Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the West Front of the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice; the Basilica with the Piazzetta Beyond and the Campanile and Biblioteca Marciana (Libreria Sansoviniana) Opposite


Not on display
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 185 x 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 43

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the page turned vertically, these scattered details are taken from the west front of the Basilica of San Marco, seen from the Piazza (St Mark’s Square), showing various aspects of its heavily ornamented array of marble-clad arched portals and columns, windows, mosaics and statuary, accompanied by copious colour notes.1
The features include: at the top centre, the leftmost of the five doorways set within the portals; at the top right, the second of the four lunette panels of the gables flanking the central window; at the centre left the tracery of the windows over the second doorway and their setting; towards the bottom left, the central principal doorway and its elaborate surround including its tympanum, with notes of what Finberg interprets as a ‘“V”, for vert or verde antica’ and ‘“P” for porphyry’;2 to the right of centre the ogee gable and arch over the central window, marked ‘Blue G with Gold Stars’; and the statue of St Mark surmounting the gable as a separate detail below it.
Finberg also noted Turner’s typical combination of careful observation and visual elision with regard to ‘some shafts and capitals of the north-west porch’:
among them what I take to be [John] Ruskin’s favourite lily capital. But, to economize space ... after drawing the capital and lintel he puts two short lines marking the width of the shaft, and then, leaving a slight interval, he draws the moulding below at the base ... The result is that you have a very stumpy and overweighted column, and it is only after a careful examination that you realize that it is Turner’s short-hand for one of the most graceful shafts in existence.3
Along the gutter is a continuation of the northern end of the basilica’s west front from the full-page view from the square on folio 42 verso opposite (D14394), inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation. For other drawings made in the vicinity and an overview of Turner’s coverage of Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

See Warrell and Perkins 1988, p.22, and Warrell 2003, p.125.
Finberg 1930, p.28.

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