Joseph Mallord William Turner

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, beyond the Traghetto San Maurizio on the Grand Canal


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 245 × 304 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 1

Display caption

Turner produced the majority of his watercolour sketches of Venice on his third trip to the city in 1840. This almost monochrome study reveals the complete assurance of Turner's watercolour technique. Here he allows the unpainted white of the paper to suggest the brilliance of reflected light, a process that meant anticipating the effect he hoped to achieve before he put paint to paper.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

The view is to the east along the Grand Canal. At a glance, the prospect appears similar to that shown in a more developed watercolour in the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook (Tate D32122; Turner Bequest CCCXV 6), but the viewpoint here is from nearer the north side of the canal and perhaps further forward, with the Casa Succi at the entrance to Rio del Santissimo in left foreground (opposite Campo San Vio), and the much larger Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande beyond, diminished by the steep perspective.
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘The Salute and Dogana’): ‘looking E from the Traghetto di San Gregorio’;1 Finberg later suggested: ‘from the Traghetto S. M. Zobenigo’2 (also known as Santa Maria del Giglio). These are opposite each other further on, towards Santa Maria della Salute. Ian Warrell favoured the Traghetto San Maurizio,3 just past the Casa Succi. Receding on the opposite side are the Ca’ Biondetti, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, and Casa Artom; Palazzo Dario and a compressed run of palaces (now terminating in the prominent late nineteenth century Gothic-revival Palazzo Genovese) follows, with the porch of the Dogana in silhouette beyond the gondolas, at the Bacino entrance to the canal.
The domes of the Salute and some west-facing walls catch the light from south, suggesting the early afternoon.4 D32122 shows a similar effect; despite a long, subjective discussion of some supposed points of weakness in Turner’s 1840 Venice watercolours, Finberg detected ‘flashes of the familiar vigour and decision. The dome and tower of the Salute, for instance ..., are struck in with all the old force and fire’ in each case.5 Warrell has observed that in ‘both watercolours the domes and towers of the Salute are defined more by what has been omitted than by a slavish realisation of their actual appearance’6 (see under D32122 for John Ruskin’s comments on Turner’s quest to express the brightness of architecture in the powerful Venetian light); the ‘radiant afternoon sunlight ... catches the flanks of buildings and the domes of the Salute so powerfully that they become disembodied. Watercolour is not used merely to describe form, but also to represent the shadows by which from is defined.’7
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1017.
Finberg 1930, p.173.
See Warrell 2003, p.273.
Ibid., p.164.
Finberg 1930, p.125.
Warrell 1995, p.107.
Warrell 2003, p.164.
Ibid., p.104; see also Stainton 1985, p.74; Patrick Noon, Richard Parkes Bonington: The Complete Paintings, New Haven and London 2008, p.285 no.226, as ‘Entrance to the Grand Canal, with Santa Maria della Salute’.
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.33 (colour).
Warrell 2003, fig.32 (colour).
Stainton 1985, p.57.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1363, reproduced; Stainton 1985, p.57; see also Lyles 1992, pp.81–2.
See Lyles 1992, p.81.
Albeit Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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