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Giuseppe Bernardino Bison

View of Venice: arrival of the Bucentaur in San Nicolò di Lido, on Ascension Day

Canvas: 70 x 92 cm

introduction

Prior to Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Canaletto – and later Francesco Guardi – portrayed the Doge arriving on the Bucentaur in San Nicolò di Lido on Ascension Day. This event was linked to the festivities for the crowning of Doge Alvise Mocenigo, which took place in 1763. In the painting, we see the majestic ship decorated with red canvases and golden sculptures. A myriad of boats, some more lavish than others, sail around it. It was during this event that the Doge, accompanied by the town's most important figures, boarded the Bucentaur, a flat-bottomed galley with oars, and sailed from Venice and the lagoon to the open sea off the Lido for a very special ceremony. Known as the Sposalizio del Mare (the Marriage of the Sea), the Doge would throw a gold ring into the Adriatic to symbolise their union, but above all, the city’s domination over the waters. At the end of the ceremony, the ship returned to Venice. The first ceremony undoubtedly took place around the year 1000, while the last one was performed in 1797, before the abdication of the last Doge in front of Napoleon Bonaparte's troops. This secular tradition had therefore been relegated to the pages of history when Bison decided to depict this subject.

Bison drew inspiration from the engravings made in 1766 after Canaletto’s drawings on the subject, kept in Washington’s National Gallery (Kress Collection); their quality demonstrates an intended topographical rendering. Bison freely reinterprets the scene with his own special touch and range of colours. The speed at which Bison worked allowed him to offer a large number of subjects representing the Serenissima to his clients in Trieste. He worked in this small town for the majority of his career and the public was particularly fond of his charming small scenes showing an idyllic view of the city. His paintings are always meticulous even though his personal touch is quite clear, such as the small marks that form his figures and other details, as well as the changing reflections of the water in the lagoon rendered with such skill.

Provenance :
Private collection, Italy.