Henry Simpson (1853-1921)
Henry Simpson (1853-1921)

"St Mark's Basilica During Flooding"

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Oil on panel, 24.5 x 33 cm, signed with initials and dated 1914, signed again in full and dated 1913 on reverse. Price: £680

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Henry Simpson -
Acqua Alta in Venice

The jewel-like Byzantine splendour of St Mark's Basilica coruscates in weak sunlight in this depiction of Venice during a flood tide. The foreground is empty save for the suggestion of a gondola in the middle of the usually bustling piazza. The square's watery surface reflects the grey-blue hues of the sky and the forms and colours of the basilica arches and the piazza's three fluttering flags. Lively dabs of paint conjure up the movement of passers-by forced to file in front of the central doorway of the basilica. On the right, in front of the looming bulk of the Campanile, cut by a diagonal line of shadow, stands a figure on what appears to be a slatted or planked structure, perhaps a makeshift wooden walkway, or even a boat of some kind. The painting may record the flooding of autumn 1914: on 31st October the high tide in Venice reached 1.185 metres above sea level.

The earlier date on the reverse of the board may indicate that the work was started in 1913, but completed to include the flooded piazza a year later.

Simpson was a member of the New English Art Club and a friend of Whistler.

Henry Simpson (1853-1921)
Henry Simpson (1853-1921)

"St Mark's Basilica During Flooding" (shown in frame)

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Henry Simpson (1853-1921)
Henry Simpson (1853-1921)

"St Mark's Basilica During Flooding" (detail of verso)

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Henry Simpson (1853-1921)
Henry Simpson (1853-1921)

"St Mark's Basilica During Flooding" (close-up of Emilio Aickelin stamp)

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Emilio Aickelin

​The ink stamp, shaped like an artist's palette, on verso of the panel reads: "Emilio Aickelin, Via 22 Marzo N ........VENEZIA". Emilio Aickilen, who traded from No 2378, Via 22 Marzo in Venice, was one of two Venice-based artists' suppliers listed in John Murray's 1897 Handbook for Travellers in Northern Italy. Murray gives the address as Ponte delle Ostregne (correctly "Ostreghe"), which is near today's Calle Larga XXII Marzo. Among the artists known to have used materials from Aickelin were Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent.