Canaletto in Venice: the series from the Duke of Bedford on loan to The Holburne Museum

By School House

3 years ago

Since we re-opened the Holburne Museum in 2011, now some 10 years ago, no exhibition has demonstrated so well the success of the redevelopment with Eric Parry’s stunning new building where, in the top-lit exhibition galleries, they are showing the remarkable Canalettos from Woburn.

This series of works commissioned through Consul Smith are some of the most beautiful views that most of us know today: certainly, those better educated than I am will go round all 23 often knowing exactly where they are.

As Charles Beddington, the authority on Canaletto points out in a masterful catalogue, there seem to be 2 if not 3 separate groups. You will notice the very open ones with wonderful small figures, and then several with larger figures as in the only known view of the Arsenal. Amongst all are little details which bring this city to life. Do buy the catalogue which is brilliantly illustrated.

I doubt there will ever be a similar show of one private commission and these have not left Woburn for 70 years.

It would be out of character for me not to mention that the Holburne is a privately funded museum, led by a brilliant director, Chris Stephens, where the staff have distinguished themselves in getting through the pandemic, adjusting from day-to-day. The Holburne receives no Local Authority or State Funding towards the running expenses and to make ends meet they rely upon trusts and the Patrons and Friends groups, both of which offer certain annual benefits.

If you enjoy a visit, or you feel anyway inclined to support this great local museum which we saved some 10 years ago, do consider joining one of the groups, preferably the Patrons. I think you will recognise that not only is the Holburne a fine regional museum with a great collection, but, with its education and exhibition schedules, it is now of National Importance as well.

More on all this such as Opening Times for Canaletto, and details about joining Friends or Patrons can be found on

by David Posnett