Joseph Mallord William Turner

An Interior, Perhaps the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, with Figures


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk, gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 234 × 245 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 12

Catalogue entry

The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Interior of church, with figures’): ‘nondescript’.1 Loosely defined in white, numerous ghostly figures appear to kneel or process towards the right of the shadowy space, apparently in relation to the bright upright form, which perhaps represents a gilded altarpiece or light through an archway. Compare the view from the nave of San Marco (St Mark’s) into the glowing north transept in the technically related Tate D32226 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 7); see also Tate D32227, D32241 and D32252 (CCCXVIII 8, 22, CCCXIX 4). Tate D32233 (CCCXVIII 14) employs a similar palette and swift technique to evoke what seems to be an outdoor setting.
This relatively slight work has attracted little comment, although Andrew Wilton has questioned Finberg’s reading, suggesting that it is rather among a ‘series of scenes at a play’2 attended in Venice (see under Tate D32237; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 18).
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1027.
Wilton 1974, p.157; see also p.155.
Technical notes:
The sheet appears much darkened except at the right-hand edge. Prominent stains to the bottom left and elsewhere are perhaps owing to the 1928 Tate Gallery flood.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Grey-brown paper produced by an unknown maker (possibly ... a batch made at Fabriano [Italy])’;1 for numerous red-brown Fabriano sheets used for similar subjects, see for example under Tate D32224 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5).
Warrell noted the grey-brown sheets as being torn into two formats: nine sheets of approximately 148 x 232 mm (Tate D32220, D32249–D32250, D32252–D32253, D32255–D32258; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 1, CCCXIX 1, 2, 4, 5, 7–10), and seven of twice the size, at about 231 x 295 mm (Tate D32223, D32226, D32228–D32229, D32231, D32233, D32242; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23).
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also sections 9 and 10.
Blank, with extensive staining; inscribed by Turner in ink ‘16’ bottom right, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘45’ above centre, ascending vertically; inscribed in pencil ‘S | TRIM’ below centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘[...]’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘D32231’ over ‘CCCXVIII 12’ bottom right. For Turner’s ink numbering of many similar sheets, see the Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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