Just One Canaletto

Mar 12 2012

It’s not every week you get the chance to swap a Turner for a Canaletto, but that’s what went on at the Graves Gallery last week. The Festival of the Opening of the Vintage of Macon has gone to the National Gallery in London for their large exhibition Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude which is due to open shortly. As the Turner is such a key work in our collection (and will leave a very large gap on the wall), the National Gallery kindly agreed to lend us the magnificent Venice: The Upper Reaches of the Grand Canal with S Simeone Piccolo by Canaletto in return.

Although it only involves swapping one work for another which may seem fairly straightforward, a lot of planning has gone into making this possible. Taking down such a large work from the Graves and putting up another is no mean feat. Anyone who was outside the library bright and early last Tuesday morning will have noticed a large van and several burly art technicians carrying a painting up the steps of the library and into the foyer. Unlike many state of the art galleries, the Graves only has a small passenger sized lift. The Canaletto is over 2 metres wide and just under 1.5 metres tall - the only way to get this work into the gallery was to carry it up 6 flights of stairs!

They may not look it, but paintings can be extremely heavy. The Canaletto is glazed and has a very ornate frame and it took 5 men to get the work up the stairs. This is always a stressful thing to oversee as a curator and I’m always relieved once the work has reached the top floor. From that point getting the work on the wall is a doddle – an adjustment of the lighting and a change of label and the swap is complete.

The Canaletto fits so well within our Great Outdoors display, which explores artists’ approaches to painting landscape. It sits alongside work created by British artists on the Grand Tour who were seeing and painting Canaletto’s native Italy. There are also clearly connections to the Ruskin collection across the road where views of Venice adorn the walls. We also felt the National Gallery exhibition was one we needed to support. It examines the influence that the French 17th century painter Claude had on Turner’s painting, an influence that is extremely clear in our work. In the meantime, Sheffield has the opportunity to bask in the warm sunlight and beauty of Venice’s Grand Canal.


  1. Written by JOy Hurding about 10 years, 2 months ago

    lovely to see thanks

  2. Written by Dave Atkin about 10 years, 2 months ago

    Given that Ruskin / Turner friendship (if those two characters had folks they could call friend) are there any other Turners in the keeping of Sheffield Galleries?

  3. Written by eric.hildrew about 10 years, 2 months ago

    Yes indeed, but no grand oil paintings like 'The Festival...'. Sheffield holds 15 of Turner's works on paper and 750 prints, including some that Ruskin has scribbled on. Turner's watercolour ‘Sheffield from Derbyshire Lane' is currently on display in the in the Ruskin Collection within the Millennium Gallery as part of a display called ‘Inspired by Turner’ which looks at Ruskin’s relationship to his work. Most of the Turners are displayed as often as possible, but being on paper they are delicate and can only be shown on rotation.

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