1710 – Venice - 1743
Venice, the Bacino di San Marco with the Piazzetta and the Doge’s Palace
Oil on canvas: 24 ¾ x 38 3/8 in / 61.6 x 97.5 cm
Frame size: 32 x 46 in / 81.3 x 116.8 cm
General Sir George Cockburn (1763-1847), Shanganagh Castle, Bray, Ireland;
probably included in the sale of the contents, Battersby & Co., 10th August 1936 Thomas Agnew & Sons, London;
from whom acquired circa 1960 by a private collector, UK
Born in the poorest part of Venice, the eldest child of a craftsman, Michele Marieschi appears to have been driven and ambitious, his perfectionism contributing to his early death in 1743. Marieschi spent the first part of his career as a stage designer and turned to view painting in the 1730s, encouraged by the success of Canaletto. He sold paintings to English Grand Tourists, including Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, who commissioned a suite of eighteen works in 1739-40 for Castle Howard. Marieschi also found major Venetian patrons, notably the commander of the Republic’s army, Marshal Johann von der Schulenburg.
Marieschi’s lively sense of Venice as a great outdoor theatre is reflected in his shimmering brushwork, which invests the famous buildings of the Bacino di San Marco with an air of magic. Marieschi keeps a tension between the black lines which define details of buildings and the entwined skeins of colour which evoke the rippling light of the Lagoon playing across stone and brickwork. The blue-green of the lagoon and blue sky are offset by the warm pink of the Doge’s Palace and local colours of the figures. Typical of Marieschi is the composition with strong diagonals which give a dynamic sense of receding space. Assured, dramatic handling of perspective derives from Marieschi’s early career as a theatrical scene painter, as does the vitality of his light and shade.
This view from the Bacino into the heart of Venice’s secular and religious power had been made famous by Canaletto in works such as The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c.1733-4 (Royal Collection), which was engraved by Visentini in 1735. At the far left is the Zecca (Mint), its heavy rustications exuding a fortress-like power, followed by the Libreria Sansoviniana, beyond which towers the Campanile. Marieschi, like Canaletto, reduced its true height to fit it into the composition. At the entrance to the Piazzetta are the columns of St Theodore, the original patron saint of Venice, and St Mark. On the north side of Piazza San Marco can be discerned the Torre dell’Orologio, with the silhouettes of its hour-striking giants, and the golden, Byzantine structure of St Mark’s Basilica. Marieschi delights in the complex, fourteenth century gothic façade of the Doge’s Palace, symbol of the city’s extraordinarily resilient republican government. In front is moored the fusta, the Doge’s single-masted galley. (The gold-encrusted Bucintoro was a much larger vessel, used once a year on Ascension Day for the ceremonial Wedding of the Sea). To the right are the Ponte della Paglia and the Prigioni.
Marieschi made a number of versions of the view between 1736 and 1741, each with different staffage and a different mood. This serene, sunlit view has figures by Giovanni Antonio Guardi (1699-1760), elder brother of the vedute painter Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) and a frequent collaborator with Marieschi.
We are grateful to Professor Ralph Toledano for confirming that this painting is an autograph work by Michele Marieschi, with figures by Giovanni Antonio Guardi.
1710 - Venice - 1743
Michele Marieschi was born in the poorest area of Venice in 1710, the eldest of eight children of a craftsman who died when Michele was ten years old. Like Canaletto, he probably began his career as a theatrical scene painter. There is no evidence to corroborate Pietro Guarienti’s assertion that Marieschi worked in Gemany. His first recorded activity, as an associate of Francesco Tasso, was the preparation in 1731 of the setting for the Carnival Thursday celebrations in the Piazzetta. In the mid-1730s he began to paint capricci influenced by Marco Ricci and Luca Carlevarijs, followed by Venetian views inspired by Canaletto’s success with the genre.
In 1735 Marieschi made two drawings for engravings of Tasso’s decorations for the funeral of Maria Clementina Sobieska, wife of the Old Pretender, at San Paterniano in Fano. The following year he became a member of the Collegio dei Pittori and was paid the handsome sum of fifty-five zecchini by Marshal Johann von der Schulenburg for a sparkling, dramatic View of the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace (private collection, Italy). In 1737 Schulenburg bought Marieschi’s The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge from the north and the arrival of the new Patriarch Antonio Correr, 7th February 1735 (Osterley Park, The National Trust); he remained an important patron until the artist’s death. In November 1737 Marieschi married Angela Fontana (d.1751), the daughter of a successful picture dealer, Domenico Fontana.
Marieschi was a highly inventive painter of capricci, which have an almost surreal air derived from his early life as a scene painter. He divided his Venetian views between fairly small canvases and much larger ones, such as those for Schulenburg. The Venetian scenes are characterised by flickering brushwork, strong shadows and deep, dynamic space which gives his work a very individual, almost ‘romantic’ quality. Because Marieschi’s mature career lasted a mere seven years, it is difficult to establish a chronology for his oeuvre. A series of eighteen paintings (now dispersed) commissioned by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, was made in 1739-40. The staffage in Marieschi’s works is often provided by specialist figure painters, including Gaspare Diziani, Giovanni Antonio Guardi, Francesco Simonini and Francesco Fontebasso.
In 1741 Marieschi himself etched a Self-portrait and twenty-one Venetian views of his own composition, which he published as Magnificentiores Selectioresque Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus. This was intended to compete with Antonio Visentini’s Prospectus Magni Canalis Venetiarum (1735), which had brought Canaletto’s compositions to a Europe-wide public. Marieschi’s career was cut short in 1743 at the age of thirty-two, according to Guarienti because of his ‘excessive application to work and study’. His assistant Francesco Albotto (1721-1757) took over his studio and married his widow in 1744.
The work of Michele Marieschi is represented in National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; the National Museum, Stockholm; the National Gallery, London, the Accademia, Venice; the Museo Correr, Venice; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
 Martin Clayton, Canaletto in Venice, London 2005, pp.78-81, illus. in colour.
 Ralph Toledano, Michele Marieschi: Catalogo Ragionato Seconda Edizione Reveduta e Corretta, Milan 1995, pp.40-43, no.V.1a-f.