Monet's Palazzo Ducale
Monet's favorite subject to paint in Venice was the Palazzo Ducale or Doge's Palace, which he painted two series. The first series is comprised of six views of the Palazzo Ducale (figures 1-6) and these views primarily titled The Doge's Palace seen from San Giorgio Maggiore. These canvases were painted, facing north towards the Doge's Palace, from none other than the Island of San Giorgio. This series is often described as half-real half un-real, but Monet was not a surrealist and it is important to note that the platform in the foreground that unifies the series is also meant to ground the view in reality.1
In the second series (figures 7-8) Monet painted three canvases from a closer vantage point. In fact he painted from a gondola and similar to The Grand Canal series the conditions for his work had to be exactly the same which accounts for why there is only three of this motif. When the conditions were not the same, if the gondola was not in the right spot, the entire session was wasted.2 Anyone who is familiar with Monet's Rouen cathedral paintings from 1884 there is little wonder as to why the classical impressionist found the ornate facade of the Palazzo Ducale so appealing. However in these paintings it is difficult to perceive the details in the facade because Monet was interested instead in the impact of light, reflections, movement of the waves of the canal, and the Venetian haze. Monet himself best describes what he sought to accomplish in his series, in one of his letters. It is important to know before reading the excerpt that there is no sentimental interest in the history of the Palazzo Ducale in Monet's depictions. The palace is no more or less important than the adjacent buildings, sky, or water, and when he described this to his friend he refered to figure 7.
"The artist who dreamt up this palazzo was the first impressionist. He got it to rock on the water, to radiate in the Venetian air just as impressionist artists get their paintings to radiate from the canvas in order to convey atmospheric sensations. When I painted this picture, I wanted to paint the atmosphere of Venice. The palace that features in my composition was just an excuse for painting the atmosphere."3
1 Pissarro, Monet on the Mediterranean, 152.
2 Bartolena, Simona. Monet (New York: Prestel Publishing, 2011), 124.
3 Bartolena, Monet, 124.