A blue-grey sky framing the distant snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites, this view (or veduta) shows Venice's fondamenta nuove – the 'new foundations' built in the 16th century as the northern boundary between the city and its neighbouring lagoon.

Rather than depicting familiar scenes of the city's architecture and festivities, as popularised by Canaletto, the painting captures Venice as though rising from the water. Fluid brushwork captures the movement of air and water on a breezy afternoon, while the predominantly blue scene is accented by the red splashes of fabrics billowing from windows and balconies. Venice: the Fondamenta Nuove with the Lagoon and the Island of San Michele (c. 1758) is a masterpiece of Francesco Guardi, an artist who built on the achievements of Canaletto to produce enchanting responses to the character and landscape of Venice. Part of a family of artists, Guardi was praised in his lifetime for the 'magical effects' achieved in his works. He created altarpieces, devotional works and mythological subjects, but is best known for his views of Venice, which had become his main activity by about 1760. Inspired by both the luminosity of Canaletto's views and the sketchy brushwork of artists such as Marco Ricci, Michele Marieschi and his brother-in-law Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Guardi often used Canaletto's compositions as a starting-point for more impressionistic paintings. His works were especially popular with British visitors to Italy, and this view of was made for a Grand Tourist in around 1758, when Guardi was first establishing his reputation in the market. It is one of a group of early lagoon views that are entirely original, not based on compositions by Canaletto or other artists. The painting is the first major Venetian veduta to enter the Ashmolean collection, and is an important addition to the museum's 'Britain and Italy in the 18th century' gallery. It joins Capriccio Landscape with Figures and a Bridge over a Stream, a small piece from Guardi's late career that was bequeathed to the museum through the Art Fund in 1989.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


Acquired by Sir Harold Wernher in the 1920s; by descent.

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