This dramatic nocturnal composition represents a fireworks display over the Piazza San Marco in Venice, with the Basilica to the left and the campanile in the center. Further in the distance, flanking the entrance to the harbor, stand the two columns crowned with statues of Theodore of Amasea, an early patron saint of the city, and the symbol of Venice, the winged lion of St. Mark. The scene is a contemporary one, as evidenced by the fashionable nineteenth-century bustled gowns and bowler hats of the observers crowding into the piazza. The Italian flag flies atop the southernmost wing of the procuratie, the three connected buildings encircling the square, suggesting that this may be the celebration of a feast day.
The trend for resurrecting the splendors of eighteenth-century Venice, and in particular the theme of Venetian festivities, became extremely popular among artists of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, most notably Ippolito Caffi. With his penchant for architectural detail and minute touches of vivid color, Francesco Zanin hearkens back to the tradition of the settecento Venetian vedutisti, and in particular to the work of the master view painter, Canaletto.