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The Rialto

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 199
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 298 x 203 mm
Signed: butterfly at left (3)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 36
Catalogues: K.211; M.208; W.181
Impressions taken from this plate  (36)


awning, belltower, bridge, church, city, people, shop, steps, street.


Only one title is known, as in the following examples:

'The Rialto' 1883, F.A.S.). 1
'The Rialto' (1882, Whistler). 2
'The Rialto' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 3

1: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 41 ).

2: Whistler to T. McLean, 28 August 1882, GUW #13643.

3: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 181).


High buildings, at least five storeys high, line each side of a broad street leading up to the Rialto bridge. The right side of the street, and the steep row of shops on the near side of the bridge, is visible. Broad awnings shade the shops on each side. At the street corner on the right is a shop facing the square, with 'VENDITA CARNA' [sic] written on the signboard above the awning. There are many people on the street and climbing the steps of the bridge. Beyond the bridge is a row of buildings and a church tower.


The Rialto bridge over the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy. The view is from a first floor window above the Sottoportico Pirieta in the Campo San Bartolomeo, San Marco, looking west to the Rialto Bridge. It shows the Fabriche Vecchie and the campanile of San Giovanni Elemosinario on the far side of the Grand Canal. 4 This view, drawn accurately on the copper plate, is reversed, as usual, in the print.

4: Grieve 2000[more], pp. 83, 192.

The campo and bridge are extremely busy and the first floor viewpoint made it possible to draw a detailed and accurate view of the scene without constant interruption.The sign on the butcher's shop is not entirely clear, but it should read 'VENDITA CARNE' not 'CARNA'.


Etching: c_K211_01
The Rialto m0733, pencil, 1879/1880,
The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (46081).
A drawing made in 1879 or 1880, and reproduced above, was used to wrap up the copper plate, but is neither a direct study nor tracing used for the etching. It does, however, show a very similar composition, a view taken from the opposite side of the Grand Canal, on the west side, looking east. 5

5: MacDonald 2001[more], pp. 73-75.

The subject is one of the most popular and well known sites in Venice, and, like The Piazzetta 218, was probably chosen to appeal to the potential collectors and armchair travellers who were the clients of the Fine Art Society. It was, however, drawn from and unusual angle. And it was reserved for Second Venice Set while The Piazzetta was published in the First Venice Set.