Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), Venice, with the Basilica and Campanile of San Marco, and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) on the Piazzetta Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and graphite on paper
Support: 230 × 301 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13b

Catalogue entry

The view is south-east to the Piazzetta from the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), with the west front of the Basilica on the left and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) at the centre. Rough verticals at the centre represent the three towering flagpoles in front of the Basilica. On the right is the lower part of the campanile of St Mark’s, with dots marking the staircase windows at its north-east corner. The rapid zig-zags below represent a crowd in the square.
Tate D32192 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13a), the quarter of the same sheet to the left of this, shows much the same view, turning more towards the south-east. Compare Tate D32250, D32256 and D32258 (Turner Bequest CCCXIX 2, 8, 10), contemporary Piazza night scenes on brown paper.
Technical notes:
There is some brown staining to the edges at the top right. This is one of four slight subjects on the recto of a sheet folded vertically and horizontally; see also Tate D32192, D32194 and D34195 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13a, c, d), and compare Tate D32196–D32199 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14a–d). The dimensions given are as recorded by Tate conservators, representing the overall sheet, and those of the present portion are approximately half those given in each direction.
Slight irregularities along the overall top edge of CCCXVII 13 (the half comprising D32192–D32193) match those at the bottom edge of the verso of CCCXVII 14 (D32198–D32199), showing that they once formed a continuous sheet. In discussing the papers used in Venice in 1840, Ian Warrell has described this as ‘Lightweight buff grey-paper from an unknown source, possibly English, with the watermark: “W”’.1
Among the Venetian sheets in paper conservator Peter Bower’s 1999 survey of Turner’s later papers,2 Tate D32233 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 14) was exhibited3 and reproduced, but there is a seemingly inadvertent mismatch.4 The detailed description and discussion of the sheet appear to apply to CCCXVII 14, and Bower also refers to ‘CCCXVIII 13’,5 meaning the present sheet. Bower noted: ‘Lightweight buff-grey wove | Watermark: W | Unknown maker’. He went on: ‘This quarter sheet is part of a well-formed lightweight buff wove sheet that also includes CCCXVIII 13’ (i.e. CCCXVII 13), torn down from a ‘full sheet size of approximately 17 ¾ x 22 ¾’ (inches; 450 x 578 mm), which ‘only matches one English paper size, Extra Large Post’, generally used for ‘white writing paper rather than coloured papers’; he suggested the German ‘Gross Median’ format of 460 x 590 mm as another possibility. Bower noted Tate D40202 (Turner Bequest LXXIV C), ‘erroneously catalogued as part of the [1802] Grenoble sketchbook’, but likely a Swiss 1840s sketch, as a ‘part sheet of this same paper ... also watermarked W in an outline capital’6 (compare the watermark on Tate D32195; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13d).
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 5) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
See Bower 1999, p.112.
According to Tate Registrars’ files.
See Warrell 2003, p.259.
Bower 1999, p.112.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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