- Museum number
View in Rome of the Basilica of Constantine at left and the Basilica of S Francesco Romana at r; figures in the foreground, one pointing up with a cane
Pen and brown ink, with grey wash, over black chalk
- Production date
- 1720 (circa)
Height: 157 millimetres
Width: 227 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 imposing vaulted structure of the Basilica of Constantine or Maxentius (the scale of which is even greater in reality), to the right the ancient church of San Francesca Romana with its twelfth-century tower and early seventeenth-century façade and in between the two is visible in the distance the Colosseum. Canaletto returned on a number of occasions to the drawing as a source of inspiration for both drawn and painted versions of the view. As Levey first observed (1991, no. 367), the church and the buildings on the right, as well as the small wall broken by a gateway, are found in a painting in the Royal Collection (Levey 1964, no. 367; Constable-Links 479*; illustrated in colour Cini 2001 catalogue fig. 3, p. 15). The painting, whose traditional attribution to Canaletto was restored by Levey, has been variously dated, but it is most likely an early work of circa 1721 (Succi, in Belluno 1993, p. 66). The artist returned once again to the drawing some twenty or so years later in the magnificent pen and ink sheet at Windsor (Parker 105; Constable-Links 718). This is remarkably true to the original with only minor, but effective, adjustments to the scale of the figures, wall and the buildings on the right in order to enhance the massive scale of the basilica. The punctilious description of the ancient building in the present study is abandoned in favour of a broader and more impressionistic approach in the Windsor sheet, with the structure broken up into clearly defined planes formed by dense parallel hatched areas of shadow, and those parts where the paper is left almost blank to create a sense of intense, dazzling sunlight. The Windsor drawing is so effective in evoking a sense of the location that it is hard to credit that Canaletto had not been there for some twenty years, and it is a telling reminder of the artist's ability to find fresh inspiration through the study of his earlier work.
This drawing was the source for an upright painting, now in an Italian private collection (Constable-Links 380), which probably dates, like the Windsor study, from the first half of the 1740s. The present drawing's composition is neatly adapted to fit the painting's format and, as in the Windsor drawing, Canaletto made a few slight adjustments (such as the increase of the width of the bell tower on the right). A painting in a horizontal format of the subject is in the Galleria Borghese, Rome (Constable-Links under no. 380). Although the latter has in the past been given to Bellotto, it is now generally believed to be by Canaletto like its pendant of the Colosseum (Constable-Links 388) based on another of the BM series (1858-6-26-235).
David Marshall has recently argued that all the BM series are Caneletto workshop drawings done in the mid 1750s or later.
Lit: T. Ashby and W.G. Constable, 'Canaletto and Bellotto in Rome - I and II', 'The Burlington Magazine', XLVI, May and June 1925, pp. 213 and 294; K.T. Parker, 'The Drawings of Antonio Canaletto in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle', Oxford and London, 1948, under no. 105; W.G. Constable, 'Canaletto', Oxford, 1962, II, no. 713 (226, 6) (ditto 2nd edition revised by J.G. Links, 1976): A. Bettagno, in exhib. cat., Venice, Fonazione Giorgio Cini, 'Canaletto. Disegni-Dipinti-Incisione', 1982, under no. 99; A. Corboz, 'Canaletto. Una Venezia immaginaria', Milan, 1985, p. 71, pl. D.1/6; M. Levey, 'The Later Italian Paintings in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen', London, 1991, under no. 367; D. Succi, in exhib. cat., Belluno, Palazzo Crepadona, 'Marco Ricci e il paesaggio veneto del Settecento', 1993, p. 66; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 'Canaletto prima maniera', 2001, no. 7, p. 54; 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, p. 54, fig. 11
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 Mar-June, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, 'Canaletto Prima Maniera'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number