Completely unrecorded, this exceptional work – a view of the Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto - had not been seen in public since 1876. Its appearance at auction today generated huge excitement, culminating in an intense bidding battle between six determined collectors. Together they drove the price to a sum more than five times the original estimate of £300,000-£500,00, and four times the previous record for a drawing by the artist ($715,000/ £493,103 achieved for view of Warwick Castle, from the John R. Gaines Collection, sold in New York in November 1986.)
Greg Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby’s, said: “The exceptional price realised today for Canaletto’s superb drawing is a fitting testimony to its importance and its quality. Nothing like it has been seen at auction for over thirty years.”
The drawing came to Sotheby’s via an unsolicited phone call. Unsuspecting its true value, the consignors to today’s auction had kept this rare drawing preserved – unknown to scholars - for over a century in their private collection. Its appearance on the market was 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.