Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Bacino Waterfront, Venice, by Moonlight, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Chalk on paper
Dimensions
Support: 147 x 230 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D34233
Turner Bequest CCCXLII 41v

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his tentative 1909 Inventory entry (‘Buildings beside lake’, in a large grouping of ‘Miscellaneous: black and white’ drawings on ‘Brown Paper’): ‘Cert[ai]n[l]y Venice. Moonlight. Campe. & Schiavoni from Europa’.1 Although very slight, this white chalk sketch clearly shows the eastward prospect to the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Bacino waterfront including the Riva degli Schiavoni, with the ghostly forms of boats illuminated by the light of the reflected crescent moon. During Turner’s 20 August–3 September 1840 stay in Venice this phase coincided with the second week, between the new moon on 27 August and its first quarter on the day he left.2
Whether directly observed or recollected, the scene’s viewpoint appears to be the vicinity of the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner stayed in 1840; see the parallel subsection of views from inside and around it. The present view would have been included there directly but for the presence of another slight Venice subject on the recto (D34232; Turner Bequest CCCXLII 41), more relevant to the St Mark’s grouping. Among the Europa subjects, compare in particular several nocturnal rooftop and waterfront colour studies on brown paper (Tate D32224, D32229, D32238, D32254; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5, 10, 19, CCCXIX 6); the first also includes the moon, albeit waning.
1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p..
2
See ‘Moon Phases for Venice, Italy’, timeanddate.com, accessed 6 September 2018, https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/italy/venice?year=1840.
Technical notes:
Ian Warrell did not mention this sheet in his near-comprehensive survey of the papers used on Turner’s visits to Venice, including many grey and brown English and Continental sheets used in 1840.1 Cecilia Powell did include it as an example of ‘Italian brown paper’ in her key discussion linking contemporary Venetian and German subjects2 (see the Introduction to the tour).

Matthew Imms
September 2018

1
See Ian Warrell in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, p.259.
2
See Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, p.161 under no.89, listing the recto’s Turner Bequest number.

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