A gift, possibly as payment in lieu of a medical bill, to the great-grandfather of the present owner
Thence by descent
'The series of panels of Florian's café in St. Mark's Square vividly illustrate his uninhibited joy at being part of the vibrant and colourful Venetian atmosphere.' (Tom Hewlitt, Cadell: The Life and Works of A Scottish Colourist 1883-1937, 1988, p.28)
Brilliant summer sunlight shimmers off the marble and mosaic façade of the cathedral of San Marco and flags flutter in the breeze from the lagoon. A trio of elegantly dressed ladies in hats bedecked with flowers or feathers, take a rest from their sightseeing and are seated at small tea-tables outside the famous café of Florian's. The voluptuous curves of San Marco and the loop-shaped backs of the iron chairs echo the shapes of the women and their large hats, worn more for fashion than to keep the sun from their faces. Florian's was one of those eateries frequented by wealthy tourists and Venetians alike, where a prominent table was at a premium as the women tried to impress the fellow diners with their sartorial finery. Florian's had been opened in the building known as the Procuratie Nouve on the Piazza San Marco in 1720 and is said to be the oldest coffee house in continuous operation. It was originally called Caffè alla Venezia trionfante but was renamed after its proprietor Floriano Francesconi. From 1893 it was the home of the Venice Biennale, a contemporary art exhibition. Among its eminent customers were Casanova, Goldoni, Goethe, Byron and Proust and it became famous for being the only coffee house in Venice to allow women.
Cadell's first trip to Venice was made in 1910 when he was encouraged by the patron Patrick Ford who sponsored the visit, and felt that the light and surroundings would be inspirational. Cadell's records note the agreement unequivocably as follows, "Cheque from P.J. Ford Esq.: £150 to go to Venice and paint. He to choose equivalent in pictures on my return." (ibid Hewlitt, p.27)
'The effect of Venice on Bunty [Cadell] and his work was dramatic. The combination of the vivid Mediterranean colours with the brilliant sunshine during the day, and the soft warm tones of evening, provided the ideal inspiration for his natural colourist talent. He worked in watercolour and in oil – on large canvases and small panels, trying to capture not only the wide range of tone and colour, but also the atmosphere of the city.' (ibid Hewlitt, p.28)
Cadell returned to Edinburgh late in 1910 with a wealth of new work which was exhibited at Aitken and Dott in November that year. As part of the agreement between Ford and Cadell, the patron was allowed to choose from the selection before anyone else and among his choices were three pictures depicting Santa Maria della Salute, one of San Giorgio Maggiore and a view of St. Mark's Square. At least half a dozen of the pictures painted in Venice were given away as gifts to friends and relations, including St Mark's Square, Venice which was given to Cadell's sister Jean Perceval-Clark. A watercolour of a palazzo was given to the artist James Paterson and the present picture was given to the great-grandfather of the present owner.
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