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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande” by Canaletto

Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande by Canaletto

“Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande”

by Canaletto

“Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande” by Canaletto depicts the Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health), a large Roman Catholic church in Venice which is also one of the most recent of the so-called plague churches. It stands on the slender finger between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal, making the church visible when entering the Piazza San Marco from the water.

One hundred years before this painting was made in 1630, Venice experienced a devastating outbreak of the plague. As a votive offering for deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build a church dedicated to Our Lady of Health. The church was designed in the baroque style and most of the objects of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death. The dome of the church became an essential addition to the Venice skyline and indicative of the city, which then inspiring artists like Canaletto and this painting.

This Canaletto painting is a typical example of the vedute paintings popular with Grand Tour travellers of the 1700s as a visual record of their travels. Canaletto was one of the more famous painters of city views or vedute, especially of Venice. Many of Canaletto’s paintings can be found in museums across the world, depict highly detailed, usually large-scale paintings of Venetian other famous cityscapes.

Canaletto

Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697 – 1768) better known as Canaletto, who was born in Venice, is famous for his paintings of the city views of Venice, Rome, and London. He was also a printmaker using the etching technique. From 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he painted the many sights of London. He was highly successful in England, thanks to a British merchant, whose extensive collection of Canaletto’s works was sold to King George III in 1762, which significantly increased Canaletto’s prestige.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health), commonly known as the Salute, is a so-called plague church in Venice, Italy. It was conceived after the summer of 1630 when a wave of the plague assaulted Venice, which killed nearly a third of the population within a year. In the city, 46,000 people died while in the lagoons over 94,000 died. Repeated displays of the sacrament, as well as prayers and processions to existing churches, had failed to stem the epidemic. Echoing the architectural response to a prior assault of the plague (1575–76), the Venetian Senate decreed that a new church would be built.

The desire to create a suitable monument at a place that allows for easy processional access from Piazza San Marco led senators to select the present site. The Salute is a vast, octagonal building with two domes and a pair of picturesque bell-towers at the back. Built on a platform made of 1,000,000 wooden piles, it is constructed of Istrian stone and brick covered with marble dust. At the apex of the pediment stands a statue of the Virgin Mary who presides over the church which was erected in her honour.

The Senate also decided that it would visit the church each year. On November 21 the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, known as the Festa della Madonna della Salute, the city’s officials parade from San Marco to the Salute for a service in gratitude for deliverance from the plague is celebrated. The ceremony involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge and is still a significant event in Venice.

Since then, the dome of the Salute has become emblematic of the city, inspiring artists like Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, John Singer Sargent, and Francesco Guardi.

Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande

  • Title:                        Santa Maria della Salute in Venedig vom Canal Grande
  • Artist:                      Canaletto
  • Year:                        1730
  • Medium:                 Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions            44 × 89 cm (17.3 × 35 in)
  • Museum:                 Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Canaletto

Reflections

  • As a votive offering for deliverance from 1630 plague, this church has inspired many artists.
  • Have you seen this chirch in other painting or images of Venice?

Explore the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

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“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world,
that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden.”

– Mary Shelley

~~~


Photo Credits: 1) Canaletto [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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