Description & Technical information

A separate body of Giuseppe Bernardino Bison’s oeuvre, and one for which he was greatly admired, were landscapes executed in gouache or tempera. The artist enjoyed a particular ability to translate the large-scale, decorative schemes on which his public reputation rested into small, finely executed gouache landscapes imbued with a remarkable atmospheric quality. Like his contemporary Giacomo Guardi, Bison produced many small gouache views of Venice as finished objects for sale, although his works display a far greater technical skill and refinement than those of Guardi. 

Venetian views such as this by Bison were in great demand among collectors and connoisseurs of the day. The artist painted a number of gouache views of the city on the lagoon, most of which are fairly small in scale and full of charming anecdotal detail. Many of his views of Venice were inspired by, and in some cases derived from, printed depictions of the city, notably a series of fourteen engravings by Antonio Visentini after paintings by Canaletto, published in 1735 as Prospectus magni canalis Venetiarum and again in 1742 in an expanded edition, entitled Urbis Venetiarum prospectus celebriores, with twenty-four more views. However, Bison was always careful to bring the architectural motifs, as well as the costumes of the figures depicted, up to date.

This view of the Basilica of St. Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, the Piazzetta and the Campanile may be grouped with a number of small gouaches by Bison of the area of the Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta, populated by elegant figures. The prominent red and white Austrian flags flying in the Piazza serve to date the present sheet to the period when Venice was occupied by Austria. The city had been ceded to Austria by Napoleon in the Treaty of Campo Formio of October 1797, and Venice was under Austrian administration between 1798 and 1805, and again between 1814 and 1848. Bison is known to have spent some time in Venice around 1800, when he worked at the Palazzo Dolfin, and this gouache is likely to date from this time. Although the artist spent the last four decades of his career living and working in Trieste and Milan, the present sheet may also have been produced on one of the periodic visits that he made to Venice during the latter period of his career.

A closely comparable gouache of the Piazza San Marco and the Campanile seen from a different viewpoint, of the same scale and approximate date, was on the art market in London in 2013.

144 x 193 mm. (5 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.) [image]
170 x 221 mm. (6 5/8 x 8 3/4 in.) [sheet]

Medium: Gouache on board
Signature: Inscribed Souvenir de Venise / Vue de la Piazetta, du Palais Ducal, du coin des Procuratie / vers la mer…et isle de St. Georges au fond on the reverse of the backing board.

Dimensions: 14.4 x 19.3 cm (5⁵/₈ x 7⁵/₈ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints