Madonna del Monte, Venice

The ruins of Madonna del Monte, a church in the Venetian lagoon. Sky and sea intersect in soft October light. Acrylics on paper – 31 x 41 cm


If you take the Linea 12 vaporetto from Venice to Torcello, just before you arrive at the stop for Mazzorbo, you will pass the two islands of the church of Madonna del Monte. During Napoleon’s occupation of Venice, the church was first suppressed and later abandoned. In the middle of the last century, the sea broke through, sundering the island into two parts. Now the empty shell of the church sits on one island. On the other are the crumbling remains of a second building, used as a guardhouse during WW2.

The view is of the guardhouse in the foreground. We only see the gable end of the church in the background, but if you draw alongside it, its size is surprising.

The dissolution of Madonna del Monte prefigures that of Venice itself as climate change raises sea levels. It is haunting in its sadness and beauty.

You can see the location by following this map link.

It is impossible to accurately render the light of the Venetian lagoon, but I have painted it in a way that I recognise. It is late October in the painting, and everything glows with a peculiar translucent lustre. The lagoon has an oily stillness, broken by the traffic of vaporetti and numerous small craft engaged in unknown chores (probably nothing more mysterious than shopping). Normally, I would stick to the rule of thirds, but here the sky occupies almost as much space as the sea. The two intersect, and if it was not for the line of land that is the island of Sant’Erasmo, one would not be clear as to where the sky stopped and the sea began.

You might be interested in this view of San Giorgio Maggiore. or this treatment of the reflections and shadows in a small Venetian canal.