Technique and condition
This watercolour and gouache composition has been executed on a medium weight, brown coloured, wove paper. There is no watermark. On the verso (Tate D40321) there is a light gouache sketch, the subject of which is indiscernible.
This is a swiftly executed sketch. The image covers the whole of the recto but is denser in some parts than in others. Some areas are extremely fluid in style; other areas have fairly dry paint application, particularly the application of white gouache in the centre of the image. Layers have been built up in an informal fashion. This work is in quite good condition with the colours retaining much of their vibrancy. The dark brown colour of the paper has been used to great effect to create the atmosphere of this scene. In the top left-hand corner of the verso there is a line of black paint and a small dark blue speck of paint below it, both are probably watercolour.
Prior to conservation in 2009 the sheet was severely cocked as a result of having been damp at some point in the past. There is a crease along the far edge of the right-hand side of the recto. This edge has been torn rather than cut which suggests that it was the right hand side of the sheet which was attached to the sketchbook. There is also a small ingrained crease in the top right hand quarter of the recto – this appears to have been caused during the paper manufacturing process, when the paper was hung over a line to dry.
This loosely worked colour study, little more than an atmospheric ‘beginning’, is nevertheless recognisable1 as showing the domes of Santa Maria della Salute, blue-grey to the south-west near the centre, across the Grand Canal from the vicinity of the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying; see the Introduction to this subsection.
Compare two colour studies of night scenes from around the same point (Tate D32230, D32232; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 11, 13), and a related view of the Dogana and Salute by the light of a rocket (D32248; CCCXVIII 29).2 All were developed over broad washes with touches of chalk, gouache and dark, fluid outlines to bring out selected details, and the present work could presumably have been developed in a similar way. The brighter lighting and composition in this case are more reminiscent of a finished watercolour on conventional white sketchbook paper, The Grand Canal, with Santa Maria della Salute, from near the Hotel Europa (private collection),3 looking in the same direction towards a bright yellow sunset.
There is an even slighter Venice waterfront view on the verso (D40321).
The sky appears deliberately rubbed or scrubbed to introduce a degree of texture. Ian Warrell has observed that this sheet was ‘formerly attached at bottom edge’ to Tate D29011 (Turner Bequest CCXCII 60), a German subject from later on the same tour.1 They are among numerous mostly Venetian 1840 subjects that Warrell has noted as being on ‘Grey-brown paper produced by an unknown maker (possibly ... a batch made at Fabriano [Italy])’;2 for numerous red-brown Fabriano sheets used for similar subjects, see for example under Tate D32224 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5).
Warrell noted the grey-brown sheets as being torn into two formats: nine sheets of approximately 148 x 232 mm (Tate D32220, D32249–D32250, D32252–D32253, D32255–D32258; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 1, CCCXIX 1, 2, 4, 5, 7–10), and seven of twice the size, at about 231 x 295 mm (Tate D32223, D32226, D32228–D32229, D32231, D32233, D32242; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23).
- townscapes / man-made features(21,710)