Michele Marieschi

Michele Marieschi

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.