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Home>Collection & Louvre Palace>Curatorial Departments>View of Venice: The Riva degli Schiavoni and the Doges' Palace

Work View of Venice: The Riva degli Schiavoni and the Doges' Palace

Department of Paintings: English painting

Vue de Venise. Le quai des Esclavons et le palais des Doges

© 2007 RMN / Franck Raux

English painting

Odin Alice

In the early nineteenth century, Venice was a favorite destination for artists. Made fashionable, particularly by Lord Byron, the city became the symbol of a disappearing world, and of the magnificent deliquescence so prized by the Romantics. Bonington made the trip in 1826 and painted many views of the city, both in oils and in watercolors. The swiftness of Bonington's brushwork was ideally suited to the changeable character of light on the lagoon.

"Not a boat stirs in red Venice" (Alfred de Musset, Venice, 1829)

This view of Venice depicts the Doges' Palace. In the foreground a group of tradesmen in calm discussion can be made out on the quayside, near their boat full of cloth. Behind them can be seen a more solemn event: the arrival of people who have been brought to the Doges' Palace in gondolas. This seemingly tranquil picture in fact constitutes an original approach to depicting Venice, combining as it does a genre scene with an architectural view. Colors play an important role in achieving this: the picture is enlivened by the striking tone of the buildings, predominantly red; the same color is taken up by the tradesmen's clothes and is set off by a vast, azure sky; more sombre touches are suggested by the dark water, the gondolas, the shadows of buildings, and the black mass of the Doges' Palace. This more nuanced vision of Venice contrasts with the enchanting, idyllic scenes all too often associated with the city.

The "veduta" subverted

This perspective has much in common with a body of work that occupies an important place in the tradition of Venetian painting: topographical depictions, which also have great documentary interest. Bonington knew the work of the uncontested master of the "veduta," or cityscape, the Venetian Antonio Canaletto. With his perfect command of detail and precise stroke, Canaletto had influenced a number of English painters (such as Samuel Scott and William Marlow) during his time London in the middle of the eighteenth century.
Bonington's work brings together several elements: an architectural view combined with the picturesque bustle of a cityscape in a work that has also assimilated the Italian chiaroscuro tradition in painting. Moreover, one can detect the influence of Flemish painting in the group of tradesmen in the foreground. The imaginative cast of this work stems from its reliance on the comfortable familiarity of the everyday, its contrasting treatment of light, and, more generally, its lyrical approach.

A Briton in Italy

In the eighteenth century, English artists had grown very fond of the pictorial techniques and other lessons that could be learned from the great painters of the Italian Renaissance. The early nineteenth century marked the advent of Romanticism in the arts, and a fascination for Italy and its incredible luminosity continued to exert a profound influence on artists. However, the rediscovery of landscape painting in England encouraged artists to create a new style in which nature was observed more subtly and more simply. Bonington's works, falling between realism and Romanticism, were in harmony with this new approach to landscape painting.

Technical description

  • Richard Parkes BONINGTON (Arnold (Nottinghamshire), 1802 - Londres, 1828)

    Vue de Venise. Le quai des Esclavons et le palais des Doges

  • H. : ,41 m. ; L. : ,55 m.

  • Collection Coutan, don Hauguet, Schubert et Milliet, 1883

    R.F. 368

  • Paintings

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