The corner of a massive building with awnings on both sides is seen on the right side; it has arched windows above the street level windows and several stories with balconies above. To the left is a long sloping stairway with awnings projecting above the stairway. In the distance beyond the stairway can be see the tower of a church. Buildings at the far left of the composition are barely indicated. Pediestrians are visible throughout, adjacent to the buildings on either side as well as ascending the stairs.
Whistler's choice for subjects while in Venice rarely included the major monuments, familiar through the work of artists from Canaletto and Guardi to Turner earlier in the century. Here, the famed Rialto Bridge that crosses the Grand Canal is not shown in its immediately recognizable view spanning the water, but from the side of the bridge, showing the stairs that allow pedestrians to cross the Grand Canal. This disoriented vantage point is further heightened by the elevated position that opens up an undescribed passage at the bottom of the image.
Whistler wrote to his mother from Venice saying how he had "discovered a Venice within Venice that others never seem to have perceived." This etching of Venice's most famous bridge illustrates Whistler's penchant for finding subjects along back canals and in otherwise unexplored views.
Seen from a distance with an expanse of water in the foreground, a city can be seen along the horizon line wtih towers, domes and sailing ships. Poles marking the channel stike out of the water and gondolas can be seen in the middle ground.
Whistler rarely showed Venice in ways that would be familiar to travelers to the city. He did not focus on the principal tourist views that would include the Grand Canal and St. Mark's cathedral. This view of the panoramal of the city is shown from a distance so that the individual monuments are not immediately recognizable.
Below title is notation: St Gregorio is a suppressed Monastery facing Grand Canal and has a very pretty court Facade brick, once stuccoed. Entrance Marble. Noted: red marble ; white marble Above doorway is notation: there is a panel, a sort of pediment with figure of S. Gregorio above center of Doorway. Lower R corner of drawing: SKETCHED APRIL 3. 91
A view of a city along the edge of water sweeps from the foreground towards the right in the distance. Along quays, bridges and promenades can be seen groupoings of people walking and in conversation. Boats populate the water's edge: smaller boats in the foreground, larger multi-masted ships in the distance.
When Whistler first arrived in Venice, he took rooms in the Palazzo Rezzonico on the Grand Canal. Those rooms proved too expensive and after Otto Henry Bacher and Frank Duveneck arrived in Venice Whistler and Maud moved to rooms near San Biagio at the Casa Jankovitz, just off the Riva degli Schiavoni. Seen in reverse, this view looks up the Riva towards St. Marks, the domes and campanile tower of which are visible at the far right.
Inscription above the beam: Flatly carved in the wood ; below: Venice April 1st Notation next to band of ornamentation on right of shield: carved Inscribed: capital in COURTYARD ST. GREGORIO VENICE April 2nd 91 Directly above drawing of capital with acanthus leaves, labelled: WROT IRON GRILL