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The Garden of Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.


late 1770s


Francesco Guardi
Italian, 1712–1793

About this artwork

A member of a family of painters in Venice, Francesco Guardi is renowned for his lively views of the most recognizable monuments of this picturesque city and for his engaging architectural fantasies, or capricci. Wealthy travelers making the grand tour of Europe—considered an essential part of an education for upper-class men—provided an important market for such views. In this case, however, the patron was not a foreigner passing through Venice, but John Strange, who lived in the city on the lagoon as the British resident, or representative.

This view of the garden of a private house in Venice was highly unusual for Guardi. On the right is the rear facade of the Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo; the front faces the Grand Canal. The artist’s main subject here is the palace’s formal garden, a luxury in Venice’s crowded urban environment. Elegant couples stroll through the garden’s geometric parterres. Guardi’s attention to the play of light further animates the scene—a shadow cast by an unseen building in the foreground divides the composition and contrasts with the bright light reflected off the facade of the residence and the distant, shimmering lagoon on the left.

These observations of light and place probably reflect the aesthetic interests of Strange, who commissioned the painting from Guardi as one of a set of four remarkably original views. Two of the four paintings show Strange’s own villa on the mainland. What connection Strange may have had to the Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo is unclear.


On View, Gallery 217


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Francesco Guardi


The Garden of Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo


Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


48 × 78 cm (19 × 30 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Marion and Max Ascoli Fund

Reference Number


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