Bocca d'Arno

Bocca d'Arno by Giovanni Costa, 1826-1903. Signed and indistinctly dated 'G. COSTA 18?5'. Oil on panel: 7 x 26 inches, 17.8 x 66 cm. Provenance: The Rev Stopford Brooke By descent to Mrs Thomas Burchard to 1985 Exhibited: Wolverhampton, Art and Industrial Exhibition, Fine Art Section, 1902.

Commentary by Hilary Morgan

The painting shows the mouth of the River Arno close to the village of Bocca d' Arno on the Tuscan coast of Italy. although Costa had made earlier visits to this area, notably in 1859, the stark simplicity of the painting's composition and the reduction of its range of colour and tone indicate that it derives from the last phase of the artist's career. From 1885 onwards Costa owned a house at Bocca d'Arno, and spent the summers and autumns of each year there. Costa's date on the painting is hard to read, but it seems most likely that the work originates from 1885, or possibly 1895.

Costa's painting 'Bocca d' Arno' recapitulates his principles and predilections for landscape painting in the last years of his life. The composition is extended into a pronouncedly horizontal format to give emphasis to the majestic lines of the mountainous skyline and to allow a sense of the open expanse of water at the point where river turns into sea. Colour is subordinate to atmosphere and tone; the painting evokes the time of day when wreaths of mist are still to be seen rising from the surface of the water, before the heat of the noon sun has reduced all to shimmering haze. No human element obtrudes; no indication is offered of man's habitation or activities, nor is reference made either to modern life, or a mythic past. Whereas earlier in his career Costa had imbued his paintings with a rich symbolism, a sense, that a landscape has been the setting of great events whether imagined or half-forgotten, here all is abstract, a powerful and self-contained pattern of shapes and colour which is remote from man's direct experience of the landscape but which is suggestive of the essential elements of nature.


Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989. Catalogue number 142.

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Last modified 21 January 2002