Depicting the Dogana da Mar which stands at the outward tip of Venice’s triangle, the 11 x 8.5in (28 x 22cm) oil on canvas sold in Lewes, East Sussex, came from a local property as part of a deceased estate.
It carried a label for Mayfair dealer Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd, where it was believed to have been acquired in the 1920s.
The work also had an intriguing inscription on the verso for Auguste Châtelain, a Swiss psychiatrist, historian and collector who became a rector at the University of Neuchâtel in the early 20th century.
He is believed to have owned at least one other work by Canaletto: The Lock at Dolo dated to c.1755 which currently appears on the website of dealer Robilant + Voena and was inscribed in the same way with Châtelain’s name on the back of the canvas.
The view itself shows the Dogana, one of Venice’s old customs buildings (now a museum), painted from the Bacino di San Marco with its famous portico and tower to the centre and the buildings of the Zattere promenade to the left.
Offered as a fully autograph work and estimated at £100,000-150,000 at the auction on September 28, it drew a strong commission bid before the sale. Interest on the day, however, carried it well over estimate and it was eventually knocked down at £300,000 to Robilant+Voena which saw off competition from a number of other phone bidders.
The Gorringe’s catalogue noted that the work appears as ‘no 158’ in WG Constable’s Canaletto catalogue raisonné with the comment: “Probably once formed part of larger picture.”
The catalogue entry also stated, though: “The composition, however, functions very well as it is and, in the absence of technical evidence to demonstrate it may have been reduced in size, there is no reason to assume it was not conceived in its current format.”
Edmondo di Robilant from the London dealership told ATG: “We had it out of its frame before purchasing it and I can tell you that the painting is absolutely not a fragment and not part of a larger composition. There’s no way we would’ve purchased it otherwise.”
The price was the highest for an Old Master in the regions so far this year, although not the highest price for a picture at Gorringe’s. That title still belongs a John William Godward (1858-1922) painting of a reclining woman that made £440,000 in 2005.
When asked about the final sum, di Robilant said: “In my mind the price was in line with what I thought we would have to pay for it.”