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The Grand Canal in Venice with Palazzo Bembo
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Francesco Guardi
Italian, about 1768
Oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 30 1/8 in.
2005.41

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A luminous morning haze bathes Venice's Grand Canal. Guided by oarsmen, gondolas and cargo boats glide through the placid water; their hulls traverse the gentle reflections cast by the surrounding buildings. Masts and vertical pilings punctuate the pale, overcast sky. Buildings of varying shapes and scale--but all sharing a muted palette--extend from edge to edge and deep into the distance. On the right, a few early-risers mill about on the banks of the canal.

Francesco Guardi often painted vedute, or views, of Venice's principal waterway. Many of the buildings in this view were palaces of important Venetian families. The most prominent among them is the two-toned Palazzo Bembo on the canal's left bank. Its owners, and Guardi's likely patrons, even appear on the palace's upper balcony.

Guardi appreciated Venice as a city of constant change rather than as a static tourist destination. On the right side, behind the tiny figures on shore, he depicted the Church of San Geremia in the midst of its renovation. The two-toned facade of the Palazzo Bembo draws attention to a recent addition to this Renaissance palace. Amid this urban transformation, Guardi reveals the transitory effects of weather and water on his life-long home of Venice.