesaggio veneto del Settecento', 1993, p. 65; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 'Canaletto prima maniera', 2001, no. 3, p. 50; L. Laureati, 'Gaspar Wanvittel e l'origine del genere "veduta" nella pittura veneziana del Settecento', in exhib. cat. (F. Benzi ed.), Rome, Chiostro del Bramante and Venice, Museo Correr, 'Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origine del vedutismo', 2002, pp. 48-52; B.A. Kowalczyk, in exhib. cat., Rome, Palazzo Giustiniani, 'Canaletto: il trionfo della veduta', 2005, no. 3, p. 46; D. Marshall, 'Canaletto & Carlevarijs, Panini & Piranesi: The Paradoxes of the Serial Veduta', in D. Marshall (ed), "The Italians in Australia. Studies in Renaissance and Baroque art", Melbourne and Florence, 2004, pp. 51 and 54, fig. 2; M. Favilla et al, in exhib. cat., Montpellier, Musée Fabre, 'Venise, l'art de la Serenissima: dessins des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Le dessin en Italie dans les collections publiques françaises), 2006, under no. 72
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 Mar-Jun, Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 'Canaletto Prima Maniera'
2005 Mar-Jun, Rome, Palazzo Giustiniani, 'Canaletto 1726-1746: il trionfo della veduta'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number