Martin Rico Y Ortega was born in Madrid on 12 November 1833 and died in Venice on 13 April 1908. He was a friend of the French landscape painter Charles-Francois Daubigny and was one of the first Spanish artists to paint his subjects in situ.

In 1872, accompanied by Mariano Fortuny, he toured Italy, where he became impressed by the splendour of Venice and he captured the architecture and light in innumerable paintings.

From 1879, by which time he had made Paris his permanent home, Ortega spent his summers in Venice, renting a palazzo in which to paint. He would often work sitting in a gondola sketching buildings and bridges as seen from the water.

In 1878, the art critic Paul Lefort wrote of Ortega in La Gazette des Beaux-Arts: “Although a fanatic when it comes to light and an aficionado of rare and augmented colour tonalities which in his works resemble precious stones, he refrains from overstepping the limits of human vision…The Grand Canal of Venice, the Slaves Wharf, his views of Rome, of Toledo, of the Escorial and of Granada are […] inimitable morsels which reveal his talents in composition as well as his care in execution” (quoted in Carlos Gonzalez and Montse Marti, Spanish Painters in Rome 1850-1900, Madrid, 1987, pp182-3).