Joseph Mallord William Turner

Santa Maria della Salute and the Dogana at the Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice, at Sunset


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 221 × 322 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXV 17

Catalogue entry

The view is westwards from the Bacino off the porch of the Dogana, from close enough to align it so as to form a trio with the much larger Baroque domes of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, shown as a paler mass to its left, silhouetted against the brilliant white spot of the setting sun over the Grand Canal. Compare a pencil drawing from a little further off in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14438; Turner Bequest CLXXV 64a), and an 1840 colour study on a separate sheet (Tate D32163; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 26), with the porch and domes side-lined on the right to frame a shadowy evening view of the Canale della Giudecca.
Andrew Wilton noted this as ‘very similar in viewpoint, colouring and treatment’ to another study from this sketchbook (D32130; CCCXV 14),1 which shows a view from further off in similar hazy conditions. See also three contemporary studies on pale grey-white paper, looking across the Bacino in evening light with the Dogana and Salute on the left (Tate D32150–D32152; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 13–15).2 Wilton has described the effect here, ‘of the greatest simplicity and directness, relying only on exquisitely suggestive washes of a few colours’.3
Timothy Wilcox has characterised the ‘still, suffused light of Venice, intimated fleetingly in a few sheets in 1819, is here triumphantly recaptured’, but whereas ‘the buildings ... provided a pivot to earlier compositions, a small area of solid set against the unbounded expanse of sea and sky’ here they are ‘no longer presented as elements of contrast; they are one and the same medium as their surroundings, impregnated with the watery light which draws the entire scene into a single unity.’4 Of the handful of 1819 colour studies in the Como and Venice sketchbook, compare and contrast the atmospheric yet crisply detailed view from near the Dogana towards San Giorgio Maggiore across the Bacino, silhouetted on the right against the glare of the low morning sun (Tate D15254; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 4), essentially a fortuitous mirror image of the present composition.
Wilton 1975, p.143; see also Stainton 1985, p.56.
See Warrell 2003, p.209.
Wilton 1982, p.59.
Wilcox 1990, p.36.
Ibid., p.105.
See particularly ibid., fig.101 (colour), Stanfield’s watercolour The Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute of c.1830–1 (British Museum, London).
Ibid., p.209.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.252 no.403, pl.409 (colour).
Ibid., p.259 no.411, pl.416.
Warrell 2003, pp.209, 214.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Warrell 2013, p.216.
See O’Neill 2008, p.9.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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