Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), Venice, with the Basilica and Campanile


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 x 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 44

Catalogue entry

Finberg subsequently annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘Piazza S. Marco’): ‘looking twds. S. Mark’s’.1 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated another copy: ‘looking towards the Basilica’.2 The view is east-north-east along St Mark’s Square; Finberg later noted Turner’s viewpoint as ‘standing beside the fourth column from the entrance to the square’.3 The campanile is dominant from this angle at the centre, with the basilica to its left, the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) to its right, and various supplementary details of its upper stages alongside, as Finberg set out: ‘the scallop decorations of the four arches at the top of the brickwork, then the simple shaft and capital of one of the four arches of the stone belfry, and then all [Turner] could see of the figure seated between two lions on the tower above’.4
As Finberg realised: ‘The high sloping spire should be carried to a point immediately below the base which supports the angel on the summit, but apparently there was scaffolding around the upper part’,5 as seen more clearly on folio 84 recto (D14476).
At the gutter is the Torre dell’Orologio (clock tower), and the view continues a little way onto folio 43 verso opposite (D14396), where the Procuratie Vecchie range north of the square balances the composition opposite the regular façade of the Procuratie Nuove advancing along the south side here. Turner has typically only drawn the nearest bays in detail, while adding more written notes. Finberg observed: ‘One width of the lower storeys was sufficient, as they were all alike, but two widths of the upper storeys was necessary, because the entablatures of the windows are crowned alternately with triangular and semi-circular pediments’. He called this ‘an excellent example of Turner’s systematic note-taking’.6
The great height of the campanile left Turner with little room for manoeuvre along the bottom of the view, and he added a study of the squares paving in the sky above San Marco. For other drawings made in the vicinity and an overview of Turner’s coverage of Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Finberg 1930, p.28.
Ibid., pp.28, 31.
Ibid., p.31.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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