The painting represents a square in Padua, before an extensive makeover in 1775-1776 altered its appearance. The painting is therefore also valuable as a record of the city’s history.
The great piazza, with its large grassy surfaces, is bounded by the basilica of
Santa Giustina and by the University College. The open space is populated by many figures, but it doesn’t look particularly animated. What does make the square look vibrant is not the bustle of the people but rather the brightness that pervades it, the dense shadows contrasting with the light, and the clearing of the sky, which emphasizes the horizontal format of the canvas.
The painting is an excellent example of the Venetian veduta, characterized by the integration of natural and architectural elements into a scenic whole, a genre of which Canaletto was one of the finest interpreters.