Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Piazzetta, with the Biblioteca Marciana (Libreria Sansoviniana), Campanile, Torre d’Orologio (Clock Tower) and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 45

Catalogue entry

Finberg subsequently annotated one copy of his detailed 1909 Inventory entry (‘S. Marco, with part of Ducal Palace on the right, with Sansovino’s Loggetta on the left’): ‘Merceria opposite’.1 In another he added ‘& the Clock Tower’ after ‘Loggetta’.2 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell marked another copy: ‘and the Torre dell’orologio in the middle’.3 The view is north along the Piazzetta to the east end of the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), with the Basilica at the centre,4 and the Torre dell’Orologio on the north side to its left. In the right foreground is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), and on the left, an oblique view of the Biblioteca Marciana (Libreria Sansoviniana) with the Loggetta at the foot of the towering campanile beyond. There is a slighter view from a few steps to the east on folio 51 verso (D14412).
Having noted the viewpoint as ‘just in front of what is now the Gran-Caffè Chioggia, level with the fourth and fifth columns of the Ducal palace from the Molo’, Finberg made an exhaustive case study of this drawing, praising the ‘freedom, ease and certainty of Turner’s pencil line’ and the ‘accuracy with which a mass of unfamiliar details are marshalled’ while noting as ‘a pleasant relief ... a few inaccuracies’,5 particularly in the proportions and features of the complex upper stages of the church.6 He went on:
As a drawing, too, all the details of the portion of the Doge’s palace on the right are incorrect, but most of the errors here are due to Turner’s method of note-taking. Instead of being satisfied to draw only that portion of the palace which came into his field of vision, he must needs make a record of what is round the corner. The dangerous outward thrust of the upper part of the palace is accurately drawn, but the windows of the Sala dello Scrutinio are placed too low and are too small. By rights not more than two of these windows should have been shown, but the balcony window was evidently too interesting and too useful for future compositional purposes to be omitted, and having squeezed it in, it was necessary to remember that there were three windows beyond it.7
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by Finberg in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
See Warrell 2003, p.125.
Finberg 1930, p.31.
See ibid., pp.31–2.
Ibid., p.32.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

A.J. Finberg, ‘Turner’s Work’, no date, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.V, at folio 73.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop