Joseph Mallord William Turner

Red Sails at Chioggia


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 165 × 250 mm
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996

Catalogue entry

Paul Ferdinand Willert, Oxford
Gift to his daughter Dorothy, Mrs Arthur Thomas Loyd, Lockinge, Wantage
Sold from the estate of A.T. Loyd, Sotheby’s, London 27 November 1945 (58), £38
Bought by A. Paul Oppé
Denys Lyonel Tollemache Oppé and family by descent
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
The source of this slight work’s long-standing title, as retained here, is unknown. It is the only Venetian subject in Tate’s miscellaneous holdings of Turner’s works on paper outside the Turner Bequest, and although it was exhibited in the years leading up to its acquisition in 1996, it has attracted little attention since.1 It is also technically somewhat anomalous (see the notes below), but has been placed here with Lagoon subjects associated with 1840 from the Bequest.2
While the fishing boats of Venice featured words and emblems painted on their sails, epitomised in Turner’s oil painting The Sun of Venice going to Sea, exhibited in 1843 (Tate N00535),3 those at based at Chioggia, a town on an island just off the coast of the mainland about sixteen miles south across the Lagoon from Venice, appear to have been plainer but still distinctive. The painter New Zealand-born painter Frances Hodgkins (1869–1947), visiting in 1906, made a watercolour of Red Sails in the harbour there (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)4 and noted: ‘The red and yellow sails are of course a feature of Chioggia’.5 While the wording of the title here implies that Chioggia itself is depicted, there are no identified views of the port among Turner’s sketches, and the ghostly white forms of a waterfront and numerous towers on the horizon are perhaps intended to evoke Venice itself, as seen in the distance in the more developed colour study of The Approach to Venice (Tate D32153; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 16).
The near monochrome effect is superficially somewhat like that of contemporary Venetian studies on mid-toned brown and grey papers articulated by strong, often unmodulated accents of light and dark (see for example Tate D32222; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 3). However, these are generally nocturnal scenes, while here the rich, dark forms towards the left and the shallow white band towards the right are brought together by an overarching if subdued rainbow. Although Turner sometimes represented the phenomenon in a truer array of hues (for example Tate D18139; Turner Bequest CCVIII F), this is characteristic of those which appear in watercolour sketches over many years, even when the general range of colours is more varied than here; compare Tate D02609, D05837, D17197, D18626 or D24794 (Turner Bequest LIII 98, XCIII 40a, CXCVII G, CCXII 23, CCLIX 229).
Not mentioned in Ian Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003.
Dated as such in Wilton 1979, p.465.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.250–2 no.402, pl.408 (colour).
Ian Buchanan, Michael Dunn and Elizabeth Eastmond, Frances Hodgkins: Paintings and Drawings, London 1995, pl.5 (colour).
Quoted ibid., p.96.
See Stephanie Jenkins, ‘Pullen’s Lane: The Croft’, Welcome to Headington, Oxford, accessed 20 April 2017,
See Michael Rhodes, ‘Catherine Countess of Clanwilliam, widow of the 6th Earl’, Peerage News, accessed 20 April 2017,, and Darryl Lundy, ‘Arthur Thomas Loyd’, The Peerage, accessed 20 April 2017,
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.47–8 no.60, 58 no.76, 73–4 no.102, 83–4 no.117, and 125 no.201.
Catalogue of Valuable Printed Books Comprising Heirlooms removed from Blithfield Hall, ... also the Highly Important Collection of Autograph Letters and Historical Documents formerly the Property of the Rt. Hon. Lord Wantage, V.C., K.C.B., and now Sold by Order of the Executor of the Late A.T. Loyd, Esq., Lockinge House, Wantage, London 1945.
For the overall outline of this provenance, see Aydua Helen Scott-Elliot, TS catalogue of the Oppé collection, 1960s, photocopy in Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, p.239.
See Wilton 1979, p.465.
See ‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840 Tour, sections 4–12) in Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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