Károly Markó the Elder

Károly Markó the Elder
(Löcse, now Levoča, Slovakia 1793 - 1860 Villa Lappeggi near Antella, Tuscany)

Italian Landscape with a Rainbow, Pisa 1841

Oil on canvas, 43 x 62 cm
Signed, inscribed and dated lower right C. Markó p. Pisis 1841

Munich, Sotheby’s, auction sale, December 8, 1998, lot 57;
Rudolf August Oetker (1916-2007);
Private collection, USA.


The Hungarian painter Károly Markó[1] (also known as Carlo Marco) made the present painting on his stay in Pisa in 1841. It is a masterful example of the work he produced during his years in Italy. He repeatedly addressed landscape themes, recording his observations of atmospheric phenomena and capturing the dramatic mood of an approaching storm or the shimmering effects of a rainbow – a nod to the perfect arch depicted in the iconic landscapes of his friend Joseph Anton Koch. A leading member of the German artists’ colony in Rome, Koch was the most influential landscape painter of his day and spent his entire career in that city.

In the present painting Markó leads the viewer into an expansive landscape rich in Mediterranean vegetation. A double rainbow fills part of the sky. One by one, goatherds emerge from the shelter of a rocky cave where they have taken refuge from a recent storm. The figures of a young peasant woman and her small daughter hasten home with their laundry. Markó sets his everyday rural scene in an Arcadian landscape, adding historical attributes such as a Roman bridge and the distant ruins of a castle.

A large part of Markó’s œuvre consists in depictions of classical and biblical themes as well as landscapes with simple rural scenes. The drama and potency of his lighting effects are hallmarks of his painting and explain the extraordinary popularity of his work.

He began his artistic training at the age of twenty-seven, studying drawing in Budapest from 1818 to 1821. He furthered his drawing skills at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1822-23, where he studied historical drawing. In 1826, he was a first-time contributor to the end-of-year exhibition at the Vienna Academy, where his paintings were particularly well received. He soon enjoyed a reputation as the ‘most widely exhibited Hungarian contemporary artist’.[2] The light-filled Italian landscapes of Claude Lorrain (1600-82) served as his main models and provided an important source of inspiration.

Markó produced a large number of Hungarian landscapes for the Viennese banker Jacob Geymüller. With Geymüller’s patronage, he was able to settle in Rome, while his wife and children remained in Vienna. In Rome, he struck up friendships with Austrian-born Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839) and the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Thanks to their support and Geymüller’s influential contacts he soon obtained a flurry of commissions from members of the Austrian and Italian aristocracy. Markó moved to Pisa with his family in 1838 and then to Florence in 1843, where he was named an honorary member of the Accademia di Belle Arti. Membership of the academies in Venice and Arezzo followed. In 1848 he retired to a property south-east of Florence, the Villa Lappeggi near Antella. He was to remain there for the rest of his life, making a final trip to Budapest in 1853. His work was shown at the Great London Exhibition in 1862 – a mark of rare international recognition for a Hungarian painter. His three sons Károly the Younger, András and Ferenc were also painters. All three upheld their father’s tradition on his death in 1860.

  1. For a biography of Markó see Károly Markó and His Circle. From Myth to Image, exhib. cat. Budapest, Magyar Nemezeti Galéria, May-October 2011, pp. 31-40. ↑
  2. Károly Markó, op. cit., p. 33. ↑


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