The artist’s father Canaletto painted stage sets, and the theatrical tricks with light and perspective he passed on to his famous son were evident in the splendid backdrop of Saturday’s membership board meeting at the Saint Jacques Palace.
The oil painting that figured so well was painted in 1744 and purchased by George III in 1762. The Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute to the east towards the Bacino shows the large church of Santa Maria della Salute towering over the water in the strong morning sun. Measuring over 2 meters (7 feet) wide, it was signed by the artist – real name Giovanni Antonio Canal – on the barge moored at the front of the composition.
It is one of many views of Venice, both in oils and sketches, originally collected or commissioned by Canaletto’s entrepreneurial agent, the British consul, Joseph Smith. An inventory of Buckingham Palace from 1819 records the painting as hanging in the king’s own bedroom.
Many major royal paintings are now away from their London home, on display at the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh, but this one has remained. Its choice as the setting for the proclamation of a king is slightly undermined by the fact that Venice was proudly republican at the time it was painted and purchased, remaining so, as La Serenissima, or the Most Serene Republic, until 1797 .