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View of Capo Sant’Alessio near Taormina. Oil on paper. 19.5 x 14 cm. Monogrammed and dated: „S. B. 1825“. Verso inscribed: “Sicile / Capo S. Alessio (Messina) / Route de Messina a Catane”.
Louise Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont, a painter of landscapes and architecture, was trained in the studio of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, one of the few workshops accessible to women at the time. Her artistic career was surprisingly lengthy, encompassing a period of over forty years after her debut in Paris in 1812. Initially patronised by the Empress Joséphine, she subsequently enjoyed the protection of the Duchess of Berry, whose collection included twelve Italian vedute in her hand. Her studio in the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris was a popular meeting place for artists, including such prominent figures as Gros and Ingres.
Sarazin de Belmont’s first journey to Italy lasted from 1824 to 1826, during which time she produced a large number of oil sketches and drawings. In keeping with the studio practice of her teacher, de Valenciennes, the sketches are frequently small oil studies, generally no larger than 20 centimetres in size. The artist is thus obliged to create the maximum spatial effect and atmospheric density within very narrowly defined limits. The present oil study is a wonderful example of her work in this format. The Capo Sant‘Alessio she has portrayed is a distinctive rock ledge situated between Messina and Taormina. The artist has enhanced this picturesque location by depicting the towering rock from a low vantage point, making the formation appear to soar up in breathtaking fashion above the blue sea. There is no one to be seen at this bleak and barren site. A lonely cross gives the landscape a sacred touch. The artist’s attention is focused entirely on creating a convincing reproduction of the bizarre, craggy rocks and the warm Mediterranean light, which brightens up the stone and the sparse vegetation. The silhouette of the coast of Calabria can be picked out on the horizon through a veil of haze. The outcome is a wonderfully poetic evocation of the natural beauty of Italy.