Exhibitions: John Singer Sargent Watercolors

The setting for this vividly bright watercolor was the classical Renaissance garden at the Villa Medici di Castello, designed by Niccolò Tribolo to extol Cosimo de’ Medici’s reign over the nearby city of Florence. The garden was laid out on an incline, with geometrically designed box and herb hedges as a backdrop for grand fountains by Benedetto Varchi. Although Sargent featured the imposing Hercules and Antaeus fountain, he summarily cropped away the two battling bronze figures at its top and nearly erased the smaller bronze boys perched on the edge of the lower basin. He directed his eye to transcribe only the bleached outlines and tinted shadows of the wide basins and decorative stone carvings in the raking glare.