- Claude Monet
- Le Palais ducal
- Signed Claude Monet and dated 1908 (lower left)
- Oil on canvas
- 22 1/2 by 36 1/4 in.
- 57 by 92 cm
Dr. Hans Wendland, Paris, Berlin & Basel
Galerie Thannhauser, Berlin (acquired from the above on September 4, 1924)
Erich Goeritz, Berlin (acquired from the above April 1, 1926 and until at least March 1928)
Jakob Goldschmidt, Berlin (confiscated by the National Socialist Government February 18, 1941)
Sale: Hans W Lange, Der Ehemaligen Sammlung J.G., Berlin, September 25, 1941, lot 43
Dr Albert Vögler, Hamburg (acquired by the Vereinigte Stahlwerke as a present for Dr Vögler at the above sale for RM 60,000) and by descent following his suicide in 1945
Helene Vögler (widow of Albert Vögler) and Frau J von Martius (formerly Mrs Herbert Vögler), Hattingen (by inheritance from the above)
A Erwin Goldschmidt, New York (recovered from the above February 9, 1960)
Thence by descent
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Cologne, 1996, no. 1770, illustrated p. 832
Monet arrived with his wife Alice on October 1st at the invitation of Mary Young Hunter, a wealthy American who had been introduced to the couple by John Singer Sargent. Although he had been reluctant to leave behind the motifs of his Giverny garden that had all but consumed his work, he could not resist the opportunity to see the architectural splendors of the lagoon city and the new and formidable challenges that it would present. At first, the visual splendor of the city astounded him, and he feared that he was too old and ill-equipped to capture its pageantry. His creative paralysis subsided by October 7, and he commenced the most successful series campaigns of his career. In his study of Monet's work and the Mediterranean, Joachim Pissarro has given a detailed account of Monet's working schedule while he was in Venice: “After so much procrastination, Monet soon adopted a rigorous schedule in Venice. Alice’s description of his work day establishes that from the very inception of his Venetian campaign, Monet organized his time and conceived of the seriality of his work very differently from his previous projects. In Venice, Monet divided his daily schedule into periods of approximately two hours, undertaken at the same time every day and on the same given motif. Unlike his usual methods of charting the changes of time and light as the course of the day would progress, here Monet was interested in painting his different motifs under exactly the same conditions. One could say that he had a fixed appointment with his motifs at the same time each day. The implication of this decision is very simple; for Monet in Venice, time was not to be one of the factors of variations for his motifs. Rather, it was the 'air', or what he called 'the envelope' - the surrounding atmospheric conditions, the famous Venetian haze - that became the principal factor of variation with these motifs” (J. Pissarro, ibid., p. 50).
Monet stayed for the first two weeks of his sojourn as Hunter’s guest at the Palazzo Barbaro, which belonged to a relation of Sargent - Mrs Daniel Sargent Curtis. He then relocated to the Grand Hotel Britannia on the northern bank of the Grand Canal, where he remained until his departure on December 7. From his balcony at the Palazzo Barbaro he could see directly across to the Palazzo da Mula, Palazzo Dario and the Palazzo Contarini, but the Britannia offered even more spectacular views. From this vantage he had clear views of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore and Palazzo Ducale, the city’s most famous landmark, which had featured in the immortal works of Titian and Canaletto. While several of Monet’s depictions of the Palazzo depict it from the southwest, the present canvas depicts the palace from the north, offering a dramatic view of the Lions of Piazza San Marco in the distance. What is so remarkable about this painting is the abrupt depiction of the pontoon in the foreground, which heightens the perspectival drama of the composition.
Discussing the Venetian paintings of 1908 Gustave Geffroy attempted to define the approach Monet took to his depictions of the city, in particular making a study of the artist’s repeated portrayal of certain motifs: “It is no longer the minutely detailed approach to Venice that the old masters saw in its new and robust beauty, nor the decadent picturesque Venice of the 18th century painters; it is a Venice glimpsed simultaneously from the freshest and most knowledgeable perspective, one which adorns the ancient stones with the eternal and changing finery of the hours of the day." Monet’s Venetian canvases transported Geffroy:"in front of this Venice in which the ten century old setting takes on a melancholic and mysterious aspect under the luminous veils which envelop it. The lapping water ebbs and flows, passing back and forth around the palazzo, as if to dissolve these vestiges of history… The magnificence of nature only reigns supreme in those parts of the landscape from which the bustling city of pleasure can be seen from far enough away that one can believe in the fantasy of the lifeless city lying in the sun” (G. Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son temps, son oeuvre, Paris, 1924, pp. 318 & 320).
