RUBENS SANTORO (Mongrassano 1859 – Turin 1942)
A Gondola in Front of the Palazzo Cavalli – Franchetti and Palazzi Barboro, Venice
signed Rubens Santoro in the lower right
oil on canvas
13 x 9 ½ inches (34.29 x 24.13 cm.)
Horwitz Sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, November 21-22, 1958, lot 250
MacConnal-Mason Gallery, London, where acquired by
Private Collection, Virginia, circa 1985 until the present time
Under a glorious blue sky, a gondola drifts by the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti and Palazzi Barboro along the Grand Canal. Beautiful examples of the Venetian Gothic style, they also have fascinating histories. The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti was built in 1565, and further embellished in a series of campaigns during the nineteenth century, as it passed from one grand owner to the next. The first improvements were undertaken after 1840 by Archduke Frederick Ferdinand of Austria, who wished to give a more pronounced display of the Habsburg presence along the Grand Canal, as Austria had been awarded the territories of Venice after the Napoleonic Wars. In 1847 the palazzo was bought by Henri, comte de Chambord, called Henri V by Bourbon legitimists, who commissioned further enhancements to be executed by the architect Giambattista Meduna. The last major refinements were completed after 1878 when the Baron Raimondo Franchetti and his wife Sarah Luisa de Rothschild took possession of the palazzo. Thus fortuitously, Santoro was able to capture the palace at the height of its glory.
Most notably the Palazzi Barboro formed the center of American artistic life in Venice after it was purchased by Daniel Sargent Curtis, a relative of John Singer Sargent. Besides the painter other frequent guests included Henry James, Robert Browning, Claude Monet, Bernard Berenson, William Merritt Chase, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Edith Wharton, and Charles Eliot Norton. It is also the same period when it caught Santoro’s eye.
Venetian views of intimate proportions are among the artist’s most prized works. Paintings such as ours that depict the sunlit facades of the two palaces, with the blue mooring poles before them reflected in the water, underscore the truth of this statement.
Rubens Santoro began his studies under the tutelage of his father Giovanni Battista Santoro, a painter, sculptor, and lithographer. His brother Francesco was a landscape painter. When the family moved to Naples he enrolled in the Institute of Fine Arts. This was followed by instruction from Edourado Dalbono, who specialized in genre and marine subjects. When he exhibited a painting titled A Laughing Girl in 1875 at the Esposizione di Venezia, Santoro was awarded a silver medal. His reputation grew continuously, executing scenes of genre, cityscapes, and topographical views, particularly those of Venice. Further he cleverly exhibited relentlessly and diversely, in shows held in Turin, Rome, Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, Chicago, and Buenos Aires. His works formed part of the permanent collections of the museums of Aberdeen, Baltimore, Barnsley, Cincinnati, Huntington, Manchester, Reggio Calabria, Sheffield, and Turin. Santoro’s paintings held a universal appeal that met widespread success, which has never abated.