OIL PAINTING: Bacino di San Marco, 1710
This view shows Venice from a ship that would have been moored some one hundred and fifty metres outside the Riva degli Schiavoni. The panorama embraces the area between the Redentore, at the left on the Giudecca, and the two columns on the Molo at the far right. The entrance to the Grand Canal is located in the centre, with the Punta della Dogana and the Santa Maria della Salute to its left. Numerous boats are on the water, transporting goods, animals, and people, including one with Capuchin monks en route to the Redentore. On the left a sloop flying the Dutch flag is just being rowed out of sight. Behind it lies a large Venetian threemaster with the lion of St. Mark on its stern.
The colours are light shades of grey-green, grey-blue, pink and beige, and bright red for the flags, sails and clothing. A soft, tempered light enters the scene from the northeast at a low angle on what is evidently an early summer morning. In this scene the eye is led into the distance in the west. The vantage-point chosen by Van Wittel causes the impression of two equally wide tunnel-shaped waterways, the Canale della Giudecca being however two to three times as large as the entrance of the Grand Canal.
Moreover, the left waterway is obstructed by a merchant-man, while the small boats in front of it and the quay to the right lead the eye to the Grand Canal. The Santa Maria della Salute, almost an entity with the Dogana, seems to rise out of the water like an enormous vessel reflected in the Bacino. All the buildings are sharply focused and rendered with an almost painful precision; this is true also of the Salute, although its site lies more than seven hundred metres away. Van Wittel must have worked out the composition and its perspective construction from a great distance, and individual details at close range; this is the only possible explanation for the painting's unlikely degree of topographical accuracy.