Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping off the Ponte della Paglia, Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk and graphite on paper
Support: 230 × 301 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14 a

Catalogue entry

This rapid sketch is readily identifiable by the elevated silhouette of the Bridge of Sighs.1 Seen to the north from the busy Bacino, it spans the Rio di Palazzo, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) on the left and the New Prisons on the right. The nearer, more conventional bridge is the Ponte Paglia, linking the quays of the Molo and the Riva degli Schiavoni. Though likely sketched directly like the other three Venice subjects on this folded sheet (see the technical notes), this one readily recalls the composition of the oil painting Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited at the Royal Academy earlier in 1840 (Tate N00527).2
There are also studies in the 1840 sketchbooks, including similar views in the Rotterdam to Venice and Venice; Passau to Würzburg books (Tate D32437, D31306–D13307; Turner Bequest CCCXX 89, CCCX 15a, 16). D32197 (CCCXVII 14b), on another quarter of this sheet, is a closer view of the Bridge of Sighs; see also a nocturnal colour study in the present grouping (D32253; CCCXIX 5).
Of the two further sketches on this sheet, D32198 (CCCXVIII 14c) is a more extensive view from nearby, while D32199 (CCCXVII 14d) is too slight a Venice subject to be readily identified.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.1023, and Finberg 1930, p.175.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.235 no.383, pl.386 (colour).
Technical notes:
This is one of four slight subjects on the recto of a sheet folded vertically and horizontally; see also Tate D32197, D32198 and D34199 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14b, c, d), and compare Tate D32192–D32195 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13a–d). The dimensions given are as recorded by Tate conservators, representing the overall sheet, and those of the present portion are approximately half those given in each direction.
Slight irregularities along the overall top edge of CCCXVII 13 (the half comprising D32192–D32193) match those at the bottom edge of the verso of CCCXVII 14 (D32198–D32199), showing that they once formed a continuous sheet. In discussing the papers used in Venice in 1840, Ian Warrell has described this as ‘Lightweight buff grey-paper from an unknown source, possibly English, with the watermark: “W”’.1
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 5) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
See Bower 1999, p.112.
According to Tate Registrars’ files.
See Warrell 2003, p.259.
Bower 1999, p.112.
Ibid., pl.66A.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop