Not on display
- Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 381 x 457 mm
frame: 527 x 610 x 92 mm
- Purchased 1922
A Marengo was painted during the visit Walter Sickert made to Venice between the autumn of 1903 and the summer of 1904. He worked hard on this trip and it was an important time of development in which he evolved new ideas concerning pairs of figures in interiors.1 In Venice, Sickert led an extremely ordered existence, writing to his friend and patron Mrs Hulton on 1 January 1904 that he painted, ‘models from 9 to 11 and 1 to 4, and when the weather is fine a landscape or so’.2 He went on to explain that he got most of his sitters from the restaurant where he usually took his meals, the Giorgione di San Silvestro, run by Signor de Rossi.3
Wanting to be in the heart of bustling Venetian working class life, Sickert took rooms at 1057 Rio Terra di San Silvestro, near the Rialto,4 although he also kept up a studio at 940 Calle dei Frati. The winter of 1903–4 was one of the wettest Venice had experienced, and this led Sickert to abandon view painting and concentrate solely on figure compositions. He wanted to capture the vitality of working class characters in the city: a fisherman with a felt hat, a blind man, and the wrinkled features of the old woman ‘Mamma Mia Poveretta’ all intrigued him.
But more than any others, the models who absorbed Sickert the most were two young women who sat regularly for him: Carolina dell’Acqua and La Giuseppina. Both were prostitutes. Introduced to Sickert by her friend La Giuseppina, Carolina dell’Acqua was reputed to have got her nickname through a fear of water,5 while Sickert himself often referred to her simply as ‘La Carolina’. The dark-haired Giuseppina was one of Sickert’s favourites, and as the solo sitter in his picture Putana a Casa 1903–4 (private collection),6 his title, which translates as ‘Whore at Home’, confirmed her profession. Both women appeared singly in several of Sickert’s paintings, but it is the series of paintings of them paired together, as in A Marengo, that seized his interest.
Sickert wrote to his friend Jacques-Émile Blanche:
See Robert Upstone, Sickert in Venice, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2009.
Quoted in Wendy Baron and Richard Shone (eds.), Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992 (34).
Quoted ibid; Sickert’s portrait of Signor de Rossi is reproduced as fig.109 (Hastings Art Gallery).
Matthew Sturgis, Walter Sickert: A Life, London 2005, p.321.
See Lilian Browse, Sickert, London 1960, p.27.
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.201.
Walter Sickert, letter to Jacques-Émile Blanche; quoted in Sturgis 2005, p.328.
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.200.
Reproduced ibid., no.217 and Royal Academy 1992 (41).
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.217.1 and Royal Academy 1992, fig.118.
Sturgis 2005, pp.329–30.
Denys Sutton, letter to Wendy Baron, 21 November 1974, Sutton Papers, University of Glasgow Library; see Sturgis 2005, p.330.
Walter Sickert, letter to Sir William Eden, University of Birmingham Library, AP22/23/3; see Sturgis 2005, p.330.
Walter Sickert, letter to Jacques-Émile Blanche, copy in Sutton Papers, University of Glasgow Library; see Sturgis 2005, p.330.
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, undated [?1907], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5.
Walter Sickert, letter to Jacques-Émile Blanche, Institut de France, Paris; quoted in Sturgis 2005, p.710 n.62.
Walter Sickert, letter to Jacques-Émile Blanche, Institut de France, Paris; quoted in Sturgis, 2005, p.710 n.62 and in Royal Academy 1992 (34).
Dr Robert Emmons, letter to Tate Gallery, 27 November 1958, Tate Catalogue file.
See Sickert: Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 1979, p.12.
Sickert was away in France for the summer and autumn of 1906, returning to London briefly in December.
Sturgis 2005, pp.552–3.