Little is known about Francesco Guardi. Members of his family were active as painters of devotional works, and he initially worked with his older brother, Antonio, as a figure painter. Influenced as a view-painter by Canaletto, with whom he possibly trained for a time, he may also have apprenticed in the studio of his brother-in-law, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Today he is remembered chiefly for his magical evocations of the sights and atmosphere of Venice.
Compared to the neatly delineated Venetian views of his predecessor Canaletto, Guardi’s are painted with great brio. Rising at left is the campanile, or bell tower, next to the open space known as the Piazzetta, marked by the columns of Saint Theodore and the Lion of Saint Mark. At center is the imposing pink and white facade of the Doge’s Palace, with the state galleon reserved for the doge moored at the quay, oars raised in waiting. Gondolas and cargo boats ply the slate-colored water, with reflections that enhance its glassy surface. Guardi’s agile brush creates a miragelike image of the city on a lagoon, the forms quivering and dissolving in the sunlight.