Ralph Wormeley Curtis - Return from the Lido, 1884

Ralph Wormeley Curtis (United States, 1854 - 1922)

Return from the Lido, 1884

Oil on canvas, 74 x 142 cm (29 1/8 x 55 7/8 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the American painter and collector Ralph W. Curtis (1854-1992), Venice for $150 in December 1884.


Inscribed (lower right): R. CURTIS. 84.

Dimension Notes

Frame: 102.4 x 171.8 cm (40 5/16 x 67 5/8 in.)


Art Exhibition: Mrs. John L. Gardner, 152 Beacon St., Boston. Exh. cat. (Boston, 1899), p. 3, no. 4. (entitled "The Grand Canal of Venice")
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 1. (entitled "Return from the Lido")
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), p. 117. (entitled "The Gondola")
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 34. (entitled "The Gondola")
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 28 (8 Mar. 1964), p. 2. (entitled "The Gondola")
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 68-69, ill. (entitled "The Gondola")
Margaretta M. Lovell. A Visitable Past: Views of Venice by American Artists, 1860-1915 (Chicago, 1988), p. 31. (entitled "The Gondola")
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), p. 111, ill. (entitled "Return From the Lido")
Elizabeth Anne McCauley et al. Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Venice: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, 2004), pp. 11, 76, 78, 85, n149, pp. 225, 273, fig. 49. (entitled "Return from the Lido")
Rosella Mamoli Zorzi."'Foresti' In Venice in the Second Half of the 19th Century: Their Passion for Paintings, Brocades, and Glass." Atti dell' Instituto Veneto di Scienze, lettre ed arti (Venice, 2016), p. 4.

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Ralph Curtis was the son of Daniel and Arianna Curtis, Bostonians who moved permanently to Venice in the late 1870s. After graduating from Harvard (where he was one of the founders of the Lampoon), Curtis studied in Paris at the studio of Carolus-Duran. There he met John Singer Sargent, a distant relative, who became a good friend and sometime painting companion. Curtis met Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1884, when the Gardners spent five weeks in Venice. Thereafter, they met and corresponded frequently. Curtis found works of art for Mrs. Gardner, wrote about developments in the art world, and kept her up-to-date on “gondola gossip” in Venice.

Ralph Curtis’s painting of a gondola gliding through Venice must have held special meaning for Mrs. Gardner. Like the woman depicted, she and Curtis spent many hours in each other’s company floating through the canals. The slight touch of purple through the sky and in the water, along with the mysterious faces of the woman and her gondolier, adds the perfect tone of languid, exotic atmosphere to the scene.

Source: Richard Lingner, "Return from the Lido," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 111.