Arthur Melville visited Venice for the first time in 1894 and found the city challenging. La Serenissima was arguably the single most painted location in the world. Such was its fame that even the gondolieri would immediately deliver visiting artists to the best viewpoints. While he did not shy away from St Mark’s, the Ducal Palace, San Giorgio Maggiore and the Rialto, in this most challenging setting, Melville’s task was to find motifs that were not already familiar to collectors. Like Turner painting The Sun of Venice, he set out into the Lagoon and on more than one occasion painted the bragozzi. As is evident in the present watercolour, the geometry of tall, triangular sails greatly appealed to his sense of abstraction. Such was their attraction that they came to be incorporated in more elaborate compositions such as A Garnet Sail (Private Collection) and A Sirocco Day (Dumfriesshire Educational Trust). While these show the boats tied up at their city moorings, out in the swirling mists of the lagoon the famous sites were effectively banished from view and the eye, came to rest on simple shapes, tones and colours, as here, in Sails against the Morning Sky, Venice.