Flemish painting and De Jonckheere Gallery's old master paintings
All the effervescence of Venice at the end of the 18th century emanates from these two wonderful canvases by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison. Just like a swan song,...read more
All the effervescence of Venice at the end of the 18th century emanates from these two wonderful canvases by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison. Just like a swan song, these two works once again offer us two sublime vedute of the Serenissima during its finest hours. A brilliant colourist, Bison makes the gold of the gondolas gleam in the green waters of the Grand Canal and plunges the viewer into the sparkling atmosphere of the lagoon.
The first view is of the Grand Canal. Like his numerous predecessors, Bison delights in returning to this wonderful perspective with the Rialto bridge as its peak, subtly outlined as the vanishing point. This perspective reveals numerous palaces, typical of Venice’s golden age, at the feet of which a multitude of gondolas transport the town’s elite. Heavy drapes in the city’s colours – red and gold – hang from the balconies. Onlookers flock to the terraces on the quays to watch the beginning of the parade, which announces the start of the famous carnival. The gondoliers proudly steering their luxurious boats are especially vigilant, knowing that they are being closely watched by the public.
The second, just as remarkable view, depicts the different buildings of the Piazzetta. From Saint Mark’s Basin, the artist offers a superb panorama of the ducal palace, the Marciana library and the campanile. We can also see the two famous columns surmounted, on the left, with the bronze winged lion, the symbol of Saint Mark the evangelist, and Saint Theodore in marble on the right. According to superstition, true Venetians never pass between the columns: perhaps this is because this is where executions used to be carried out? However, the painter’s attention is more focused on the portrayal of the Bucentaure anchored in front of the ducal palace. This majestic ship, decorated in red and gold, evokes the celebration of the symbolic marriage between the new Doge and the Adriatic, and consequently, all the former power of the former maritime republic.
The beauty of these two paintings exalts the prestigious past of the city and implicitly marks the artist’s political engagement. Bison actually lived in a town under foreign occupation: annexed by Bonaparte in 1797 and then handed over to the Hapsburgs, Venice was still under Austrian rule in 1831. Following the July Revolution, a first war of independence was led by Charles Albert of Sardinia against Austria. While this conflict ended in a relative failure of the Italian cause, it was nevertheless the catalyst for a process that was to lead to the declaration of the kingdom of Italy (1861) some thirty years later and the incorporation of Venice in 1866. The last great representative of veduta, Bison, through his perfect mastery of perspective, the accuracy of the colours and the fantastic choice of subject, explores the magical beauties of the lagoon one last time. Just like the greatest, such as Canaletto and Guardi, he passes on a radiant and timeless image of Venice over the centuries.
Palmanova 1762 - Milan 1844
Born in Palmanova in Friuli in 1762, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison occupies a special place among the painters who prolonged the vedutist tradition at the turn of the 18th...
Palmanova 1762 - Milan 1844
Born in Palmanova in Friuli in 1762, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison occupies a special place among the painters who prolonged the vedutist tradition at the turn of the 18th century. An eclectic and versatile artist, he also left behind an important oeuvre as a painter and decorator, following in the prestigious footsteps of Tiepolo, Guardi, Ricci, Zaïs and Diziani: numerous palaces and villas in Ferrara, Padua, Treviso, Udine, Trieste and the surrounding areas bear witness to his ability as a fresco artist. Essentially dedicating himself to topographical veduta in his easel paintings, he nevertheless dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including fantasy. Other than these two aspects of his art, he produced an impressive number of graphic works.
In 1831, he settled in Milan and from 1834 to 1838, he made a series of journeys which took him successively to Florence, Rome, Naples and Paestum, thus broadening his vedutist repertoire.
As regards his protean body of work, we should emphasise – besides the variety of subjects – the extreme quality of his pictorial production, making him one of the most worthy epigones of the Venetian vedutist tradition in the 18th century.