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With studies of Sea Monsters to the verso

Bears collector's stamp l.r. [L.116a]

Pen & ink on paper

11 x 24 cm



Feruccio Asta (1900-1952), Venice (Lugt 116a)

Private collection, France




The present sheet is absolutely typical of Bison’s lyrical studies of genre scenes in pen & ink, which often show the influence of the earlier Giambattista Tiepolo and Francesco Guardi. The scene depicted here is likely taken from somewhere in the Venetian lagoon, with fishermen loading small boats; however, the fantastical studies of sea monsters to the verso are of an altogether different nature, and hint at Bison’s work as a theatrical designer, though they may also be figureheads of ships seen on the same occasion as the fishermen. 



Giuseppe Bernardino Bison was born in Friuli, a province in the northeast of Italy, and studied first under Count Anton Maria Zanetti - a celebrated polymath, active as a draughtsman, printmaker, collector, critic and on occasion art dealer - during which time Bison was awarded a prize at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Venice for his life drawings. In 1787, Bison was involved with the extensive decoration of the Palazzo Bottoni, in Ferrara, before working in Padua as a theatrical set designer. The early years of his career were spent travelling around northern Italy in search of commissions to paint decorative frscoes at villas and palazzi around the Veneto, as well as one ceiling fresco for a church in Volpago di Montello, near Treviso. One of Bison’s more important commissions during this period was his collaboration with the architect Giananntonio Selva for the deocration of the Palazzo Dolfin Manin, situated near the Rialto on Venice’s Grand Canal. Selva had been commissioned by the last Doge himself to renovate the Palazzo, which contained frescoes by Gimbattista Tiepolo.


Bison settled in Trieste in the early years of the 19th century, where he worked on a decorative programme for the Palazzo Carciotti (featuring scenes from the Iliad, painted in monochromatic tempera), and the ceiling of the Palazzo della Borsa Vecchia. He continued his activity as a set designer too, producing designs and decoration for the theatres at Vipacco and Gorizia. Bison moved to Milan in 1831, aged sixty-nine, and remained there for the rest of his life. The latter part of his career was spent mainly as a scenographer for the renowned Teatro alla Scala and further, smaller theatres in the city. 



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