Two Scenes of Venice by Mid 20th Century Master Costantino Proietto
Recently, Ms. Jennifer Malloy sent me two images of her family’s Costantino Proietto original oil painting. With help from Google Maps and Google Images, I have determined that the main subject of the painting is the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, in Venice, Italy. The view of the basilica is from across Tronchetto - Lido di Venezia. In the foreground, a gondolier plies a covered craft across the ripples of the lagoon. In the middle ground, sailboats hover in the dying light. Some distance behind the sailboats is the grand basilica, bathed in reflected pink light.
According to Ms. Malloy, “From 1964 - 1966, my father worked for the Department of National Defence for Canada. During that time, he was stationed at Fort Chambly, Germany. After returning from an Italian holiday, my father attended a base exhibition, where he fall in love with the C.Proietto Venice scene. Ever since, it has hung in my parents’ living room, in a small town in Ontario, Canada. The painting’s dimensions are 32” X 24” (81-cm. X 61-cm). I hope this little bit of info helps and I look forward to reading more about the artist.”
Originally, both Jennifer Malloy’s father and I believed that his painting was of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. However, using aerial views from Google Maps, I could not reconcile the painted image with photos of St. Mark’s Basilica. As viewed from across the water, the domes in the painting did not match those of St. Mark’s. Unless hidden behind the painting's sailboats, the skyline-dominating Campanile was missing.
Broadening my photo search of Venice, I soon found a match with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. For an aerial view of the basilica, click this link. As viewed from the Chiesa del Redentore, across the “trunk” to the southwest, Santa Maria della Salute matches well with this C.Proietto painting. Even the lighthouse, to the right in this painting, is in proper perspective. With such conclusive photographic evidence, I believe that this painting features Santa Maria della Salute.
According to artist’s cousin, Nunzio LoCastro, pastel paintings by Costantino Proietto are rare. In the artist’s early days in Germany, during World War II, brightly colored oil paints were rare. After the war, when new paint formulas became available, the artist’s paintings included lighter and brighter colors.
Together, St. Mark’s Basilica, its plaza and bell tower make up the iconic scene of Venice, Italy. Even so, Claude Monet selected Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute for a series of early-twentieth-century paintings. The Monet series depicts the basilica as viewed from across the Grand Canal, looking south. Since Tino Proietto painted from his own photographs, we can imagine him on the water at sundown, taking pictures of the basilica with his vintage Leica camera. To some, C.Proietto's Venice scene may seem fantastic and surreal. I believe that it is an accurate impression of what the artist saw and photographed one evening in Venice.
After researching and writing this article on the Malloy Family C.Proietto painting, I went back to my photographic archives and made a worthwhile discovery. There, among many other paintings in the LoCastro collection, I discovered another C.Proietto painting of Venice. The final painting on this page is a Costantino Proietto painting of St. Mark’s Basilica, the plaza and Campanile. In contrast to the pastel sunset at Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the St. Mark’s painting shows a rising sun.
Undoubtedly, the Malloy Family C.Proietto is another of Tino Proietto’s masterworks. With notable humility, Costantino Proietto’s 1960 era business card represents him as a “Kunstmaler”. Translated from German to English, the word means “production painter”. Over his five decade career, Tino Proietto’s output was indeed prodigious. Despite the large number of C.Proietto paintings in existence, I expect the international art community to recognize him as the grand master of “spaddle work” and a great mid-twentieth-century artist.