This is a spectacular view of the inner courtyard of the Palace of the Dux of Venice, facing the San Marcos Basilica. The latter’s domes, silhouetted against a totally clear, brilliant blue sky, are seen behind the splendid palace architecture which, in turn, is bathed in the light of a radiant sun that sharply outlines its reliefs in intense chiaroscuro.
In a highly unusual format for the artist, Rico displays in this canvas his superb talent for urban landscapes - especially for an astonishingly meticulous portrayal of monumental buildings which, in this case, extends to the smallest ornamental details on the inside façades of the palace, with their perfectly-defined crests, niches and finishing touches. This is achieved by means of clean, accurate drawing, the fruit of his very sharp observation of life interpreted through the luminous preciosity learned from his great friend Mariano Fortuny. Nevertheless, even though the imposing architecture dominates as the undisputed protagonist of this splendid canvas, Rico takes special care to include small figures whose clothing and movements are painted with extreme delicacy. Uninhibited and engaged in their daily activities, they somewhat lighten the solemnity of the overwhelming sumptuousness of the buildings. In this spirit, the man sitting on the ground next to the rim of the well, who is being watched by two children as he feeds the pigeons, the man shaking the carpet from the balustrade, and the two women wrapped in shawls who are walking towards the doorway in the background, all represent a touch of colour in a picture that is dominated by the cold grey of monumental stone.
According to the inscription on the rear, this picture was painted in 1883, during the artist’s period of full maturity. It bears witness yet again to the special seduction exercised by the city of Venice on Martín Rico throughout his life, ever since he discovered it on his first trip to Italy in 1872.