A little canal
Giovanni Antonio Canal was born in 1697 in Venice. He was the son of Bernardo Canal, a successful painter of theatrical scenery.
In order to distinguish himself from his father, he was given the nickname Canaletto, meaning 'a little canal'.
Inspiration for Canaletto's early painting came from established Venetian artists such as Marco Ricci and Luca Carlevarjis.
During his early career Canaletto was taken under the wing of Joseph Smith, a merchant banker with contacts who was an ideal agent for the young artist. By the end of 1720s, most of Canaletto's paintings were commissioned through Smith.
Smith also collected Canaletto’s work and commissioned him to paint six large views around San Marco and the Piazzenta to be displayed in his palace.
In addition, the collection had a series of 12 smaller views on the Grand Canal. These paintings were the most important pieces of Canaletto’s career.
A royal connection
In 1762, Smith was forced to part with his beloved Canaletto collection consisting of 50 paintings and 140 drawings. He sold them to George III who paid a staggering £20,000 for the collection.
They were purchased to furnish the newly bought Buckingham House (later palace). In the 1830s, the collection was moved to Windsor Castle where it has remained ever since.
Canaletto's career continued to prosper in Italy until the War of the Austrian Succession. In May 1746, he moved to London and stayed until the 1755.
While in London he painted the cityscapes, the Thames and the country seats of the nobility. He returned to Venice, continuing to paint until his death in 1768.
If you're interested in finding out more about our art collection, join our Cream of Collection Tour when visiting.