The Bead Stringers of Venice
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Oil on canvas laid on board 
56.2 x 81.9 cm (22 1/8 x 32 1/4 in.) 
5th Baron Cloncurry bequest, 1929 NGI921 
Jpg: friend of the JSS Gallery
The painting, an unfinished sketch, shows bead stringers assembling the beads as they sit outside in a small alley or corridor. The two nearest women face an open door, possibly a bead shop similar to what Sargent painted in Venetian Glass Workers (thumbnail). Apparently whatever he was planning for the doorway, he grew frustrated and scraped, or literally cut it away, taking part of a woman leaning against the wall with it. (1) 

Although never finished, it's one of maybe just a couple of Sargent's paintings showing bead-stringers sitting outside while they work. That women worked this way is well documented in photographs of the period (thumbnails). 

Again, the subject of depth of focus is important. The women towards the back are only roughly sketched in at this stage of the painting. We see two for sure, but it appears, to my observation, that additional women were intended to stretch further back along the more narrow alley. A thin bar of late- morning light cuts through the buildings which are always crowding the Venetian cityscape and illuminating part of the pavement and wall. Light and shadows -- depth and perspective -- all constant themes for him during this period. Possibly, he had invisioned someone leaning in the doorway of the opened shop which wasn't working to his satisfaction when he scraped it off. 

Since the thing was never finished, we have the Hon. Valentine Lawless, who later became Baron Cloncurry, for saving this for us. Before Sargent could destroy it, Lawless (a sometime sculptor and collector) asked if he cold have the painting. John complied and inscribed it as a gift. Lawless took the work and had it repaired.  

Special thanks to Philip Rsheph, of London, a friend of the JSS Gallery, for help with this image and information.  

1) The National Gallery of Ireland describes the patch thus: 

    a third figure [woman leaning on the wall], now lost by the insertion of a piece of roughly painted canvas. Sargent was seemingly dissatisfied with this part and cut it out.
I haven't seen this painting in person but the description from the museum is ambiguous. Did Sargent literally cut the canvas off and paste in a new "patch"? It seems, to me, that you can faintly see the woman and the door frame towards the bottom of the "patched" area which might mean  Sargent only scraped it away rather than literally "cutting it out" but the museum is pretty clear about the painting being "repaired" so maybe whatever happened, it was damaged to a point that Sargent gave up on the piece -- and maybe the reason it wasn't finished. 
Venetian Glass Workers 
Brogi Studios 
Venetian Bead Stringers 
Calle dell' Angiolo a San Martino, Venice 

Carlo Naya 

Cecil Van Haanen

Venetian Bead-Stringers 

Created 6/18/2003