Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Artist’s Bedroom in the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), Venice, with the City Beyond

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 230 × 302 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32219
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34

Catalogue entry

This airy interior is apparently Turner’s own bedroom high up at the north-eastern corner of the Hotel Europa (the Palazzo Giustinian),1 where he stayed in 1840, as he had in 1833 (see the Introduction to this subsection, and further comment at the end of this entry). This is corroborated by his emphatic note on the verso (‘J M W T Bedroom at Venice’);2 compare inscriptions mentioning ‘my Bed Room’ on the versos of Tate D32140 and D32179 (CCCXVI 3, 42). The bright vertical slivers of the vista through the windows show the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in afternoon sunlight to the north-east on the left and that of San Giorgio Maggiore less conspicuously to the south-east at the centre.3
Although in relative shadow, the interior is flooded with ambient light and enlivened by areas of earthy red with hints of furniture, deeper sky-like blue areas flanking the windows, a decorated ceiling and what Finberg described as ‘bright yellow mosquito nets over the beds’.4 He reasonably suggested that it was ‘painted direct from sight’,5 something which can rarely be said for certain of Turner’s watercolour landscape studies. Ian Warrell has described the room as ‘a temporary studio’ for the sequence of rooftop views over central Venice grouped here,6 and it was likely used for working on at least some of the extensive range of watercolours showing other aspects of the city.
Jack Lindsay included this work among examples of Turner’s depictions both of bedrooms and of sexual imagery,7 and David Blayney Brown has described the ‘vividness and immediacy’ and ‘joyousness’ of the setting with its ‘tumbled untidiness of bedding and clothing’,8 which James Hamilton has read as a ‘potent subject’ for the artist, with ‘crumpled sheets on his bed, and ample evidence, if any were needed, that a woman helped him keep his bed warm’.9 Compare the explicit representation of a bedroom and its abandoned inhabitants in the 1802 Swiss Figures sketchbook from Turner’s first Continental tour in 1802 (Tate D04798; Turner Bequest LXXVIII 1).
1
See Warrell 2003, p.24.
2
See Wilton 1982, p.61, Stainton 1985, p.53, Wilton 1987, p.[174].
3
See Warrell 2003, pp.138, 198.
4
Finberg 1930, p.93; Finberg 1961, p.356; see also Warrell 2003, p.138.
5
Finberg 1961, p.356; see also Stainton 1985, p.53.
6
Warrell 2003, p.24; see also p.138.
7
See Lindsay 1966, p.244 note 18.
8
Brown 1992, p.126.
9
Hamilton 2009, p.101.
10
See Stainton 1985, p.53, and Hamilton 1997, p.287.
11
See Warrell 2003, p.24.
12
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1026.
13
See Stainton 1985, p.53.
14
See Warrell 2003, p.138.
15
Finberg 1930, p.93.
16
Finberg 1961, p.356.
17
See also Warrell 2003, p.138.
18
Graham-Dixon 1996, p.159; for Turner and Modernism in general, see Sam Smiles, J.M.W. Turner: The Making of a Modern Artist, Manchester and New York 2007.
19
Scully 2016, p.31.
20
Ibid.; see also Masheck 2017, p.831.
21
Noted from commentary and footage in ‘Death’, episode 4 of Franceso da Mosta’s Francesco’s Venice, produced and directed by Sam Hobkinson (BBC, 2004).
1
Warrell 2003, p.138.
2
Finberg 1961, p.356 (as first published in 1939 edition).
3
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 4) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
4
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1362, reproduced.
5
Ibid., respectively p.464 no.1369, reproduced, p.465 no.1372, reproduced.
6
See 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.110 under no.63.
7
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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