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Work Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice

Department of Prints and Drawings: 19th century

Statue équestre du Colleoni

Prints and Drawings
19th century

Grollemund Hélène

A exceptionally talented artist, Bonington was celebrated by the French artists and critics of his time, who acknowledged their debt to him. He spent time in Venice in 1826. His frequent walks around the city are attested to by numerous drawings, watercolors and paintings, notable examples of which can be found in the Louvre' holdings. This Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of the masterpieces of the Frédéric Villot collection, is among his most famous works of this period.

Bonington and Delacroix

Bonington was schooled in the tradition of the English watercolorists Girtin and Cotman. Arriving in France at the age of fifteen, he very quickly became one of the most influential members of a group of young artists associated with the studio of Antoine-Jean Gros. His encounter with Delacroix was a critical turning point in his career. After working together in England in 1825, the two artists shared a studio for a time in Paris, united by close ties of friendship. Bonington imparted to Delacroix his taste for vivid, brilliant colors, and his exemplary watercolor technique.

Venice and the Romantics

The year 1826 saw the peak of Bonington's brief career, cut short by tuberculosis. The artist traveled to Italy in the company of Baron Charles Rivet (1800-1872). The two men hurriedly visited Milan, Brescia, Lakes Garda and Verona because Bonington, according to Rivet, "thought only of Venice". To the Romantics, the city, which had been in rapid decline since the Austrian occupation, was a masterpiece that nature was irrevocably dissolving before their eyes. It seems that for Bonington the melancholy that gave rise to this notion was coupled with the need to fully record a city that he might never see again.

The glorification of a condottiere

The stay in the City of the Doges lasted from April 20th to May 19th. Bonington took great pleasure in exploring Venice-the city's changing light and brightly-colored buildings suited his technique admirably. The watercolor in the Louvre's collection is one of Bonington's most famous works. Its subject is the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1400-1475), among the sculptor Verrocchio's most famous works in Venice, located near the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Several pencil sketches, preserved in England (collection of the Count of Shelburne, Wobood), show how Bonington circled the statue before finding the ideal angle. The changing daylight dramatises the scene and creates high contrasts that emphasize the monument's imposing character and the condottiere's restrained vitality.


Noon P. , Richard Parkes Bonington "Du plaisir de peindre", Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1991 n 100
Sérullaz A. , D'outre-Manche : L'art britannique dans les collections publiques françaises, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1994, n 141

Technical description

  • Richard Parkes Bonington (Arnold, Nottinghamshire, 1802 - London, 1828)

    Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice


  • Watercolor and gouache over sketch in graphite

    H.: 23.2 cm; W.: 17.5 cm

  • Probably part of the Lewis Brown collection, sold March 12, 1839; Frédéric Villot collection; sold in Paris, January 25, 1864, no. 76; acquired at this auction

    MI 889

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Signed with a monogram, lower left corner: R.P.B.