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Works Thomas Girtin after Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto)

A Venetian Building with Figures: A Detail from Canaletto's 'A Portico with a Lantern'

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0901: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), A Venetian Building with Figures: A Detail from Canaletto's 'A Portico with a Lantern', 1796–97, graphite on paper, 18 × 22 cm, 7 ⅛ × 8 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768), etching, A Portico with a Lantern, 1735–46, 29.8 × 43.1 cm, 11 ¾ × 17 in. British Museum, London (1838,0526.4.10).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697-1768)
  • A Venetian Building with Figures: A Detail from Canaletto's 'A Portico with a Lantern'
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
18 × 22 cm, 7 ⅛ × 8 ½ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Italian View: Venice

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sotheby’s, 11 July 1996, lot 6 as 'Study of Figures by an Italianate Building', £1,150

About this Work

This drawing of a Venetian building shows a detail derived from an etching titled A Portico with a Lantern by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768) (see the source image above). Covering less than half of Canaletto’s composition, the copyist has isolated the humble Venetian building from its grand arched frame, and, though the composition principally follows the original, the structure has been extended to the right. The drawing is not signed, unlike the roughly contemporary copy of part of The Temple of Saturn in Rome, which is Girtin’s only other architectural study from this period (TG0895), but there is no reason to doubt the attribution of the work, and details such as the handling of the roof tiles are entirely characteristic of his style. More problematic are the questions of where the artist got access to Canaletto’s etching and for what reason he produced a partial copy of it. The obvious answer to the former is the home of Girtin’s early patron John Henderson (1764–1843), who commissioned as many as five watercolours and drawings after works by Canaletto, including a view of the Rialto Bridge (TG0897). But these were made from prints after Canaletto’s oil paintings and it is not known whether the collector owned any of the artist’s autograph etchings. Another possibility is that Girtin copied the print at the home of another early patron, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), and a manuscript ‘Catalogue of Prints and Drawings’ in his possession, a copy of which is in the Girtin Archive (36), lists ‘Canaletti’ as one of the artists represented in his collection. However, the pencil drawing bears little resemblance to the vast number of monochrome watercolour copies that Girtin, together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), were employed by Monro to produce, and instead it would appear to have been executed by the artist for his own purposes. Girtin is known to have taken a keen interest in architecture, but this probably imaginary building does not seem worthy of the artist’s close attention, unless it caught his eye as the sort of structure that might make a picturesque addition to a composition. At its appearance at auction in 1996, it was suggested that the drawing was evidence of the influence of ‘Canaletto’s drawing style’ on Girtin. However, whilst many of Girtin’s drawings of architectural subjects around 1794–95, such The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral (TG1014), show clear signs of Canaletto’s manner, this sketch, aside from its subject matter, displays no obvious debt to the older artist’s draughtsmanship and I discount this as the motivation behind its production.



1797 - 1798

Rome: Study of the Entablature of the Temple of Saturn


1796 - 1797

Venice: The Rialto Bridge


(?) 1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


by Greg Smith

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