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Gondolas on the Lagoon (Gray Lagoon)

Francesco Guardi , ca. 1765

Gondole sulla laguna

The painting is regarded as one of the masterpieces of the vedutismo (a genre of landscape painting) of Francesco Guardi, able to represent the emotion of an instant of light in the peace of the lagoon. In a suspended and almost magical atmosphere, some gondolas sail on the calm water, while in the distance, in the rosy light of sunset, is visible a stretch of the Venetian estuary. The view is painted using a narrow range of colours, where grays and blues predominate.
Water and sky seem to merge, barely separated by the buildings, walls, and bell towers on the horizon. The precise identification of the place, perhaps one of the extreme offshoots of Murano, remains uncertain, here rendered in a way entirely new in the Venetian painter’ repertoire.
For the balance of the composition, making it unique, some scholars have suggested that the work might be the fragment of a larger painting: the curvilinear weave of the canvas along the lower edge and along the left edge rules out the possibility that the canvas was reduced in size on these two sides, but it is possible that it was instead cut along the other two edges. Historians agree in considering this work, dated to around 1765, an anticipation of the development of landscape painting in the 19th century.

Data Sheet


Francesco Guardi, 1712-1793


ca. 1765

Material and technique

Oil on canvas


31 cm x 41.8 cm



Inventory number

18th Century Room

The Eighteenth-Century Veneto Room, along with the Perugino Room and the Fourteenth-Century Room, housed most of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli’s paintings. Historically known as the First Picture Room, it now houses works by Canaletto, Rosalba Carriera, Francesco Guardi, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.


The Museum hosts over 300 paintings. Among them, many Italian works from the Renaissance: masterpieces from Tuscany (Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Pollaiuolo), Lombardy (Luini, Boltraffio, Solario) and Veneto (Bellini, Mantegna). Important is also the group of 18th century Italian painting (Guardi, Canaletto, Tiepolo, Fra Galgario). In the collection, there are mainly portraits and small size paintings.

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