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San Biagio

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 237
Date: 1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 212 x 308 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 17
Known impressions: 68
Catalogues: K.197; M.194; W.163
Impressions taken from this plate  (68)


arch, balcony, beach, boat, children, genre, people, washing, sea, street, worker.


It has always been known by the same title, as in these examples:

'San Biagio' (1883, Whistler). 1
'San Biagio' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2

1: List of '2nd Venice Set', GUW #13088.

2: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 163).


A view from the water to a sloping beach leading to a huge arched passageway through a three-storey building. A small rowing boat lies sideways along the water's edge, and a larger boat heaped with what looks like sand or gravel stands further up the beach, by the entrance to the arch, at right. People stand to left of the entrance, working with lengths of wood or cloth; more figures gather round the far end of the loaded boat and crouch in the boat's shadow to left; two children play at the far right. The building has windows at different levels: a shuttered window to left of the arch on the ground floor and one with open shutters on the first floor; to right of the arch, a window covered with a diamond-patterned grille and open shutters on the ground floor; an open window above; and, finally, a stone balcony in front of windows to right, with a figure beside a clothes-pole on the balcony. Clothes hang to dry from the first - and second - floor windows, with some long dresses or coats hanging right down over the archway. At left, another first-floor window opens into the shadowed passageway. Through the arch is a busy street, with three-storey houses to right, shutters open, people sitting and standing in front. Huge chimneys - one a cone shape and another castellated - tower above the roofs.


Etching: c_K197_01Photograph M. F. MacDonald, Whistler Etchings Project
The Sotoportego de le Colone, San Biagio, in Cannaregio, Venice, Italy. Whistler moved into the Casa Jankowitz on the Riva San Biagio, which is now the Pensione Bucintoro at No. 2135 Castello. There he joined several American art students, followers of Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), including Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909) and Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903). His room looked across the lagoon to left, and the Riva degli Schiavoni. Immediately in front was the Campo San Biagio. The Bacino (basin) San Marco curves to the south-east from San Biagio to the Public Gardens.
In San Biagio Whistler focussed on a building erected in 1645-61 in front of the Calle and Corte de la Colone. Originally a warehouse, it had become housing for poor workers, and two large arches led through to the courtyard. Whistler drew the arch at left, the Sotoportego de le Colone, from the water's edge. 3 This view, drawn accurately on the copper plate, is reversed, as usual, in the print.

In the time of Mussolini, a broad pavement replaced the old beach, so the lower viewpoint is no longer possible. Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) also etched The Archway - which shows the same building - about the same time as Whistler. 4 Whistler also drew a pastel called San Biagio; flesh-colour and grey m0818.

3: Grieve 2000[more], pp.136, 138, fig. 170.

4: Emily Poole, 'The Etchings of Frank Duveneck', The Print Collector's Quarterly, 1938, October, Vol 25, No. 3.