A Capriccio of Venice with the Bucintoro
Louis de Caullery
On panel, 19⅝ x 28⅜ ins. (50 x 72 cm)
Robert Finck, Brussels
Thence by descent until 2014
The artist specialised in multi-figured compositions. His repertoire of subjects includes high-life genre scenes of balls, love gardens and representations of the Five Senses in the guise of merry companies. He often painted fanciful views of Italian cities with festivities taking place, but there is no evidence that he ever went to Italy. De Caullery also produced a number of biblical scenes. His figure style has a certain affinity with Frans Francken the Younger, while his architectural creations suggest the influence of Hans Vredeman de Vries.
In this painting, de Caullery has depicted a scene in Venice looking across the Bacino de S. Marco. In the foreground, crowds have gathered to watch the celebrations that took place annually on Ascension Day. The magnificent Bucintoro, or State Barge, is making its way across the bay accompanied by a flotilla of gondolas and various other craft. During the ceremony, the Doge and his retinue sailed out to the Lido, where the lagoon gives way to the open sea. There, a ritual ceremony was performed during which a ring was cast in the sea, symbolising the marriage of Venice to the sea. Afterwards, the Doge attended mass at S. Nicolò on the Lido, before returning to Venice. Visitors from all over Europe and the Middle East flocked to Venice each year to witness the spectacle.
Since de Caullery probably never visited Venice himself, he must have relied upon printed sources for his depictions of the city. The buildings on the far side of the bay are easily recognisable as the Piazza San Marco, framed by the library, the campanile, the basilica and most prominently, the Doge’s palace, but the buildings on the far right and left of the composition are largely a figment of the artist’s imagination. Nevertheless, de Caullery has succeeded in capturing the atmosphere of the great occasion and the exotic flavour of the city.
There was evidently a ready market for de Caullery’s capriccii of foreign cities, since he painted a number of views of Venice, with various festivities taking place, as well as views of Florence and Rome, the latter depicted during the firework display, or girandole, staged each year to celebrate Easter Monday and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on 29th June. A version of the present composition was sold at Sotheby’s, in London, in 2001 (i).
Very little is known about the life of Louis de Caullery. His father
was probably of French origin and he is presumed to have been born in
Cambrai. In 1593/94, he was recorded as a pupil of Joos de Momper and
he became a master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke in 1602/03. He
married Maria Adriaenssens, with whom he had several children. De
Caullery probably spent his entire career in Antwerp, where he died in
i Louis de Caullery, Capriccio of Venice, on panel, 52.9 x 74.4 cm, sale, Sotheby’s, London, 1 November 2001,
Louis de Caullery
Cambrai before 1582 – 1621/22 Antwerp
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