Francesco Guardi came from a family of artists; both his father and his elder brother Antonio were painters. Francesco established himself as a figure painter in Antonio's workshop but around the time of his brother's death in 1760, Francesco began producing vedute. Guardi's Venetian views were indebted to Canaletto but as an English patron noted, "Though he has taken Canaletto's department, Guardi has still followed a particular manner; which is spirited and quite his own." Guardi's vedute appeared topographically accurate but increasingly, the artist rearranged buildings or altered lighting to improve a composition. These liberties were not always well-received. Guardi's atmospheric and fantastical views of ruins, known as capriccio, gave free reign to his imagination.
Guardi spent his entire life in and around Venice producing work for local patrons as well as the tourist trade. He was also employed by the government to record state occasions such as the 1782 visit of Pope Pius VI. In addition to paintings and drawings of state visits and receptions, Guardi contributed designs for these celebrations including designs for furniture and parade boats. Toward the end of his long career, Francesco was assisted by his younger brother Nicolò and by his son Giacomo. After his father's death, Giacomo Guardi continued the family studio producing paintings both in his father's and his own style.