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Antonio Joli - Venice, the Bacino di San Marco looking east, with the Punta della Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore

Antonio Joli

Venice, the Bacino di San Marco looking east, with the Punta della Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore

Oil on canvas: 40(h) x 56.6(w) in / 101.6(h) x 143.8(w) cm
Signed lower left: iolli

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Modena circa 1700 - 1777 Naples

Ref: BX 166


Venice, the Bacino di San Marco looking east, with the Punta della Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore


Signed lower left: iolli

Oil on canvas: 40 x 56 5/8 in / 101.6 x 143.8 cm

Frame size: 45 x 63½ in / 114.3 x 161.3 cm

Painted circa 1744-49


In a period carved and gilded semi-Carlo frame




Private collection;

Christie’s London, 2nd December 1983, lot 111

Galerie Gismondi, Paris

Private collection;

Sotheby’s London, 10th July 2002, lot 78;

where acquired by a private collector, Europe



Roberto Middione, Antonio Joli, Soncino 1995, p.68, under no.12 (dimensions wrongly given as 141 x 194.6 cm)

Ralph Toledano, Antonio Joli, Turin 2006, p.193, no.V.I.6, illus.



Antonio Joli, like his contemporary Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768), started life as a theatre scene designer. Unlike Canaletto, he pursued this profession all his life, alongside a flourishing business producing easel paintings for aristocratic clients. Joli successively worked for the theatres of Venice, Dresden, London, Madrid and Naples, where he crowned his career in 1762 by becoming Painter to the King at the Court Theatre of San Carlo.


As a result, Joli was at ease painting on a grand scale and entirely confident with spacious easel paintings such as this view of the Bacino di San Marco. His compositions have brio and drama, drawing the eye into the picture from an oblique angle. On the left, forming a darker repoussoir which throws the brilliance of the Bacino into contrast, is the baroque Dogana, or Customs House. Designed by Giuseppe Benoni and finished in 1682, it is surmounted by two Atlases supporting a gilt-bronze sphere on which perches the figure of Fortune holding a sail, a weathervane which pivots in the wind. The fondamenta which runs diagonally into the foreground of the painting is Joli’s invention, as in reality the Dogana is on a triangular plot and the quayside runs alongside it.


Opposite, bathed in sunlight, is the Benedictine monastery complex of San Giorgio Maggiore. The island on which it stands was given to the Benedictine Order by Doge Tribuno Memmo in 982. The church, in dazzling white Istrian marble, was designed by Andrea Palladio and built between 1566 and 1610; its double façade, inspired by Roman temples, was hugely influential in Italy and beyond.


Behind the Dogana, stretching eastwards in the limpid morning light, is the Riva degli Schiavoni, with the Doge’s Palace, the domes of San Marco behind; the white cube of the Prisons and the domes and campanili of Venice’s churches, down to San Pietro di Castello at the far tip of Castello. In the haze on the horizon is the Lido. Joli employs a warm palette of pink and ochre, beige and cream, with a brilliant blue, cloud-flecked sky. Boats articulate the shimmering expanse of the Bacino. At the right is a lateen-rigged trading craft, while smaller cargo boats fill the foreground. In the middle distance is a lavishly decorated galley, followed by gondolas fitted with a felze or cabin for privacy. Joli depicts two Near Eastern merchants chatting on the shore, symbolising Venice’s proud maritime trading history as the conduit between western Europe, Byzantium and beyond. By the time that Joli made this painting the city’s days as a maritime power had faded and it was the magic of her architecture which brought Grand Tourists to marvel at La Serenissima.


Joli made several versions of this view[1]. The composition must have been drawn when Joli was living in Venice from 1732 to 1742, but Ralph Toledano dates all the oil paintings from Joli’s sojourn in London from 1744 to 1749. He arrived two years before Canaletto, working as a scenographer and assistant manager of the King’s Theatre, Haymarket under the direction of the impresario John James Heidegger. The earliest version of this view is possibly San Giorgio Maggiore and the Punta della Dogana, one of five overdoors for the French Room of the 4th Earl of Chesterfield’s Mayfair mansion, Chesterfield House, which can be dated circa 1747[2]. Heidegger commissioned a version with similar shipping to the Richard Green version, including the trading vessel far right and the galley in the centre[3]. Only three versions of the view are signed: the Heidegger painting[4], the Richard Green version and another in a private collection[5].







Modena circa 1700 - 1777 Naples



Antonio Joli was an Italian view painter and scenographer. Born in Modena, he studied with Raffaello Rinaldi and one of the members of the Bibiena family, famous for their theatre designs.  By 1718, Joli was in Rome, where he probably trained with Giovanni Paolo Panini, the painter of vedute and architectural capricci. He gained an important commission to decorate the Villa Patrizi and in 1719 became a member of the Accademia di San Luca.


Joli was back in Modena by circa 1725, where he worked for the Duke of Modena. In 1732 he is first documented in Venice, where he designed stage sets for the San Cassiano and San Samuele theatres; his work was admired by the leading Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni. During this period Joli painted many views of the city, influenced by Canaletto, Marieschi and Carlevarijs.


Joli left Venice in 1742 and went first to Dresden and then to London, where he worked as a scene painter and assistant manager at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket from 1744 to 1748. He also worked on topographical overdoors and decorative schemes, such as that painted for the impresario John James Heidegger at 4 Maids of Honour Row, Richmond (still in situ).


By 1750 Joli was in Madrid, where he remained for four years, working for Charles III of Spain at Buen Retiro as a scenographer and view painter, as well as being commissioned to paint theatrical scenery in the Teatro del Buen Retiro and at Aranjuez. He returned to Venice in 1754 and was elected a member of the Venetian Academy the following year. Joli spent the latter part of his life in Naples, where he finally settled in 1762, employed as Painter to the King in the Court Theatre. Amongst his other illustrious patrons were Sir William Hamilton, Lord John Brudenell, the Duke of Richmond and Lord Spencer.


The work of Antonio Joli is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museo di San Martino, Naples; the Palazzo Reale, Naples; the Palazzo Reale, Caserta; Temple Newsam House, Leeds; the collection of Lord Montagu, Beaulieu, Hampshire, and the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch, Bowhill, Scotland.



[1] Toledano, op. cit., pp.188-194, nos.V.I.1-V.I.7.

[2] Toledano no.V.I.2.

[3] Toledano no.V.I.1.

[4] Signed on the crate being transported by the boat to the left: Mr Jolli /fecit and inscribed on another crate: Sigr Heidegger / London.

[5] Toledano no.V.I.5.


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