Canaletto's The Molo, Venice realises $12.8m to lead Christie's auction

Giovanni Canaletto's The Molo, Venice has sold as top lot in Christie's July 2 Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale, which was held in London.

Canaletto The Molo Venice
The view shows Venice's greatest monuments and was a popular composition in Canaletto's oeuvre

The masterpiece is one of a sequence of views of the Molo from the Bacino, which were created by Canaletto in the 1730s at the height of his powers. It brought an outstanding £8.4m ($12.8m), making a 41% increase on its £6m high estimate.

The view is taken from a point opposite the Campanile and therefore the key buildings at the heart of Venice can be seen, particularly the greatest religious and secular monuments of the city.

It was a popular composition in Canaletto's oeuvre and this, along with its variants, were in considerable demand, especially in England, where Venice's status as an aristocratic republic gave Canaletto's work a particular political resonance at the time.

Peter Paul Rubens Bearded Head
The work was completed rapidly by Rubens, as one of many studies from multiple angles

Sir Peter Paul Rubens' depiction of a bearded man in profile holding a bronze figure saw the second highest bids in the auction, realising £1.7m ($2.6m).

The character head study was created by Rubens (1577-1640) for his own use in his famous Wapper studio. Like the Canaletto work, it was executed during the peak of his career, following his return from Italy and having established a strong reputation among the sought-after painters of Antwerp.

The work has belonged to the princely house of Schonborn since at least 1719.

Sotheby's and Bonhams also held old masters sales this week, with Sotheby's establishing a new world record for the work of El Greco. Bonhams' sale was led by a fantastic winter scene from Dutch artist Isaac van Ostade.

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