John Singer Sargent Villa Maria

In the autumn of 1910, Sargent was in Tuscany staying at two houses owned by the Marchese Farinola: the Villa Torre Galli, near Florence, and a second villa at Varramista, near Lucca; and it is from the latter that Sargent visited the seventeenth-century Villa Reale Marlia, situated nearby. The Villa Marlia had belonged to the Orsetti family, but was bought in 1806 by Elisa Baciocchi, who attemted to restore and reinvent it. In Sargent's day, it was owned by the family of the prince of Capua. It is characteristic that Sargent chose to paint the old, unreconstructed areas of the garden, a private space, conceived as a series of small outdoor "rooms" and enclosed by high evergreens. His viewpoint is a section of the basin in the Giardino della Limonaia and the balustrade, lined with lemon trees in terracotta pots, which frames the pool. One side of the balustrade is used to define the foreground, but the main focus is its northern rim and two sculpted river gods (representing the rivers Arno and Serchio), reclining and holding jars which spout forth water. It is a dazzling display of his watercolour technique. The dense background vegetation is rendered in wet washes, with darker pigment dragged across on a dry brush to imply shade and texture, and Sargent's familiar ochres and lavenders desribe the play of light and shade on the stonework and statuary. The lemon tree in the foreground is indicated in short strokes of bright pigment, and light on the water is suggested by a few patches of sparkling reserve. There are several watercolours of the gardens, two of them also in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They show the same statues at an oblique angle and in raking light, and a section of the balustrade with a row of lemon trees in pots lined across the top.

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ID#: 26497
Villa Maria
Type: Fine-Art Print
Paper Size: 14" x 11"
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