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Canaletto, 1697–1768
The City of Westminster from Near the York Water Gate
Additional Title(s):

The Thames Looking towards Westminster from near the York Water Gate

View on the Thames from York Stairs showing Westminster Bridge
between 1746 and 1747
Materials & Techniques:
Watercolor, gray wash, and pen and brown ink on thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 15 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches (38.7 x 71.8 cm), Frame: 32 × 42 × 1 1/4 inches (81.3 × 106.7 × 3.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | bridge (built work) | buildings | cathedrals | cityscape | columns | docks | gate | piers | river | water tower
Associated Places:
City of Westminster | England | London | Thames | United Kingdom
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

Canaletto, who had primarily been known for his paintings, began to devote himself seriously to drawing and etching after the beginning of the War of Austrian Succession. By the time he moved to London, in 1746, his drawings were prized by collectors as works of art in their own right. Westminster Bridge, which can be seen in the left background, was one of Canaletto's favorite motifs during his time in London. Built between 1739 and 1750 (with construction delayed by the collapse of a pier in 1747), the bridge was in a much more advanced state of completion at the time Canaletto was in London than he indicates in this drawing. This inaccuracy hardly seems to matter, however. Throughout his career Canaletto had evinced an interest in portraying buildings and scenery at moments of change or accretion. Here, the uncompleted Westminster Bridge functions analogously to the fanciful ruins in his earlier Venetian works. The picturesque qualities of the foreground structures were clearly of equal interest to him. The massive wooden water tower, crowned with a finial, distributed water to outlying areas of London. York Watergate (the marble structure at the foot of the tower), fashioned to resemble a baroque temple, was the riverside entrance to the gardens of the demolished York House. In these forms, Canaletto found buildings that echoed the campaniles and canal-side churches of his native Venice.

Cassandra Albison

Baskett, John, Jules David Prown, Duncan Robinson, Brian Allen, and William Reese. Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art. New Haven : Yale Center for British Art , 2007, cat. no. 17

The Venetian "Veduta" (or view) painter Canaletto was much employed by English Grand Tourists, keen to acquire souvenirs of their stay in Italy. Declining business in Venice led Canaletto un 1746 to visit the country of so many of his patrons. He remained in England (with two trips back to Italy in 1750-1 and 1753) until 1755, painting and drawing views mostly of London. The crisp assurance and liveliness of Canaletto's style gave an infusion of energy to topographical art in Britain. His bold yet elegant pen line, evident in this elaborate drawing of the Thames, had a particularly potent legacy. Even though the emphasis moved away from pen outline as the century progressed, the influence of Canaletto's line can still be seen at the end of the century in the drawing style of Thomas Girtin and even well into the nineteenth century in the work of Samuel Prout.

The impact of Canaletto's English work on the marine painter and specialist in views of the Thomas Samuel Scott, is frequently cited, yet this drawing, with the subsequent oil paintings that Canaletto made of the same composition, appears to be an instance of Canaletto copying Scott. When Canaletto arrived in London in May 1746, Westminster Bridge was almost finished, with all the arches completed, but Canaletto shows only five arches in place/ The drawing seems therefore, to be based not on the actual view up the Thames that Canaletto would have seen but on a painting of the view done by Scott in either 1742 or 1743 (Simon Dickinson Ltd.). In addition to the unfinished bridge, the drawing shows Westminster Abbey at the center, the water tower of the York Buildings Waterworks compact to the right, and, immediately to the right of the water tower, the classical structure of the York Watergate. Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 155 cat. no. 131

Canaletto and the Conquest of Light (Hôtel de Caumont, Aix-en-Provence, France, 2015-05-06 - 2015-09-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Canaletto in England - A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755 (Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2007-01-24 - 2007-04-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Canaletto in England - A Venetian Artist Abroad, 1746-1755 (Yale Center for British Art, 2006-10-19 - 2006-12-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Canaletto in England (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 1993-10-14 - 1994-01-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Canaletto (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989-10-30 - 1990-01-21) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Art of Paul Sandby (Yale Center for British Art, 1985-04-10 - 1985-06-23) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Landscape (Paul Mellon Collection) 1630-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-07-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Drawings and Watercolors from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A loan exhibition of English drawings and watercolours from the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon of Upperville, Virginia, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, 1964, cat. no. 7, pl. V, N5247.M385 L62 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Katharine Baetjer, Canaletto, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1989, pp. 49, 327-9, 332, no. 111, NJ18 C17 B24 1989 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 249, no. 17, pl. 17, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Charles Beddington, Canaletto in England, a Venetian artist abroad, 1746-1755 , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2006, pp. 21, 22, 56, 62, 75-7, no. 13, NJ18 C17 B45 2006 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's sale catalogue : The valuable collection of drawings by old masters, the property of Robert Prioleau Roupell, Esq., Q.C., deceased : 12 July 1887, Christie's, July 12, 1887, p. 65, lot 734, Fiche B51 (YCBA) [YCBA]

W. G. Constable, Canaletto : Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768., Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976, vol. 2, pp. 576-7, no. 747, pl. 139 (vol. 1), NJ18 C17 C65 1976 (YCBA) [YCBA]

English Drawings and Watercolours from the Mellon Collection, The Times (London), issue no. 56195, December 15, 1964, p. 6, Available online: The Times Digital Archive Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML) [ORBIS]

Rozena Anna Kowalczyk, Canaletto : Rome, Londres, Venise : le triomphe de la lumie`re / ouvrage publie´ sous la direction scientifique de Madame Boz?ena Anna Kowalczyk, a` l'occasion de l'exposition au Centre d'art de l'hotel de Caumont, du 6 mai au 13 septembre 2015, Fonds Mercator, Bruxelles, 2015, pp. 132, 148, 149, 150, 211, cat no. 30, NJ18.C17 C356 2015 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

M. J. H. Liversidge, Canaletto & England, Merrell Holberton, London, 1993, p. 79, no. 18, NJ18 C17 C2 1993 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 2, no. 17, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Rich, The Stage's Glory, John Rich, 1692-1761 , University of Delaware Press, 2011, pp. 248-49, fig. 15.5, PN2598.R4575 S73 2011 + Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sotheby's sale catalogue : The celebrated collection of paintings and drawings[,] the property of J. P. Heseltine, Esq. . . : 28 May 1935, Sotheby's, May 28, 1935, p. 52, lot 136, Film B12 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The Art of Paul Sandby, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1985, pp. 17-8, no. 9, NJ18 Sa56 R62 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christopher White, English landscape, 1630-1850, drawings, prints & books from the Paul Mellon Collection , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1977, p. 8, no. 10, pl. LI, NC228 W45 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 155, no. 131, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale University Art Gallery, English drawings and watercolors, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, April 15 - June 20, 1965 , New Haven, 1965, cat. no. 7, Pl. V, NC228 Y34 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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