A previously unpublished view of Venice from 250 years ago has been bought by the Ashmolean for £2 million
A view of Venice by one of the 18th century artists who portrayed its maritime splendour best, Francesco Guardi, should charm visitors to the Ashmolean as it once did tourists to Italy, having been bought for £2 million under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Venice: the Fondamenta Nuove with the Lagoon and the Island of San Michele dates to around 1758, when it was made for a British Grand Tourist.
The work is previously unpublished, but curators say its “fresh” and “fluid” brushwork, built on dabs of pigment in an early lagoon view by an artist inspired by the sketchiness of Marco Ricci and the light of Canaletto, gives an “especially beautiful” quality to its rippling waters. Snow-capped mountains rise in the distance of the vista.
“Francesco Guardi was a great poet of Venetian view-painting, developing a free, sketchy style that reflects the atmospheric and luminous qualities of this enchanting city,” says Dr Catherine Whistler, the Keeper of the Department of Western Art at the Oxford museum.
“This superb painting was made just as Guardi turned to view painting in the late 1750s, breaking into a market that had been dominated by Canaletto.
“His ambition and originality are clear by this unusual view. Sky, light and water are the main protagonists.”
Professor Christopher Brown, the Director of the Ashmolean, said organisers were “profoundly grateful” to the supporters behind the acquisition, including the Arts Council and the Art Fund.