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At the café, in the evening on St Mark's Square in Venice

Painting, 1869, 56×95 cm

Description of the artwork «At the café, in the evening on St Mark's Square in Venice»

Historical Critical Notes:

The painting depicts a bustling scene of city life, in the evening, at the café on St Mark's Square in Venice with the Procuratie in the background. It was painted by Cammarano during one of his repeated stays in Venice between 1867 and 1869, the years in which he exhibited some of his most socially charged works in the lagoon city, such as The Resources of Poor People and Encouragement of Vice. As the painter and critic Carlo Siviero recounts in his memoirs (Siviero 1950, pp. 280-283), the work - the traces of which seem to have been lost - was discovered by chance shortly before 1920 in Rome at the antiques dealer Giosi's. Having shown it to the now elderly Cammarano, he signed and dated it only on that occasion. Shown in 1921 at the first Roman Biennial as part of the "Neapolitan Retrospective Exhibition" (Rome 1921, p. 85, no. 2), St. Mark's Square was immediately considered by the critics to be one of the most successful examples of Cammarano's work due to the immediacy of its composition and its fine pictorial quality (Sapori 1921, p. 37; Lancellotti 1921, p. 12; Papini 1921, p. 4). In 1926, Emilio Cecchi, evoking Zubaran and Manet, evocatively defined St. Mark's Square as "one of the strangest gems of our 19th century: a black diamond ... in a rather rough facet, but raised with beautiful ivories and lacquers" (Cecchi 1926, p. 32). The great appreciation of the painting from the 1920s and 1930s onwards is evidenced by its repeated presence at Italian and foreign exhibitions, from the Venice Biennial in 1928 (p. 34, n. 33) to the exhibitions of 19th and 20th century Italian art held in London in 1930 (Exhibition 1930, n. 869), Paris in 1935 (Exhibition 1935, n. 869), and Paris in 1935 (Exhibition 1935, n. 869). 869), Paris in 1935 (L'Art Italien 1935, no. 31), Berlin in 1937 (Austellung 1937, room 2, no. 5), Cologne in 1960-61 (Italienische Malerei 1961, no. 55) and Amsterdam in 1988 (Ottocento Novecento 1988, p. 43, no. 5). It was also exhibited at the exhibition Venezia nell'Ottocento in Naples in 1997.

The painting is signed and dated "Venezia 1869": this inscription, however, according to the memories of the painter and critic Carlo Siviero, was added by Cammarano shortly before 1920, when it was found, after years in which it had been lost, at the antiquarian Giosi in Via del Babuino in Rome (cf. Siviero, 1950, pp. 280-282). The elderly painter must therefore have remembered one of his many stays in Venice between 1867 and 1869, the years in which he had his studio in Rome: he had moved there in 1865, after training in his native Naples under Filippo Palizzi. The work depicts a bustling scene of city life in the evening at the Caffè Florian in St Mark's Square in Venice. It is one of a large series of pungently realistic scenes in which the artist depicts groups of people chatting, all dating from the second half of the 1860s (Chiacchiere in piazza in Piscinula and Atrio di Santa Maria Maggiore, both in the GNAM). After it was found, the work was immediately exhibited in 1921 at the first Roman Biennial, as part of the Neapolitan Retrospective Exhibition. It was promptly considered by the critics to be one of the artist's most successful works, both for its compositional immediacy and for its pictorial quality. The darkness of the scene, with the Procuratie on the right and the indistinct crowd moving away in the background, contrasts with the clearly identified presence of the cafe-goers in the foreground, posed in natural poses. Two high notes of colour, the red of a shawl and the cream of a dress, give the painting accents of vivid realism.  
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Realism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1869

Size: 56×95 cm