Similar to his canvases of the Thames, Monet’s Venetian paintings continued to explore how light reflected off a wide stretch of water dissolves and liquefies the solid, uneven surfaces of brick and mortar. In Venice, however, the closeness of the buildings to the water's edge led him to explore more abstract compositions accentuating the interplay between the rhythms of the ornate façades, with their arched openings and horizontal divisions, and the rhythmic expanse of water. This innovative approach was perhaps encouraged by Monet’s appreciation of the special importance Venice held for his artistic forebears. George Shackelford and MaryAnne Stevens argue: "Venice offered Monet contact with a specifically resonant artistic tradition and with aesthetic options that invited him to extend the artistic concerns with which he had been engaged since the early 1890s to depict the dominant tonality of the air that lies between the subject and the artist/viewer (the envelope) and the reflection of subject and light on water, Monet drew upon such predecessors in Venice as Turner and Whistler, and the achievements of his London series" (G.M.T. Shackelford & M. Stevens, Monet in the 20th Century (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 178). The glorious canvases that Turner produced in the early 1840s, such as The Dogana, San Giorgio, Citella, from the Steps of the Europa, present a Venice which is transfigured by light. It is a light that has a form and presence more accurately recorded in the waters of the lagoon than falling on the city itself. Matisse is recorded to have noted: "it seemed to me that Turner must have been the link between the academic tradition and impressionism" (quoted in Turner, Whistler, Monet (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 203) and he divined a special connection between Turner’s works and Monet’s. Writing in the catalogue for the Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibition Katherin Lochnan pinpoints the Venice pictures as the culmination of Monet’s discourse with those two painters: "These beautiful and poetic works are portals through which the viewer can enter a world of memories, reveries and dreams. Fearing that they might constitute the final chapter in his artistic evolution, Monet sounded in them the last notes of his artistic dialogue with Turner and Whistler that had been central to his artistic development" (K. Lochnan in ibid. p. 35).
During the course of his stay Monet painted thirty-seven canvases of Venetian subjects, which depicted views of the Grand Canal, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Rio della Salute; the Palazzos Dario, Mula, Contarini and the Doges’ Palace. On December 19, 1908, a few days after Monet’s return to Paris, Bernheim-Jeune acquired twenty-eight of the thirty-seven views of Venice, although Monet kept the pictures in his studio until 1912 to add their finishing touches. After the death of Alice in 1911, Monet finally agreed on a date for the exhibition at Bernheim-Jeune. Claude Monet Venise opened on May 28, 1912 and was greeted with significant critical acclaim, not least by Paul Signac who viewed the Venetian canvases as one of Monet’s greatest achievements. Writing to Monet he states: “When I looked at your Venice paintings with their admirable interpretation of the motifs I know so well, I experienced a deep emotion, as strong as the one I felt in 1879 when confronted by your train stations, your streets hung with flags, your trees in bloom, a moment that was decisive for my future career. And these Venetian pictures are stronger still, where everything supports the expression of your vision, where no detail undermines the emotional impact, where you have attained the selflessness advocated by Delacroix. I admire them as the highest manifestations of your art” (P. Signac quoted in Turner, Whistler, Monet (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 207).
The present work is one of the pictures that may have been sold through Bernheim-Jeune, based on inscriptions written on the stretcher of the canvas. We know definitively that the picture was in the collection of Dr. Hans Wendland in 1924, when he sold it to Galerie Thannhauser in Berlin. Wendland had lived in Paris before World War I, and it is possible that he acquired the painting before moving to Berlin during the war. Thannhauser then sold the picture in 1926 to Erich Goeritz, the Berlin-based textile manufacture and one of the most important Jewish collectors of the Weimar Republic. The picture then came into the possession of Jakob Goldschmidt, from whom it was confiscated by the National Socialists in 1941. Later that year it was sold at auction by Hans Lange, where it was purchased by Dr. Albert Vögler. In 1954 Goldschmidt, who had relocated to New York, reclaimed the picture from Völger’s heirs through successful litigation in Hamburg. Since that time, the picture has remained in the Goldschmidt family and has never been exhibited in public until the present day.