A Venetian painter par excellence, Guglielmo Ciardi approached his subject in a manner that was wholly different to the artists of all nationalities who painted in the city in the latter half of the 19th century. Instead of the obvious sites of La Serenissima, ever popular with patrons and rooted in a long tradition of vedute artists stretching back 150 years, Ciardi sought above all to render the light and atmosphere of the Lagoon, and the inland areas of the Veneto region.
Ciardi's early years were spent in the company of other landscape artists throughout Italy: he painted with Telemaco Signorini and discussed light theories with other macchiaiolo artists in Florence (see lot 45); In Rome he met and painted with Nino Costa (see lot 42); in Naples he befriended Filippo Palizzi; and he was a close student of the artist Antonio Fontanesi, Italy's equivalent of Corot. These various influences coalesced in Ciardi to create a modern artist whose paintings combine naturalism with an extraordinary luminosity.
As in the present painting, the grandeur of the city serves merely as a backdrop to the sky, the sea, and the modest lives of the city's working inhabitants, primarily gondoliers and fishermen. Ciardi depicted the Lagoon under all kinds of atmostpheric conditions, but in the late 1870s and early 1880s he developed paintings of the calm sea under bright sunlight to such a level of refinement that they have come to define the artist. The presentwork is a trademark example of this; the contrasting and sharply defined areas of light and shadow and the almost geometric shapes of the sails, standing proud against the sky, show a particular debt to the macchiaioli, but the whole is somewhat softer, characterised by shimmering reflections and a suffused atmosphere of extraordinary stillness in which sky and water seem to melt together.