Bird’s Eye View of Venice

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road

    Any visitor to Venice will immediately recognise the distinctive reverse ‘S’ bend of the Grand Canal as it snakes through the centre of the Venetian lagoon. Set against a striking dark background, Francesco Guardi’s Bird’s Eye View has an interesting story tied to the taste of English collectors in the 18th century. 

    In June 1774, Thomas Moore Slade, a young Englishman departed to Italy on the Grand Tour where he remained for three years. In 1775, he commissioned Guardi to produce this map for which he took inspiration from an earlier map originally made by the Italian artist and printmaker, Lodovico Furlanetto (active 1766–1777). A print of Furlanetto’s map of Venice is today in the collection of the National Maritime Museum. What is different between his and Guardi’s map is the depiction of the ‘bucintoro’, the state barge of the Venetian Doge. Guardi privileged accuracy where Furlanetto had taken inspiration in an older version of the boat. Other details such as his lively brushstrokes, notably those small flicks of paint to detail a gondolier or a ripple of water, are recognised as typical of Guardi’s painting style in the mid-1770s.  

    With the start of the American War of Independence in 1775, Slade’s friends advised him to return home. His art collection, including Guardi’s work, returned separately. He retained an interest in art despite taking up a government post, also in the Admiralty.

     By 1961, Guardi’s painting had become part of the Ministry of Defence’s art collection, and spent many years on loan to the National Maritime Museum. It was loaned to public exhibitions in Canada, Montreal, Venice, Seville and Paris from the mid-1960s to 2013. In 2017, a group of works, including this one, was transferred to the Government Art Collection.

  • About the artist

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  • Details
    Bird’s Eye View of Venice
    Oil on canvas
    height: 98.5 cm, width: 172.8 cm
    Transferred from the Ministry of Defence, April 2017
    Commissioned by Tomas Moore Slade; the Admiralty; Ministry of Defence Collection; transferred to GAC 2017
    GAC number