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18th century masterpiece found in storage at Denver Art Museum

DENVER — A painting by the master, Giovanni Antonio Canal—known as Canaletto—was donated to the Denver Art Museum by a local art collector who passed away.

The painting had some paperwork which was a bit vague and indicated it may have been “from the studio” of the picture-view style artist of Venice.

Since the painting was thought to be from the brush of a student, the piece was put in storage for a number of years before the keen eye of the museum’s curator of paintings, Tim Standring, spotted the painting and sought opinions on who really put brush to canvas.

“Details and brush strokes were too good to be made by students,” said Standring. “Which is why we took photos of the piece to London, where Charles Beddington, the top Canaletto scholar in the world decided to come to Colorado to get a first-hand look at the painting.”

Beddington told the museum staff, “Of course you know this is a circa 1724 Canaletto!” The date makes Venice: The Molo from the Bacino di S. Marco not on the work of a Master, but it turns out to be one of the earliest works of the famed picture-view style paintings.

So, James Squires began the delicate work of trying to restore the work of art to its original beauty.

“The painting had been through a series of restoration efforts—none very good—and it appeared as if it had been hanging in a home where “50 years of Marlboros were smoked,” said Squires.

These picture-view paintings were commissioned by visitors from mainly England, who loved the views in Italy, so they had artists paint photos if you will, which they took home. Some survived. Others such as the one at the Denver Art Museum were lost for a time but have now been found.

The 18 by 31-inch canvas is now on display for all to see and while we see flea market finds from time to time worth a pretty-penny, Standring says, “This find should give everyone a real reason to go into their basements and storage facilities, you never know what you will find.”

If the clock tower on St. Mark’s Square in the painting appears familiar, Denver’s own May D & F Clock Tower was designed after the tower in Venice, which collapsed in the 1900’s.

Oh, by-the-way, one of Canaletto’s other paintings of Venice sold for something like $17 million.