View of the Entrance to the Arsenal, 1732
Oil on canvas, 18.5 x 31.02 inches [47 x 78.8 cm]
In the 1730s Canaletto received many commissions from Great Britain, these included 24 vedute for the Duke of Bedford. These depicted the most famous sights of Venice, though a few of them are devoted to less well-known location, like the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, the View of the Entrance to the Arsenal and the Campo San Rocco.
View of the Entrance to the Arsenal is one of 24 works by Canaletto bought by the 4th Duke of Bedford which remain together at Woburn Abbey.
The powerful Venetian fleets were built in the city's Arsenal, or naval boatyard, which had been established in the twelfth century. This view shows its water entrance, with dry docks and a ship inside, and to the left the Great Gateway which was built in 1460.
Canaletto followed the preparatory composition he established on paper in the painting in most respects, although in the latter he placed the two towers either side of the entrance further apart. The diagonals of the wooden footbridge in the foreground of View of the Entrance to the Arsenal effectively vary and break up what would otherwise be a very static composition based upon vertical and horizontal emphases.