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Piazzetta, No. 2

Piazzetta, No. 2
inscribed and signed ‘to my friend Steer/John S. Sargent’ (lower left)
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper
14 x 10 in. (35.6 x 25.4 cm.)
Executed circa 1902-04.
The artist.
Philip Wilson Steer, gift from the above.
Christie’s, London, 16-17 July 1942, lot 343, sold by the above.
Ronald Gray, acquired from the above.
Colonel W.R. Hornby Steer.
Estate of the above.
Sotheby’s, London, 30 June 1993, lot 16, sold by the above.
Adelson Galleries, New York, acquired from the above.
Private collection, New York.
Adelson Galleries, New York, 2000.
Private collection, acquired from the above, 2010.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2017.
R. Ormond, E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Venetian Figures and Landscapes, 1898-1913: The Complete Paintings, Volume VI, New Haven, Connecticut, 2009, pp. 12, 14, 50, 53, 72, 98, 102, 236, no. 1053, illustrated.
London, England, Carfax & Co., Loan Exhibition of Sketches and Studies by J.S. Sargent, April 1905, no. 37.
London, England, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Twenty Years of British Art (1980-1910), May 10-June 19, 1910, p. 5, no. 59 (as Venice).
London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of Works by the Late John S. Sargent, R.A., January 14-March 13, 1926, p. 23, no. 122 (as Venice).
London, England, National Gallery, British Painting since Whistler, 1940, p. 29, no. 228 (as Venice).
Adelson Galleries, New York; Venice, Italy, Correr Museum, Sargent’s Venice, January 15-July 22, 2007, p. 109, fig, 104, illustrated (as Venice, The Libreria).

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Lot Essay

Positively enamored by the beauty of the floating city, Venice cityscapes feature prominently in Sargent’s oeuvre, particularly in the years from 1898 to 1913. The present work—executed circa 1902-1904—depicts one of Sargent’s most common Venetian architectural subjects: the Libreria.

Located in the heart of Venice, Sansovino’s Libreria is a grand library overlooking the city’s picturesque canals. Between the building’s intricate fa?ade and the towering column of St. Theodore is a bustling city scene, with St. Mark’s basilica in the background at right. According to Richard Ormond, Sargent’s studies of the Libreria can be understood “in one of two ways, as analytic studies of architecture, or as arbitrary pictorial constructs.” (Sargent’s Venice, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, p. 111) Indeed, Sargent brings his own variable perspective and artistic invention to a subject that he frequently revisited.

Painting from a gondola, Sargent imbues the composition with a sense of movement. His dynamic, gestural brushwork outlines a scene bathed in late afternoon sunlight, with gondolas floating in the reflective water. Sargent painted numerous scenes of La Libreria and the surrounding area. A lower viewpoint of the same vista is depicted in a watercolor entitled The Piazzetta, Venice at the Tate in London.
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