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  • Ivan Aivazovsky
    Jul 29, 1817 - May 02, 1900
  • Venice 1882 - Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky was an Armenian-Russian Romantic painter who is considered one of the greatest masters of marine art. Baptized as Hovhannes Aivazian, he was born into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea and was mostly based there.
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Venice 1882
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  • Venice 1882

  • Ivan Aivazovsky
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  • 1882
    Oil on canvas
    71 x 108 cm (28 x 42 1/2 in.)

    For an artist who excelled at the reflective effects of light on water, sails and cityscapes, it is unsurprising perhaps that in his painting Aivazovsky returned to the subject of Venice throughout his life. He was clearly drawn to this particular view of San Giorgio Maggiore and St Mark’s Square, which we find in his work as early as 1844 soon after he first visited the city in 1840 as a student of the St Petersburg Academy.

    The present lot is an exceptional example, both in terms of the fine execution and the sense of depth to what is a complex composition. Unlike the majority of his Venetian views, here we find a fully worked and populated foreground on the quayside. The vignette of the orange seller and plump gentleman with his beautifully detailed parasol and rosary hanging by his side, together with the little boy and the stray oranges provides an enchanting keynote to the entire picture. A couple bargain with fruit vendors beneath an awning just beyond. These several groupings in the foreground also allow Aivazovsky to demonstrate his skill in depicting shadow, translucent material and reflected and absorbed light. The warm tones concentrated in the parasol lower right he extends across the entire painting from the lower clouds to the Doge’s Palace. The long thick brushstrokes Aivazovsky uses for the paving stones are characteristic of his foregrounds, while the light dashes of ochre on the two columns of St Mark’s Square are also pleasing hallmarks of his, more often found on the masts of his sailing ships as we note in fact in the left half of the painting.

    The relative complexity of the present composition sets it apart from many of his other Venetian views which sometimes carry the two-dimensional air of a stage set, the gondolas passing each other between coulisses as it were. In the present lot, the central boat recedes down the main canal, a tug boat meeting it at an angle, the gondola passing in front in yet another plane with the fleet of large and smaller boats beyond to reinforce the sense of perspective. Together with the several diagonals in the composition, the triangular sails and canopy, there is a satisfying sense of tessellation and depth to the painting that reflects the competence of this mature artist.

    By the early 1880s, Aivazovsky was long established as one of Russia’s pre-eminent painters and was in high demand at home and overseas. In 1880 he was wealthy enough to open an art museum in Theodosia on his own account; the following year he exhibited at the Pall Mall Gallery in London, where his work was admired by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema and John Everett Millais among others. Dynamic, detailed, beautifully observed and considered, the present work is certainly one of the best to appear at auction for the last decade and worth of the international acclaim he earned during his lifetime.

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Other paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky:

Moonlight Over the Dnieper
Moonlight Over the Dnieper
Street in Bakhchisarai
Street in Bakhchisarai
Moonrise over Ayu Dag
Moonrise over Ayu Dag
The Birth of Aphrodite
The Birth of Aphrodite
Ivan AivazovskyIvan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (Hovannes Aivasian) was born on July 29, 1817, in Feodosia, Crimea, Russian Empire, into a poor Armenian family. His father was a modest Armenian trader. His mother was a traditional homemaker. His early talent as an artist earned him a scholarship to study at the Simferopol gymnasium. From 1833-1839 Aivasovsky studied at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, where he was a student of professor Mikhail Vorob'ev, and graduated with the Gold Medal.

Aivazovsky was sent to paint in Crimea and in Italy, being sponsored by the Russian Imperial Academy for 6 years from 1838-1844. His numerous paintings of Mediterranean seascapes won him popularity among art collectors, such as the Russian Czars, the Ottoman Sultan, and among the various nobility in many countries. His dramatic depiction of a sea storm with the survivors from a shipwreck, known as 'The Ninth Wave' (1850), made him extremely famous. The original canvas is in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. He also made many variations and repetitions of this particular painting, as well, as of his other popular works.

Aivazovsky produced over six thousand paintings of variable quality over the course of his long life. Most of his works were made on a longstanding commission from the Imperial Russian Navy Headquarters, where he worked for the most of his life, from the 1840s until 1900. He earned a considerable fortune, which he spent for charity, and also used for the foundation of the first School of Arts (in 1865) and the Art Gallery (in 1889) in his home town of Feodosia.

Aivazovsky was a member of Academies of Rome, Florence, Stuttgart and Amsterdam. He died on May 5, 1900, in Feodosia.