Published: July 7, 2017
LONDON — A superbly preserved drawing ranking among the greatest ever made by Canaletto sold for a record $3,404,385 on July 6 at Sotheby’s. The price eclipsed the previous record for a work on paper by the artist ($2.5 million achieved for “Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, Venice,” sold at Sotheby’s in London in July 2012).
Greg Rubinstein, worldwide head of Old Master drawings at Sotheby’s, said, “The record price realized for Canaletto’s superb drawing is a fitting testimony to its importance and its quality. Nothing like it has been seen at auction. A more total expression of the essence of Canaletto’s genius as a draughtsman than this extraordinary drawing, which transports us to the very heart of Eighteenth Century Venice, in all its glory, wit and mystery, is hard to imagine. That it was loved and cherished for so long by one of the greatest families of English cognoscenti is the final piece in the jigsaw of elements that together make this by far the most important drawing by Canaletto to have come to the market in recent decades, and one of the most illuminating and enlightening, as well as one of the most visually exciting and satisfying, that he ever made.”
Both in scale and in compositional complexity, “The Coronation of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti” is one of the most ambitious of all Canaletto’s drawings. It belongs to a highly original series of 12 depictions of the ceremonies and festivals of the Doges, the Feste Ducali, conceived in the first instance as drawings, but made specifically to be engraved. Though the artist’s drawings and paintings are often very accurate renderings of specific locations, images like these of actual historical events are relatively rare in his work. In this composition, the third in the series, the Doge is being crowned at the top of the Scala dei Giganti, the grand, ceremonial staircase that forms the focus of the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace. The principal subject, though, is Venice, her life and her people.
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