Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice


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 14b

Catalogue entry

This quick sketch centres on the readily identifiable elevated span of the Bridge of Sighs.1 The view is north along the Rio di Palazzo, just off the Bacino, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) on the left and the New Prisons on the right. Tate D32196 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14a), on another quarter of this folded sheet (see the technical notes) shows the bridge from further off, with the waterfront and the more conventional Ponte della Paglia in the foreground, and echoing the composition of the oil painting Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited at the Royal Academy earlier in 1840 (Tate N00527).2
There are other studies from below the bridge in the 1840 sketchbooks, including Rotterdam to Venice book (Tate D32412–D32413; Turner Bequest CCCXIX 76a–77) and Venice; Passau to Würzburg book (D31309; CCCX 17). 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 D32196, D32198 and D34199 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14a, 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
Among the Venetian sheets in paper conservator Peter Bower’s 1999 survey of Turner’s later papers,2 Tate D32233 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 14) was exhibited3 and reproduced, but there is a seemingly inadvertent mismatch.4 The detailed description and discussion of the sheet appear to apply to the present sheet, and Bower also refers to ‘CCCXVIII 13’,5 meaning CCCXVII 13. It is unclear whether the associated micrograph image relates to the present sheet or CCCXVIII 14.6 Bower noted: ‘Lightweight buff-grey wove | Watermark: W | Unknown maker’. He went on: ‘This quarter sheet is part of a well-formed lightweight buff wove sheet that also includes CCCXVIII 13’ (i.e. CCCXVII 13), torn down from a ‘full sheet size of approximately 17 ¾ x 22 ¾’ (inches; 450 x 578 mm), which ‘only matches one English paper size, Extra Large Post’, generally used for ‘white writing paper rather than coloured papers’; he suggested the German ‘Gross Median’ format of 460 x 590 mm as another possibility. Bower noted Tate D40202 (Turner Bequest LXXIV C), ‘erroneously catalogued as part of the [1802] Grenoble sketchbook’, but likely a Swiss 1840s sketch, as a ‘part sheet of this same paper ... also watermarked W in an outline capital’7 (compare the watermark on Tate D32195; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13d).
‘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