Artwork of the Week: June 13, 2022

 In MOA Artwork of the Week

Francesco Guardi (Italian, 1712-1793), View of the Grand Canal with the Dogana, c. 1780, oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches. Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina; Gift of the Samuel H. Dress Foundation, This work has been temporarily loaned to the Museum as part of the exhibition European Splendors: Old Master Paintings from the Kress Collection. 

This vista asserts itself as a morning scene, already foregrounded by Venice’s aquatic rush hour. Illuminated from the left, the brilliant sunrise highlights gondoliers conveying clients across the inky Prussian-blue that reflects only the barest traces of so much exquisite architecture. Indeed, the water is almost as blackened as the gondolas. Confident gondoliers suggest activity but not chaos. Indeed, the polyvalent confluence of so many determined vessels demonstrate a highly refined system that appears to benefit all.

On the right, the radiant Basilica of Santa Maria of the Salute marks the opening of the Grand Canal. It was built to honor the Virgin’s intercession when many Venetians were dying from plague in 1631. Guardi honors the glorious light on Mary’s double domes, even as he illuminates and ennobles the 16th century custom house—the Punta della Dogana— to the left of the peninsula topped with two Atlas figures holding aloft a globe and a female personification of Fortune that also served as a weathervane. Venice could build no holy sanctuaries without commerce. Today, this triangulated custom house has been transformed into a contemporary art museum by the Japanese designer Tadao Ando. The new museum was inaugurated in 2009.

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