The Bacino di San Marco with the Molo and the Doge's Palace, Venice

Artist or maker:
Guardi, Francesco (b.1712, d.1793)
c 1755-1770
dated stylistically and by buildings depicted
Place of production:
Venice, Italy
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


This painting and its companion (acc. no. 2212.2) are the largest known works by Guardi. They are early examples of the real and idealised views of Venice with which he made his reputation. The large scale and prominent signature may have been part of Guardi’s campaign to assert his independence from his family’s studio, in which he had begun his career producing altarpieces and mythological painting.

Related drawings suggest that Guardi planned to have the compositions engraved, which would have disseminated the cityscapes to a wider audience.

The view is taken approximately from the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore across the water to the Square of San Marco. In the foreground, trading vessels rest at anchor whilst gondolas and sandolos full of busy merchants travel to and fro. Bustling activity is contrasted by the mirror-like bacino. Guardi made many paintings of this view with different buildings, arrangements of boats and light effects. Three other paintings are almost identical to the Waddesdon composition including one in the Istabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, and one in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The work was conceived as a pair with the canvas that hangs beside it: a view from the Piazzetta of San Marco looking across the water in the opposite direction. They may have originally been intended to hang opposite each other.

Guardi explored the same views in numerous other painting, varying the scale, the selection of buildings, the arrangement of boats, and the changing effects of light and atmosphere. Several other view painters had painted these views, including Canaletto (1697-1768), whose works were popular with English patrons and hung in the Venetian palaces that Guardi hoped his works would occupy. This might have motivated his interest in Canaletto’s figures and composition, whose influence is clearly visible here. The strong contrast between light and shade has been exaggerated over time by chemical changes in the bole armeniac used to prepare the canvas.

It is not known who commissioned these prestigious paintings. It may have been a Venetian associated with one of the buildings depicted. It might turn out to have been a Frenchman. The pair’s size and colouring would have suited the decorative schemes and light-coloured panelling of French interiors of the time. In the late eighteenth century the works entered the collection of the French soldier and Minister of War, Louis-Félix de Félix, Maréchal du Muy, possibly as a gift from Louis XVI.

The dealer Martin Colnaghi brought the paintings to England in 1859. He failed to sell them at that time, but, in 1876, he opened a showroom in London, named the Guardi Galleries, and tried again. Ferdinand de Rothschild bought them for Waddesdon Manor, which was then under construction. The East Gallery was designed to accommodate them. The architect Gabriel-Hippolye Destailleur also designed the frames with which the enormous paintings were integrated into the panelling. They may have reminded Ferdinand of his family and its traditions of collecting. Ferdinand's father Anselm owned a pair of much smaller canvases with similar views by Guardi, now in the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris.

Juliet Carey and Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
2845 x 4238
Approx 3000 x 4150 - sight
Signature & date:
signed, lower centre, on package on central boat:


Traditionally said to have been presented by Louis XVI (b.1754, d.1793) to Louis Nicolas Victor de Félix d'Ollières, comte du Muy (b.1711, d.1775), possibly when he became Minister of War in 1774 or Maréchal de France in 1775 but highly unlikely; by descent to Ferdinand de Félix, marquis du Muy (d.1859) of Marseille; bought from the estate of Ferdinand de Félix by Martin Colnaghi (b.1821, d.1908) who imported them to England and put them up for sale anonymously 18 June 1859, lot 92, but bought them in for 1450 guineas; showed in Colnaghi's Guardi Galleries, Haymarket, London, 1876; bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898 ) soon after 1876; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Exhibition history:
'European Masters of the 18th Century', Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1954-1955, no 58, lent by James A. de Rothschild
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Minor Topics: Francesco Guardi, The Art Journal, 1876, 222; p. 222.
George A. Simonson; Francesco Guardi, 1712-1793; London; Metheun; 1904; p. 98, no. 268.
James Byam Shaw, Guardi at the Royal Academy, The Burlington Magazine, 97, 1955, 12-19; fig. 14.; as c. 1760.
Sir Francis Watson, Venetian Paintings at the Royal Academy 1954-55, Arte Veneta, 9, 1955, 253-264; figs 287, 259.; as 1760-1763.
Antonio Morassi, Fasti e nefasti del Settecento veneziano, Emporium, CXXIII, 1956, 4; fig. 16.
Michael Levey, French and Italian Paintings at Waddesdon, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 57-66; p. 63.; as 1760-1763.
Antonio Morassi, Paul Underwood; Circa gli esordi del vedutismo di Francesco Guardi con qualche cenno sul Marieschi; Studies in the History of Art dedicated to William E. Suida on his Eightieth Birthday, London, Samuel Kress Foundation, Phaidon Press, 1959; 338-352; pp. 349, 358; as after 1760.
Francis Haskell, Francesco Guardi as Vedutista and Some of His Patrons, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 23, 1960, 256-276; p. 274.
Rodolfo Pallucchini; La pittura veneziana del Settecento; Venice; Istituto per la collaborazione culturale; 1960; pp. 242- 243.
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 306-7, cat. no. 154, ill.; as 1755-1760.
Bernard Aikema, Dulcia Meijers; Il Regno dei Poveri. Arte e Storia dei Grandi Ospedali Veneziani in Età Moderna 1474-1797; Venice; Arsenale; 1989; p. 201, fig. 135 (detail).
Bernard Aikema, Boudewijn Bakker; Painters of Venice: The Story of the Venetian 'Veduta'; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 15 December 1990 - 10 March 1991; The Hague; Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and Gary Schwartz - SDU The Hague; 1990; fig. 64.; as 1760-1761.
Dario Succi; Francesco Guardi: itinerario dell'avventura artistica; Cinisello Balsamo; Amilcare Pizzi s.p.a; 1993; pp. 49-50, 55, 60, 82, fig. 46.; as 1768-1770.
Antonio Morassi; Guardi - L'Opera Completa; 3 vols; Venice; Electa; 1993; vol. 1, pp. 231-32, 239, 384, cat. no. 390, vol.2, fig. 414; as 'Palazzo Ducale visto dal mare'.
Pauline Prevost-Marcilhacy; Les Rothschilds, bâtisseurs et mécènes; Paris; Flammarion; 1995; pp. 169-171, ill. pp. 170-171.
Stephen Ongpin; Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd. An Exhibition of Master Drawings and Oil Sketches; Adam Williams Fine Art, New York, 10 May - 3 June 2005; Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd, London, 1 - 23 July 2005 CHECK DATES: WMH copy has 3 May - 2 June 2006 and (London) 30 June - 28 July; London; Jean-Luc Baroni; 2005; no. 28, fig. 1.
Clara Urlando, Antonio Tommaseo Ponzetta, Antonio Niero, Giuseppe Ellero, Maria Agnese Chiari Moretto Wiel, Doretta Davanzo Poli; La Pietà A Venezia; Venice; Instituto Provinciale per l'Infanzia S. Maria della Pieta; 2008; p. 48.

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