Joseph Mallord William Turner

Florence: The Piazza di San Firenze and Complesso di San Firenze, with the Bargello, Badia Fiorentina and Duomo Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 224 × 289 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXI 8

Catalogue entry

Finberg subsequently annotated his generic 1909 Inventory title (‘Street Scene’) with ‘Florence. Badia (J.P.H)’;1 the initials are those of the etcher and collector John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929), whose occasional suggestions are noted in copies of the Inventory at Tate Britain. In another copy he simply noted ‘Florence’,2 while the Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated a further copy: ‘Florence, the Piazza San Firenze with the towers of the Badia and Bargello and cupola of the Duomo’.3
The viewpoint is at the southern end of the irregular square, which widens half way along its western side before narrowing again. Ian Warrell has noted that the Complesso di San Firenze’s oratory is in the foreground,4 its Baroque façade encrusted with statues over the pedimented doorways at the near and far ends. The ornate capital to the right is a separate detail, as the steep perspective means that it would have been well outside the top right-hand corner relative to the main view. The plaque below it seems to be a temporary feature at the corner of the Borgo dei Greci; it is marked as being ‘Red Gold’, which Warrell has suggested as indicative of a Christmas decoration5 (see below).
At the centre in the distance the Via del Proconsolo recedes to the north, with the medieval tower of the Bargello (the Palazzo del Bargello or del Popolo) on the right, now an art museum noted for its Renaissance sculpture collection. The spire to the left is the Gothic campanile of the Badia Fiorentina abbey complex, directly opposite the Bargello’s tower, and at the far left is the heavily rusticated Renaissance façade of the Palazzo Gondi. Some 250 metres beyond the Badia and hence relatively inconspicuous from this angle is Brunelleschi’s vast early Renaissance dome over the crossing of Florence Cathedral (the Duomo). A later range of taller buildings towards the far end of the square mean that only the cupola is now clearly visible; Turner seems in any case to have placed it too high relative to the campanile.
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.535.
Undated MS note by Finberg in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.535.
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.535.
Undated notes in Tate catalogue files.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.382–3 nos.713–715, reproduced.
Ibid., p.384 nos.726–729, most reproduced.
Undated notes in Tate catalogue files, citing Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, p.92.
Undated notes in Tate catalogue files.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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