Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823–1880) composed the luminous painting Venetian Sails: A Study from sketches he made on his second summer sojourn in Venice in 1869. Large, brightly colored fishing boats drift across the placid lagoon, as seen from the area of San Giorgio Maggiore. In contrast to the technologically advanced steamships that chugged American tourists across the Atlantic, the simple lateen sailboats telegraph a sense of the city’s stagnation, especially because their sails hang slack. On the horizon, Gifford took artistic license with the city’s profile, elongating the iconic campanile of San Marco and rotating the familiar facade of the Doge’s Palace toward the viewer, in order to identify the skyline as Venetian.[7] Gifford produced dozens of similar views of the city to meet the burgeoning demand for pictorial souvenirs of Venice, both as cabinet pictures and full-scale paintings. He composed Venetian Sails: A Study as the mirror image of The Lagoons of Venice (1869; Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park), and he essentially copied the painting at double scale for Venetian Sails (1873; now lost).[8] Although Gifford viewed Venice as untouched by modern industrial forces, his commercial repetition of Venetian scenes invites comparison with new methods of mass production.

Image credit:
Sanford Robinson Gifford (American, 1823–1880), Venetian Sails: A Study, 1873. Oil on canvas, 13 x 24 in. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. Bequest of Charles Parsons, 1905.