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Sotheby's announces previously unrecorded Canaletto comes to light after over a century
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, Venice 1697-1768, Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, Venice, pen and brown ink and grey wash, 246 by 372mm est. £300,000-500,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- An unsolicited phone call to Sotheby’s Paris has revealed the remarkable existence of a previously unrecorded Canaletto, Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto, to be offered in Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings sale on the 4th July. Unsuspecting its true value, the current owners have kept this rare drawing preserved – unknown to scholars - for over a century in their private collection. It comes to the market as a historic event, the first major Canaletto drawing of a real Venetian view to be offered in over 30 years. A masterful technical exposition, acutely and subtly sensitive to the fall of light, this is a drawing conceivably intended as a stand-alone work. The anecdotal detail of one day in the life of the market is offset against a backdrop of iconic Venetian architecture: the church of San Giacomo with the Ruga degli Orefici leading up at right to the Rialto bridge. It is a site which preoccupied the imagination of the artist, who is known to have produced two paintings – in the Staatliche Gemaldegallerie, Dresden and the National Gallery of Canada – and a further drawing – in the Courtauld Institute, London – of the Campo. Among this prestigious company, Sotheby’s drawing is the only composition now remaining in a private collection.

Sotheby’s Greg Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings, commented: “This masterpiece holds its own alongside the very best of Canaletto’s drawings, and its discovery is a major event. No monumental drawing by Canaletto of a real Venetian view has been seen at auction over the past thirty years. Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto puts this right in great style: a splendid view of some of Venice’s most famous buildings, in superb condition, and previously totally unknown.”

The ultimate prospect in a headline series of drawings, billed here as a ‘grand tour’ for its sequence of remarkable topographical views, Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto is flanked by works by Turner and Lusieri, Guardi and Van de Velde.

From J.M.W.Turner’s late period, Lausanne from the West (est. £600,000-800,000) and The Domleschg Valley, (est. £300,000 – 500,000), are virtuosic technical masterpieces which question the boundaries of the possible in watercolour. Formerly in the collection of Baron Ullens, their universal subject is the relationship of mankind to elemental nature. Lausanne from the West, showing the newly constructed bridge over the gorge of the River Flon, dramatizes mankind’s attempt to harness the sublime through new technology. In The Domleschg Valley – looking towards the gorge of Rothenbrunnen –, the artist, sketching on a bridge halfway along the valley, is pitted against the mountains (greatly exaggerated in scale) on his either side.

A prospect of quite another kind, Giovanni Battista Lusieri’s A View of Lake Averno, (est £140,000-180,000) – conceptualises the aristocratic relationship to landscape in its vision of man and nature in timeless and peaceful accord. A work of great rarity, this is the finest watercolour by the artist to come to the market since the seminal Lusieri sale of 1986, of works descended in the family of the artist’s patron Lord Elgin. Lusieri would go on to be instrumental – as Lord Elgin’s artist and agent – in the acquisition and shipping of the Elgin Marbles. The time is now auspicious for Lusieri, and for his astute collector; the artist’s legacy as master of Italian light is acquiring a momentum of its own, with the first, major exhibition of works by the artist currently at the National Gallery of Scotland.

Sotheby’s will also offer an expansive view of Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, by Willem van de Velde the Elder, with Charles II’s Royal Yacht cutting at an angle, in the wind. From the same collection as the Canaletto come unrecorded drawings by Jacob van Ruisdael – the most important in over twenty years - and 17th century equestrian master, Philips Wouwerman. Views by Guardi, van Ruisdael, a monumental modello by Sebastiano Conca, and a superbly neoclassical drawing by Fuseli add up to a sale justifiably billed as a grand tour for the senses.

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