The Bridge of Sighs

Frank Brangwyn
1867 - 1956

1911, etched engraving
Frank Brangwyn room

Gondolas glide down the waters of the Rio de Palazzo o de Canonica, passing under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy.  Looking into the background, you can see pedestrians walking over a second bridge.  The Bridge of Sighs was built in 1602 by Antonio da Ponte to connect the Doge’s Palace Courtroom to the Prison.  Convicts finished their days of imprisonment by walking down this passage and their muffled whimpers which used to frighten the Venetians explain the name of one of Venice's most famous bridges. 
This etched engraving is part of a collection of art by Frank Brangwyn owned by painter Albert de Belleroche and which was donated to the Orange Art and History Museum in 1949.

Frank Brangwyn was an English artist born in Bruges who was influenced by his father - a decorative neo-gothic architect who studied in the London studio of William Morris (founder of the Arts and Crafts movement).  He left this studio at the age of 17 to be able to focus solely on painting.  He had a tough time in London and this made him particularly partial to subjects like poverty and the life of working men. 
From 1888 Frank Brangwyn spent some time travelling round Turkey, Tunisia, the Middle East, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium.  He brought back drawings, sketches and photographs and the subjects such as urban scenes, landscapes, rivers and bridges provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration throughout his life. 

Brangwyn travelled to Venice several times.  He loved the town’s ‘sweet air’ and painted more than 55 watercolours.  The Bridge of Sighs was engraved in 1911 based on a sketch.  The monumental approach to the scene is due to the graphic influence of Italian artist Giambattista Piranèse (1720-1778).As in all of Brangwyn's work, the space only features very few figures, which allows the architecture to dominate.