Sharply receding to the left, a row of buildings with shops along the ground floor exhibits a multitude of architectural details. This view of the north side of Saint Mark's Square features its celebrated clock tower, topped by bronze figures that strike the hours. Yet the church bells on the far right actually belong to a rooftop two buildings away. By moving the bells to the side of the drawing, Canaletto emphasized the receding perspective. He frequently distorted and rearranged monuments to suit his refined sense of composition.
Canaletto probably enlisted the aid of a camera obscura, a ruler, and a compass to produce this sketch, reworking it later in his studio. He often referred to drawings for guidance and inspiration. He may also have used this sketch as a pattern for a larger painting from his workshop. Canaletto left many notes on the sketch, including one to remind himself of the drawing he made on the verso--a market scene of elegant gentlemen mingling with vendors among an array of merchandise.