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    John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
    Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, 1904
    Watercolor and pencil on paper
    9-3/4 x 13-3/4 inches (24.8 x 34.9 cm) (sheet)
    Signed, dated, and dedicated verso: to my friend Arthur Nichols - / John S Sargent 1904

    The artist;
    Arthur Boylston Nichols (1868-1955), Cambridge, Massachusetts and New York City, gift from the above;
    By descent in the family;
    Private collection, Middle Hudson River Valley, New York, circa 1990-2020;
    Private collection, acquired from the above, 2020;
    Private collection, New York, acquired from the above, 2020.

    This marvelously fresh and spirited watercolor of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice by John Singer Sargent is an exciting new addition to the artist's dozen known works recording the façade of the majestic Baroque church located at the entrance to the city's Grand Canal.

    More than any other structure in Venice, Santa Maria della Salute, with its signature soaring dome capping a rotunda resting on an octagonal base, fired Sargent's imagination. He lived fairly close to it at the Palazzo Barbaro when he was in Venice, and painted it repeatedly. While he did produce views of the church as a whole, as did countless artists before and after him, Sargent was highly unusual in focusing most of his artistic attention on the entrance façade in both oil and watercolor. Richard Ormond has thoughtfully considered Sargent's curious "obsessive concentration" on this single motif, and written elegantly about it: "Like a triumphal arch, the entrance façade, with soaring columns and sculpted ornament, is common to all the studies, but is cropped below the pediment. In all of these depictions, included to the left or right is one or two of the two lateral chapel faces, hinged at 45 degrees to the entrance façade. The entrance and the side chapels project from the perimeter wall, and it is the angulation between them that clearly excited Sargent. The wide, ceremonial staircase leading up to the church provides and introduction and a horizontal foil to the grandeur above. Out of the inventory of steps, facades, columns, and sculpture, Sargent fashioned a pictorial language of his own. He used mass and void, light and shadow, and vertical and horizontal to create forms that work both on the surface of the painting as well as within the confines of the picture space." (Richard Ormond, "Down the Grand Canal 1900-1913," in Sargent's Venice, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006, p. 96)

    The present work is important to Sargent's series of Salute paintings because it is one of the rare dated sheets. Dated 1904, it thus becomes one of the earliest works in the series, and possibly a new touchstone for dating the rest of the group. In terms of its vantage point on the motif of the façade and the overall composition, this watercolor is closest to the larger version in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (The Hayden Collection-Charles Henry Hayden Fund, 12.200), which measures 15 12/16 x 20 15/16 inches and is currently dated to circa 1909. (Sargent's Venice, 2006, illustrated p. 98, caption p. 99) In comparing the two sheets, the present work is more highly keyed in coloration, with noticeably more vivid blues in the double door, sculptural ornament and shadows than the Boston sheet which has shadows tending towards purple. In general, the structure in the present work appears more evenly illuminated with fewer shadows, suggesting it was painted at a different time of day and during different weather conditions. Sargent routinely painted from gondolas on the water, which may account for the sharp, low vantage point on the Salute in this and the related works.

    On the reverse of this watercolor, Sargent inscribed it to his friend Arthur Boylston Nichols, a Harvard-educated Bostonian who had established himself as a successful interior decorator in New York City. His address was given as 369 Fifth Avenue in the 1900 Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (Council Publishing Company, New York, p. 149). His watercolor from Sargent descended for three generations in the Nichols family before being sold to a private collector.

    This work has been authenticated by the John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raisonné vetting committee and will be added to the catalogue raisonné database, currently recorded as PostYaleCR1 (JSS2863). The lot is accompanied by a letter dated March 22, 2021 by the committee.

    Condition Report*: Sheet is tapped to window mat via the edges verso; slight overall yellowing to the sheet; pinholes to the upper corners, only noticeable upon close inspection and most likely inherent to the work's creation; one small, approximate 1/4 inch, tear to the right edge verso, not breaking all the way through nor visible in the image.
    Framed Dimensions 15 X 19 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    7th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,844

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