View of the Venetian Lagoon from the Public Gardens, signed.
Oil on canvas, 71.5 by 120 cm.
Executed in the 1870s.
Provenance: Galerie Laurencie, Geneva.
Acquired from the above by the Swiss diplomat Henri Coursier, c. 1975.
Thence by descent to the previous owner.
Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity certificate from the expert V. Petrov.
Alexei Bogoliubov visited Venice three times in the course of his long career – in the autumn of 1854, winter and spring of 1863 and, lastly, in the February of 1872. View of the Venetian Lagoon from the Public Gardens was in all probability painted from an impression left by this last visit.
The image of this wonderful island city captured Bogoliubov’s imagination when still a student at the Imperial Academy of Arts, where he would copy engraved vedute and his teacher Maxim Vorobiev’s Venetian sketches. Nevertheless, arriving in Venice in October 1854 after a long journey through Europe, Bogoliubov was completely overwhelmed by his new surroundings. He was later to recall: “Dressing quickly, I ran out into the narrow street, weaved left and right managing to emerge, more by luck than judgement, on St Mark’s Square,where I stood at length gaping in astonishment. I wandered around the square for about an hour looking now at the piazzetta, now the entrance to the Palazzo Ducale, then the cathedral doors, stopping over nothing... Thus, on the first day, I bowled along like a hoop, scooting from one view to another. The warm Venetian evening came and a full moon floated up as though by design; night fell like a curtain and suddenly Venice appealed even more. The black gondolas striped silver across the surface of the Grand Canal and lagoon. Everything seemed covered in a fine, pale-bluish gauze. I jumped into a public gondola and was taken to Custom House. There I sat for a long while on the marble steps, only setting off to dine at 10 in the evening... My first sketch was the waterfront — with the Doge’s palace in the foreground. It was difficult — very difficult — not only to paint but to sketch the details of this intricate building. Nowadays, I would restrict myself to sketching the perspective and dimensions of the building and take the details from a photograph. But in those days photography had only just replaced daguerreotype and the best local photographer was selling views at a hundred francs per copy and more, which was completely beyond my means. This is why I used my pen to chisel out every column, capital and cornice on the palaces and the buildings, doing the drawings in folio, which in no small way taught me how to make loose, natural drawings of architecture, for which I had always had a passion. There are 400 examples of these drawings which can be seen the Academy of Arts. Then I made studies of the church with the canal, and travelled to the Lido to paint the sea. I painted several views of Venice from the public gardens. I worked tirelessly for two months”.
These recollections record with surprising accuracy Bogoliubov’s favourite views of Venice. One of the artist’s favourite viewpoints was of the lagoon seen from the public gardens, of which this landscape is a variation. The perspective has been altered somewhat to allow him to capture the magnificent panorama, from San Giorgio Maggiore and the church of Santa Maria Salute to the Schiavoni embankment. The warm lilac-grey, blue and gold tints of this canvas recreate the feel of a calm Italian morning and involuntarily convey that rapture with which Russian landscapists from Sylvester Shchedrin to Ivan Aivazovsky handled their depictions of Venice.