Giuseppe Bernardino BISON

(Palmanova 1762 - Milan 1844)

Two Elegantly Dressed Ladies Holding Flowers

Pen and brown ink and wash, with touches of red, yellow and green wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Numbered 10.x and inscribed N(?)14 - Par Tomas Lawrence on the verso.
241 x 194 mm. (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Although similar elegant figures appear in several of Giuseppe Bernardino Bison’s genre paintings and gouaches, this fine and fresh drawing was, like many of his drawings, in all likelihood executed as an autonomous work of art. Indeed, it is an unusually highly finished and coloured example of the artist’s spirited draughtsmanship.

Among stylistically comparable works in watercolour by Bison is a study of the head of a woman in a private collection, and a drawing of a woman seated on a rock, sold at auction in London in 1981. Also similar are watercolour drawings of Four Peasants in Conversation in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan and The Family of the Fisherman in a private collection.

One of the last and most delightful exponents of the 18th century vedute tradition, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison received his artistic training in the studio of Anton Maria Zanetti in Venice. The early part of his career was spent working as a decorative fresco painter at villas and palaces around the Veneto. Around 1800 he settled in Trieste, where among his more important works were the decoration of the Palazzo Carciotti, painted around 1805, and the Palazzo della Vecchia Borsa, completed three years later. In 1831 Bison moved to Milan, where he worked for the remainder of his career, and where he was particularly active as a scenographer, producing stage designs for the Teatro alla Scala and other theatres. He painted a large number of views of Venice, often inspired by engravings after Canaletto’s paintings, as well as numerous small landscapes in both oil and tempera, intended for sale to collectors. Although his career lasted well into the 19th century, his style invariably retains something of the flavour of the previous century; indeed, his work has been aptly described by one recent scholar as ‘a last late flowering of the Venetian Settecento’.

Bison was an accomplished and prolific draughtsman, with an oeuvre of charming genre studies and landscapes in pen and ink wash or gouache. His earliest works show the influence of Giambattista Tiepolo and Francesco Guardi, while his later drawings tend towards Neoclassicism. His drawings encompass a wide and varied range of subjects, from religious narratives to genre scenes, capricci, and stage and ornament designs. Few of Bison’s many drawings, however, were done as preparatory studies for paintings, and he seems to have produced a large number of his drawings as independent works of art for sale; this is certainly true of his pastoral landscapes in gouache. Significant groups of drawings by Bison are today in the collections of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, the Musei Civici in Trieste and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York.


Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 28 January 1998, lot 58
P. & D. Colnaghi, London, in 1998
Private collection, London.


Adriano Cera, ed., Disegni, acquarelli, tempere di artisti italiani dal 1770 ca. al 1830 ca., Bologna, 2002, Vol.I, unpaginated, Bison no.28.


New York and London, Colnaghi, Master Drawings, 1998, no.35.

Giuseppe Bernardino BISON

Two Elegantly Dressed Ladies Holding Flowers