In Venice, Charles Gifford Dyer (1851–1912) observes sunrise over the shadowy domes and campanili of Il Redentore on the island of Giudecca. The skyline wanes into a ghostly blue filament floating silently between water and sky. Evening mists still cloak the city in a veil of darkness, as if to elegize Venice in the twilight of its decline. Ruskin had described Venice similarly in The Stones of Venice. He called the majestic but forlorn city “still left for our beholding in the final period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak—so quiet—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the shadow.”[9]

Dyer gifted this pastel drawing to Elizabeth Walton McMillan on the occasion of her marriage to the prominent jurist George Alexander Madill in 1895. His dedication on the verso, And The Sun rose red / like God’s own Head, is drawn from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1797–98), which is framed as a story told to a wedding guest.

Image credit:
Charles Gifford Dyer (American, 1851–1912), Venice, 1895. Pastel, approx. 15 1/2 x 9 in. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. Gift of the estate of Marquis de Mattei, 1970.